Friday, April 01, 2005

Normal service resumes

It is well after midday and time to catch up with the “saintly” Kofi Annan (father of Kojo, described in an Australian newspaper as one of the “international bratpack”).

It seems that the cheerleaders, such as the entirely impartial BBC (stop sniggering) are a little premature. The actual investigators are not all that convinced that SecGen Annan has been exonerated.

In fact, one of them, Mark Pieth, a professor of criminal law and criminology at the University of Basel, made his views very plain, indeed:
“We did not exonerate Kofi Annan. We should not brush this off. A certain mea culpa would have been appropriate.”
Professor Pieth also made it clear that Cotecna, the Swiss firm at the heart of the Annan personal imbroglio, has not been entirely forthcoming with its evidence or accounts (both financial and historical):
“It’s a continuous history of us confronting them, them owning up to something and then backtracking.”
For instance, there was the discrepancy of how much Kojo Annan was paid and for how long. An even more interesting discrepancy that involves the SecGen personally is the number of times he met representatives of Cotecna and the length of time those meetings took.

He says once (or maybe once or twice) very briefly; they say at least twice at length in private sessions. Well, as they say, you pays your money and you takes your choice or in the case of the UN SecGen, you pays somebody else’s money.

We must wait for the various Congressional reports and the final one from the Vocker Commission, due in mid-summer. Mr Vocker, himself something of a UN cheer leader, remains up-beat. His reports will help to bring about:
“a reformed UN, a UN capable of commanding and maintainint the support of its member states and the public at large”.
Well, make up your mind, which of those supports are you interested in?

In the circumstances I found it very interesting to go back to a chapter John Bolton, incoming US ambassador to the UN, wrote about that institution and its relationship with the United States, almost ten years ago in a volume published by Cato Institute.

Entitled The Creation, Fall, Rise, and Fall of the United Nations, the chapter defines the need for the United States to establish and maintain its relationship with the UN (whose largest contributor the country is) on a basis that puts American interests first.

Mr Bolton attacks the Clinton administration’s obsession with the need to submit American interests to some form of nebulous concept of multilateralism and the disasters (for instance in Somalia and the Balkans) that resulted from it.

“But more is at stake here than just wasting American tax dollars, although that is bad enough. By the Clinton administration’s own admission, it has deceived the American public about UN reform for the last four years. During testimony before congressional committees, in public speeches, and in private conversations, the Clinton team argued repeatedly that Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali was committed to major administrative and management reform.

They made those claims even after the American under secretary-general for management and administration, selected by the Clinton administration, was fired for being unsuited for the job. They made those claims even after the first Office of UN Inspector General was exposed as a toothless watchdog. And they even made those claims while the secretary-general was recalling and shredding the comprehensive report on UN reform by former under secretary general Richard Thornburgh.”

Well, well, Sounds familiar?

Eventually, the Clinton administration abandoned Boutros-Ghali as being surplus to requirement but agreed to be manoueuvred into supporting the candidacy of Kofi Annan. In case any of our readers have forgotten, he, too, came in on the reform ticket (well, no, since you ask, he was not elected).

This is what John Bolton wrote in 1996:
“The winner, Kofi Annan, was certainly preferable to Salim [then head of the Organization of African Unity]. Virtually all of Annan’s career has been within the UN system, frequently in management and personnel positions. Few know ‘‘the system’’ better than Annan. He is, therefore, in the best possible position to deliver on reform, for bureaucratic trials, jargon, and obfuscation are not likely to distract him if he is truly engaged. From January 1, 1997, forward, the world can judge his performance—and his will.”
Quite so. The world is judging him, his performance, his will and, if that is not an oxymoron, his sense of honour.