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What will it take?

Posted by Helen Thursday, September 08, 2005

Poor old Jack Straw. He seems to be unable to say the right thing. We get another Volcker report that says as clearly as it possibly can, given that it also tries to be seriously mealy-mouthed, that the whole of the UN is corrupt, that SecGen Kofi Annan (father of Kojo) presided over the biggest scam in the history of international relations, the oil-for-food, and what does our esteemed Foreign Secretary say?

“Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has offered his "firm support" to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in the wake of the publication of a damning report on the UN's handling of the oil-for-food programme in Iraq.

Mr Straw said that the British Government and he personally held Mr Annan in "very high regard" and made clear he could rely on the UK's support in his efforts to drive through reform of the UN at a key summit of global leaders in New York next week.”

What will it take for Mr Straw and the British Government to acquire some sense?

The best analysis of the Volcker commission and report is given by Claudia Rossett, the journalist who made the story of the oil-for-food her own for weeks after MEMRI first published the relevant documents.

Ms Rossett makes an extremely important point. SecGen Annan has tried to pre-empt the report by telling the BBC (who else, alas?) that

“Honestly, I wish we were never given that program, and I wish the UN will never be asked to undertake that kind of program again.”

Really? Part of those much-vaunted “reforms” that Mr Straw and the British Government are so anxious to support is Mr Annan’s

“… pet proposal that the rich nations of the world give an automatic 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product for aid, much of it presumably to be funneled through the United Nations. Such amounts would run into the hundreds of billions, dwarfing even Oil-for-Food, and through the same fingers that Annan piously assures the BBC he wishes would never touch such lucre again.”

This is not a good time for SecGen Annan and the UN. There is the grand getting together next week of representatives of 170 states to celebrate the 60th anniversay of the organization. This is supposed to see the unveiling of the so-called reform plans that amount to little more than an attempt to grab more power for the UN.

But the oil-for-food scandal will not go away, what with UN officials being arrested practically every day; the other scandals are not so well known but they are there in the background; the Volcker report has not been as nice about Annan as he had hoped; John Bolton is snapping at the SecGen’s heels.

All of this is dwarfed by a forthcoming book. Pedro Sanjuan, a former high-ranking UN official has written a no-holds-barred account of that organization under the title The UN Gang. He will be giving a talk on it to the Heritage Foundation on September 23 and, no doubt, many other organizations round about then. This is what the blurb says:

“While serving in a high-ranking UN post, Ambassador Sanjuan’s real mission was to keep an eye on Soviet espionage activities. Over the years, the Russians had managed to install nearly four hundred KGB and GRU agents in strategic positions throughout the Secretariat, and had turned it into a massive spy facility, operating openly and with impunity on American soil. But this, it turned out, was only part of the problem. Sanjuan soon discovered that incompetence, corruption, anti-Semitism, and outright criminality riddled the UN Secretariat.”

Can’t wait for the book and for the inevitable message of support for the UN and its SecGen that the British Government and its Foreign Secretary will send.

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