/* News Ticker Head info ------------------------------------------------ */

Friday, April 23, 2004

The U.N. is Not Our Savior, part I

This is the first of a three-part reaction to this article: Commentary Magazine article.

If you read the above article (which is a better, more detailed account of much of the information below) you may find my commentary short on detail.

There is a person I respect very much, who recently surprised me by passing on a pseudo-petition from MoveOn.org, regarding the War in Iraq. I wasn't surprised that he was against the war. I did wonder, though, was why MoveOn.org was the outlet he chose to express his concerns with the war, and why he would advocate a petition which included these words: "We've got to transfer management authority over Iraq to the United Nations, to enable a real transition to peaceful Iraqi self-rule. "

After a brief email exchange, I decided to sit down and put several points of the war, terror, and our Republican President into sharper focus for myself, to test - if you will - my own resolve in defending these issues. I was greatly aided by the article linked at the beginning and end of this post, especially when it comes to putting into words my distaste for some International Utopia where the all-knowing, all-powerful United Nations is FINALLY allowed to enforce their interpretation of what is RIGHT, and JUST, and MORAL.

Ultimately (ie, part three of this series) I will deal with what I would have done, had I been in President Bush's position. That's the thing about this country...It is possible that I actually COULD be in his position one day. I've probably waited too late to begin positioning myself for such a feat, but if a peanut farmer (Carter), the poor son of a drunken shoe-salesman father (Reagan), or the product of an abusive marriage in some trailer-park in a little town called Hope (Clinton) can rise to the highest elected office in our country, the reality is that anyone who criticizes decisions of this magnitude should stop, put themselves in the same position, and ask, "What would I have done?"

The U.N. is Not Our Savior
I Would Have Done The Same Thing

When it comes to the 12 years of United Nations water-treading, one has to wonder what exactly would have changed in Iraq in the year since we began military operations, if that military option had not been utilized. From a merely casual observation of the history of the U.N.-Iraqi relationship, it becomes obvious that something wasn’t “right” about the whole situation. If sanctions and U.N. bureaucracy were the answer, surely 12 years would have been sufficient time to effect a positive change in the country; surely the desired outcomes would have been achieved. One is left with the sneaking suspicion that, in fact, the true objectives of the U.N.-led activities in Iraq WERE being met, but that their objectives were not our own.

What was the U.N. gaining from the relationship between Iraq and the rest of the world? After the invasion of Kuwait, Iraq had been sanctioned by the U.N. Even though the sanctions ALWAYS allowed for essential foods and medicine to be exempt from the sanctions, Hussein’s regime released stories of the heartache, starvation, and general hardship perpetuated on the common people by the sanctions. Thus, in an effort to relieve the suffering which Iraqi citizens were needlessly undergoing, the U.N. devised a “food for oil” system where limited oil supplies could be sold by the Hussein government, as long as the money was used for food, medicine, medical supplies, and other “essential” items. (One wonders if the instruments used to torture men and women, abort babies, and otherwise rape – both figuratively and literally – the people of Iraq were considered “essential”.) Food For Oil was authorized in 1995, as a temporary action to relieve the world of the guilt associated with having left Hussein in power, but imposing crippling sanctions in an effort to bring him into line.

How was this affected? By agreeing to allow Hussein to be the agent in control of how the oil was sold, who it was sold to, the price, and even the “approved list” of bounty that could be purchased with the proceeds. Hussein was even allowed to choose where he would do his banking. Yes, there was “veto power” so to speak, on the side of the U.N. but even to a novice statesman it seems reckless to allow the person who is in grave breech of international opinion to have the kind of control granted to Saddam Hussein. This is neither wise, nor typical U.N. policy.

Another odd provision of the resolution which established Food for Oil was the funding structure for the program. Unlike other U.N. relief programs, this one was to be funded by the country being benefited via a commission on every barrel of oil sold. A net of 3-percent of all Iraqi oil sales were returned to the U.N. This totaled nearly $2 billion dollars that went toward administration and weapons inspection programs. In other words, the U.N. directly benefited from perpetuating and broadening the Food for Oil programs.

Undoubtedly, the Food for Oil arrangement strengthened Hussein’s position within Iraq. Because the oil was owned by the State (which really means, owned by the State’s self-appointed despot) the first benefactor of any oil sold was the owner-state-dictator. No other commerce was allowed in Iraq, other than the sale of oil, as controlled by Saddam Hussein. Not only was he the god-dictator of his land, but he was in charge of all commerce. The cat had been left to baby-sit the canary.

It is interesting to note that of the five permanent Security Council members who were in charge of oversight of the program, two chose to not participate in the Food for Oil program to any major extent: the US and the UK. The other three (China, France, Russia) were gaining both in oil and in other commerce, and spent little time in “oversight mode” because of the time commitment needed to urge the U.N. to expand the program, so they could benefit even more. Oh, yes. And, of course, benefit the Iraqi people, yadda, yadda.

There is much that could be said of the way the U.N. administration handled the implementation of the Food for Oil system. The bottom line is that as every year progressed, the U.N. labeled more and more information as “proprietary” – or, more accurately, classified – and kept it out of public view. Hussein, after all, was entitled to privacy. Why expose all of the inner workings of the business deals which are so complicated: things like customer names, the quantity of oil sold, the amount received in return? Surely we can trust a brutal dictator and an out of control bureaucracy with the details.

Well, we know trusting Hussein isn’t wise (ask all those dead lieutenants and body guards), but surely the U.N. is trust worthy. But a study of human nature reveals many things:
1. The bigger the organization, the less accountable individuals tend to become.
2. The bigger the operation, the more opportunity for abuse.
3. The more secretive a bureaucracy becomes, the more likely it is to foster corruption.
4. The more money that is on the line, the thinner a man’s resolve to be moral becomes.
5. As the prospect for going un-caught grows, so does the temptation to commit the immoral act.
6. A man who is acting immorally will be less likely to point out the immoral acts of another man, even if that is his responsibility.

All of these modifiers of human behavior were in play within the U.N. on an ever increasing basis. The Food for Oil program continued to grow, adding budget and staff constantly. The U.N. tolerated and perpetuated an atmosphere where the organization grew less and less accountable to anyone, while increasing the level of secrecy. All of these factors led to the opportunity to abuse the system, and there is evidence that this, in fact, did happen.

This is the first of a three-part reaction to this article: Commentary Magazine article.


Post a Comment

<< Home