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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Steyn on the UN

At one level, the United Nations is merely the latest variant on the Congress of Vienna held almost two centuries ago—a venue where the great powers sit down to resolve the problems of the world to their mutual satisfaction. Unfortunately, unlike Lord Castlereagh, Prince Metternich and Talleyrand, none of whom would be asked to audition for a “We Are The World” charity fundraising single, the UN has become the repository of all the West’s sappiest illusions of one-worldism. Let me give an example. Nearly three years ago, the space shuttle Columbia crashed, and Katie Couric on NBC’s Today show saluted the fallen heroes as follows: “They were an airborne United Nations—men, women, an African-American, an Indian woman, an Israeli....”

By contrast, there’s a famous terror-supporting Islamist imam in Britain, Abu Hamza, who, when the shuttle crashed, claimed it was God’s punishment “because it carried Americans, an Israeli and a Hindu, a trinity of evil against Islam.” Say what you like about the old Islamofascist nutcake, but he was at least paying attention to the particulars of the situation, not just peddling, as Katie Couric did, vapid “multi-culti” bromides. Why couldn’t Katie have said the Columbia was an airborne America?

After all, the “Indian woman,” Kalpana Chawla, was the American Dream writ large upon the stars: she emigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s and became an astronaut within a decade. What an incredible country. But somehow it wasn’t enough to see in the crew’s multiple ethnicities a stirring testament to the possibilities of her own land; instead, Katie upgraded them into an emblem of what seemed to her a far nobler ideal—the UN.

In the days before Miss Couric’s observation—this was in 2003, just before the Iraq war— there had been two notable news items about the United Nations: (1) The newly elected chair of the UN Human Rights Commission was Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya; and (2) it was announced that in May, the presidency of the UN Conference on Disarmament would pass to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. But as Katie demonstrated, no matter what the UN actually is, the very initials evoke in her and many others some vague blurry memory of a long-ago UNESCO benefit with Danny Kaye or Audrey Hepburn surrounded by smiling children of many lands. There were many woozy Western leftists who felt—and still feel—that the theoretical idealism of Communism excused all its terrible failures in practice. The UN gets a similar pass, but from a far larger number of people. How else to explain all the polls in Europe, Australia, Canada and even America that show large numbers of people will only support war if it’s approved by the UN?

In fact, however, the UN is a shamefully squalid organization whose corruption is almost impossible to exaggerate. If you think—as the media and the left do in this country—that Iraq is a God-awful mess (which it’s not), then try being the Balkans or Sudan or even Cyprus or anywhere where the problem’s been left to the United Nations. If you don’t want to bulk up your pension by skimming the Oil-for-Food program, no need to worry. Whatever your bag, the UN can find somewhere that suits—in West Africa, it’s Sex-for-Food, with aid workers demanding sexual services from locals as young as four; in Cambodia, it’s drug dealing; in Kenya, it’s the refugee extortion racket; in the Balkans, sex slaves. On a UN peace mission, everyone gets his piece.

Didier Bourguet, a UN staffer in Congo and the Central African Republic, enjoyed the pleasures of 12-year-old girls, and as a result is now on trial in France. His lawyer has said he was part of a UN pedophile network operating from Africa to southeast Asia. But has anyone read anything about that? The merest glimpse of a U.S. servicewoman leading an Abu Ghraib inmate around with girlie knickers on his head was enough to prompt calls for Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation, and for Ted Kennedy to charge that Saddam’s torture chambers were now open “under new management.” But systemic UN child sex in at least 50 percent of their missions? The transnational morality set can barely stifle their yawns. If you’re going to sexually assault prepubescent girls, make sure you’re wearing a blue helmet.

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