UNITED NATIONS, N.Y.— Heavy security during the first days of the 2004 session of the United Nations General Assembly – hundreds of police officers, Secret Service agents, street and traffic barriers, U.S. Coast Guard and city police boats on the East River behind U.N. headquarters – seemed to be symbolic of the nations’ determination to do little to stop the violence in the Middle East, Africa, and West Asia.
Perhaps that was why the attending heads of state, the prime ministers and the foreign ministers feared a terrorist incident.
Or, perhaps the U.S. as the host nation was protecting the U.N. from any outside influences, hints of dissatisfaction.
The U.N. was barricaded against the world and the people inhabiting it.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and U.S. President George W. Bush addressed the
opening meeting of the session on Sept. 21. Annan spoke about the “rule of law.” It was at risk around the world, he said.
“Again and again, we see the most fundamental laws shamelessly disregarded,” Annan said. “And all over the world we see people being prepared for further such acts.”
Bush, on the other hand, said nothing. He didn’t criticize the U.N., as he had in recent
years. He didn’t demand that the U.N. do anything. He was spreading freedom and democracy, fighting “radicalism and terror.”
Yet, the mass media publicized his remarks as “defiant.” He was a gallant leader in the struggle for progress, human dignity, hope and high ideals.
Neither Annan nor Bush mentioned that the world was careening towards barbarism, though Annan came close to it in an oblique sort of way.
On the war fronts, as the Assembly convened, there was much activity.
But the Security Council had not taken up Iraq in weeks. It met on Oct. 1 to consider “close protection troops for U.N. staff in Iraq,” the structure of the force to be recruited by the U.N., the U.S. and U.K. A legal framework was needed for the arrangement.
Carol Bellamy, executive director of the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), declared on Sept. 30 that the killing of dozens of children in Baghdad was an “unconscionable slaughter of innocents.”
The U.N. staff and role in Iraq remained minuscule, essentially undefined.
An international conference on Iraq to lend legitimacy to the Iraqi elections scheduled or January 2005 may be held in the latter part of November, not in October as Secretary of State Colin Powell had earlier proposed, U.N. sources said. The possibility of U.N. participation was being discussed.
Returning from Darfur, Sudan, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour told reporters that there should be an international police presence in Darfur to monitor and assist Sudanese police around the camps for displaced persons. Juan Mendez, U.N. Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, said “we have not turned a corner” in preventing genocide in Darfur.
“One of the most serious challenges is the climate of impunity in Darfur today,” Mendez continued. “This impunity contributes to a general state of lawlessness throughout the region.”
Annan voiced “grave concern” Sept. 30 about the escalation of violence and the rising casualty toll on both sides in the Gaza Strip. He urged the belligerents to cease all violence immediately.
In Afghanistan, 300 donkeys are being used to deliver voting materials to the provinces of Badakhshan and Nursistan in the northeast, Farah in the southwest, and Panjshir, not far from Kabul. An election for president is to be held on Oct. 9 in the new Afghanistan free of the Taliban, occupied by the United States, where the people are as poor and the methods as traditional as ever.