By Donald Paneth
UNITED NATIONS, N.Y.—Multiple worldwide crises are being addressed and administered at the United Nations by men who very seldom either speak for or to the subjects of their deliberations – people, the rag-tag people.
These men are diplomats, foreign ministers, heads of state and the enormous numbers of functionaries they command who make it possible for them to carry out their questionable policies, who can think fast on their feet and have an answer for everything.
There are all sorts of crises. There is the crisis in Iraq, on several levels, which refer to both past and present. There is the crisis of murder, rape and refugees in the Darfur region of Sudan; the U.N. Security Council has adopted resolutions, dispatched missions, received reports on Darfur since spring 2004 – nothing has been remedied. There is the crisis of violence and foreign intervention and exploitation of resources which has existed since 1960 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There are the equally perennial crises of Palestine/Israel; of poverty, hunger and malnutrition; of disarmament, of the environment and climate.
To the powers-that-be, it is a game, an exercise in control and manipulation, on which they spend an awful lot of words. “Let me be clear,” Mark Malloch Brown said repeatedly at a 5 p.m. press conference here on Feb. 3. Brown was standing in for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, responding to the interim report of an inquiry committee on the now defunct Iraq oil-for-food program. Wrong-doers would be disciplined, Brown said, reforms implemented.
Another functionary, Paul A. Volcker, released the interim report to U.N. correspondents attending an earlier press conference that day. The correspondents listened closely to Volcker’s words. He said that the report did not make for “pleasant reading,” that it found the program’s procurement process was tainted, that its audit process was underfunded and understaffed, that its director, Benan Sevan, had “placed himself in an irreconcilable conflict of interest.”
Questions about Annan, himself, and his son, and their relation to the program were put over to a further report to be submitted this summer. It appears as if Annan will survive the scandal, with the indulgence of the United States, and stay on to the end of his term in December 2006. The recovery and functioning of the U.N. is another matter. It will continue to exist, but it seems in an ever-diminishing political and international security capacity, more, or mostly, as the provider of humanitarian aid to the multitudes victimized by the destructive characters who are running things.