Annan's guilt at his silence when he could have stopped the genocide in Rwanda appears to have intensified as he watched the U.N. Security Council do nothing meaningful to stop the genocide in Darfur for these three years and instead engage in crafting empty proposals that amounted to a minuet of death.--Nat Hentoff, The Village Voice
I’m for some preemptive peace so why hasn’t the United Nations worked with nation states to win the peace? Yes it’s easy to blame Israel for reacting to Lebanon militia group Hezbollah’s acts of war kidnapping of 2 Israeli military personnel. And it’s easy to fault President Bush for his policy of preemtive action and strike-first policy against terrorists.
However if you are opposed to the Bush doctrine of protecting America from terrorists who declared war against America in 1996and again in 1998 then join me in demanding that the United Nations launch an initiative of preemptive peace.
I believe that this recent escalation of violence the Iraq war and the conflict between Lebanon and Israel, should be blamed on the United Nations’ inability to effectively use their influence for peace. Why can’t they keep the peace?
The U.N. operates on an annual peacekeeping budget of approximately $4.72 billion dollars with 97.57million dollars earmarked for keeping the peace in Lebanon so just why didn’t the U.N. do anything to preempt the actions of Hezbollah?
And why are there wars raging internationally when we have an international body whose primary function has been to promote peace among the nation states of the world?
That question was put to the secretary general of the United Nations Kofi Annan twice, once in an interview that he did in Canada with Evan Solomon and one he did with Jim Lehrer on News Hour on PBS.
In the Evan Solomon interviewthe secretary general responded thusly:
EVAN SOLOMON:Tell us... Why the UN is actually relevant?
KOFI ANNAN: I think the UN is a unique organization. It is the only organization in the world that has not only the convenient power we have, bringing 191 member states together, but when it comes to development of international law and collective action and the question of legitimacy, there’s no other organization than the UN. And, in fact, it’s become quite clear that it’s the UN that can confer legitimacy on situations which individual countries, however powerful, cannot do.
EVAN SOLOMON: But even if in cases like Kosovo, which was a NATO operation, the UN missed it, in Rwanda the UN, as you well know…that in fact there’s an argument to be made that the UN outside of Korea, that really, maybe the 1991 Gulf War, that the UN has failed to accomplish its mission.
KOFI ANNAN: I think it depends on how one accesses success and failure. Even if we were to stay in the peacekeeping area, which you have indicated, you should remember the UN operations in places like Cambodia, Mozambique and many others where we have succeeded the work the UN did in Central America. But the UN is much, much more than a peacekeeping operation. We do incredible work in the humanitarian area, in the economic and social area, in development of international law…
EVAN SOLOMON: Quickly before we leave, April 7th is the 10-year anniversary of Rwanda a situation you brought up. During that time you were the head of the peacekeeping mission. General Dallaire has written a book about it and has talked about it. At that time, he sent a fax to you and to Maurice Baril saying he needed troops and he never got them. I wonder, 10 years later now that you’re the secretary general, do you regret not sending troops and answering Romeo Dallaire’s fax in a different way?
KOFI ANNAN: No, I wish we could have sent troops. I mean, this Rwanda experience and tragedy was a nightmare for all of us. It was a really painful experience for me, personally, and in fact at one stage looking for troops we spoke to 80 countries and no one would send troops. You have to understand the UN doesn't have troops. We borrow them from governments. There are two things that make that happen you need a mandate from the Security Council and then you need to get the troops. But, I think, lets back up for a minute, we must also remember that Rwanda was happening when we were pulling out of Somalia, after the death of the 18 soldiers and governments really had no appetite to take on any such mission. That fax from General Dallaire was not the only information indicating that things were serious. There were council members who had better information than we did, but the will was not there…
It is clear that Mr. Annan views the U.N. as the International answer for world governance and legitimacy but what is stunningly clear is that the U.N. is not very willing to acknowledge its failures in keeping peace in the world not in Rwanda, Kosovo or the Gulf war.
In Mr. Annan’s interview with PBS’s Jim Lehrerthe U.N.’s peacekeeping effectiveness was discussed again this time regarding Sudan:
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Secretary General, a lot of people are asking -- this has been going on for three years. Over 200,000 people have died; 2 million have been displaced. And it's right all in public view. This has been well-known and reported all over the world. Why has it taken so long to stop this?
KOFI ANNAN: That is a very good question; that's a painful part. I mean, you can imagine my anguish as a human being and as an African, an African secretary general, to see us going through this after what we went through in Rwanda. It's very painful and difficult to take.
But the question is: Why hasn't anything been done? Let me say that, first of all, it is a complex issue, but it's also a question of will, the will of the member states to move. It's a complication that the Sudanese have introduced by resisting help. If the Sudanese had been able to protect their own people and prevent what is going on in Darfur, we would not even be talking about deployment of U.N. troops. Having failed to do so, I think they have an obligation to accept help from the international community to help with their protection. And the international community has an obligation. You may recall that, at the last summit in September, the member states pledged solemnly, individually and collectively, to take responsibility for the protection of people in such situations, arguing that it is a responsibility of each member state to protect this population. But where they fail, or are unable to do so, or they themselves are the perpetrators, the international community, through the Council, has to take action, and, if need be, by force. And now we have to redeem that pledge, that solemn pledge of September…
JIM LEHRER: Would it be correct to say that this whole episode, as you just described it, is an indication of where the weaknesses of the United Nations are their inability to move quickly and stop something like this?
KOFI ANNAN: Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that we are an organization of 191 member states. You need to get the decisions taken. And since we don't have an army, we need to run around getting support and help from governments.
I have often described the way we operate and run this peacekeeping operation -- it would be a bit like telling the fire department in Washington, D.C., that, "We know
you need a fire department, but we'll get you one and build you one when the fire breaks," because it's when the fire breaks that we start putting together the army, we start collecting the money to create an army that will go in.
And so there is the built-in delay in the way we operate. And this is why where member states deem that it is extremely urgent to move quickly, they've tended to put together a coalition of the willing, a multinational force, outside the U.N. so that they can move quickly. And in these situations, rapidity of deployment is a very important issue.
Why hasn't anything been done? In 10 years of the Sudanese government’s murdersof African Christians and Animists in the south of the country –and then on African Muslims in its Darfur region the U.N. has done what the U.N. does. That is meetings, issuance of reports, conferences, issuance of statements, and talking about peace, the same with Somalia, the same with Rwanda, or Kosovo or the Gulf war or Iraq or Lebanon and Israel.
Secretary General Kofi Annan said, “UN is a unique organization. It is the only organization in the world that has not only the convenient power we have, bringing 191 member states together, but when it comes to development of international law and collective action and the question of legitimacy, there’s no other organization than the UN. And, in fact, it’s become quite clear that it’s the UN that can confer legitimacy on situations which individual countries, however powerful, cannot do.”
That’s all good Mr. Annan but if you are an international peacekeeping organization with billions of dollars of annual budget could you offer a little peace? Please?