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The Rosett Report

Monthly Archives: May 2007

We’ve hit another of those seasons in which it’s simply getting hard to keep track of the UN scandals, outrages, hypocrisies, chronic nonsense and spectacular failures of the moment — between the allegations of Guns-for-Gold, Cash for Kim, diamond smuggling in Zimbabwe, fraud at the World Meteorological Association, the recent conviction of the head of the UN budget oversight committee for laundering kickbacks in cahoots with a UN procurement officer, the current bribery trial of another UN procurement officer, the lingering and massive questions still surrounding Oil-for-Food; as well as Zimbabwe heading the Commission on Sustainable Development, Iran re-elected to the Disarmament Commission, the obscene and useless “reformed” Human Rights Council, and the rolling series of peacekeeper sex scandals. Plus, of course, the chronic failures to help North Korean refugees or stop the genocide in Sudan — and, naturally, the gross failure to prevent North Korea from getting the nuclear bomb and Iran from pursuing it full tilt.

If you go to the official UN web site, it’s not much help in getting a handle on all this. Today I was browsing through the highlights in which the UN is busy condemning, urging, promoting, responding, you-get-the-idea, including such announcements as “Sport Can Produce Valuable Results in Development and Peace — UN Official” (the sports nuts of the dictator brat pack come to mind; for instance, Leo Mugabe, Seif Qaddafi and the late Uday Hussein).

While we should perhaps give credit that the UN with its $85 million-plus annual budget for public information has chosen thus to honor the visions of George Orwell, or perhaps Franz Kafka, there is a need for a web site that does a better job of organizing the UN news of the day. We already have one terrific resource, Eye on the UN , which provides documents and commentary (disclosure: this includes some of my own articles). But there’s still room for a site that breaks down the latest developments into basic categories, easy to follow — for instance, “Sustainable Sex Scandals,” “Cover-Ups in Progress,” “Bribery and Kickback Cases,” “Failed Resolutions to Contain Rogue States” (maybe these should also be made available in tastefully printed boxed sets) and “Hypocrite of the Week.”

Lest that sound negative, there should also be a section devoted to genuine good works and real heroes. The pity, of course, is that there are good people within the UN system — many of them much distressed by what goes on around them — but they work for an institution that is in violation of the same human rights standards to which it gives lip service, and if you add a section praising them by name — “Honest Defenders of the UN Mandate” — they’d be at risk of losing their jobs.

Every time you think it can’t get worse…. In the latest fillip of the UN’s North Korea Cash for Kim scandal, it turns out that the UN Development Program in Pyongyang was stocking the offices of Kim’s arms negotiators with books, including such titles as “Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Supremacy” and “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush administration.” More on this in my column in today’s New York Sun.

Not that North Korea’s officials, including their representatives at the UN in New York, or their delegates to the UN Disarmament Conference in Geneva, couldn’t have ordered these books right off Amazon for themselves. But this way, the UNDP (to which the U.S. is the top donor) got to provide North Korea’s extortionist arms negotiators with a reading list giving free rein to the political biases of UNDP officials and their European “peace” consultants; chalk it up quietly as part of a development project; and hire a Belgian company with offices in Beijing to order the books by express mail (what was the urgency?) and ship them almost three months later to Pyongyang at a total cost of about $100 per book… (and here we thought UN development money was going to help hungry North Korean children?).

This was just part of a series of “disarmament” projects run by the UNDP in North Korea from 1993-1997 and again from 2002 until this March. The information here comes from just one packing list and invoice which I have seen, but the UNDP has apparently been stocking the libraries of Kim Jong Il’s arms negotiators with books and specialized journals for some time. What else is in there? (manuals on Money-Laundering 101? Advanced Shakedown Techniques? $25 Million Ways to Lie to Chris Hill and Get Away With It?) The UN audit report on UN offices in North Korea, promised with so much bravado by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in January, is now more than a month overdue, and the auditors have not bothered to visit North Korea. The UNDP by its own account has spent some $47.5 million on its North Korea programs over the past 10 years. May we please see the rest of the invoices?

Roger Simon on his blog today wonders if anyone has taken a look lately at the bank account of the IAEA chief, Mohamed El Baradei. He’s the UN’s Egyptian-born Nobelist philosopher king who has spent years pondering such existential questions as whether, if a nuclear bomb is built in Iran, but the IAEA doesn’t notice, is it really a bomb?

So who’s inspecting El Baradei? Why the UN, of course. The same folks who by their own account “audited to death” Oil-for-Food, who assured us there was no room for foul play in what turned out to be the bribe-riddled procurement department, who after each new peacekeeper sex scandal produce new pronouncements about a zero-tolerance policy. No one is saying here that El Baradei’s accounts might be anything other than impeccable. But under Ronald Reagan’s excellent old rule of “trust, but verify,” full disclosure by El Baradei and his UN cohorts would be a good first step — starting with something more revelatory than the Secretariat’s policy of financial “disclosure” which does not actually require disclosing anything at all to the public.

While we’re at it, how about also setting up an IAEA Political-and-Moral-Myopia index? Here’s El Baradei in a Feb. 19 interview with the Financial Times, in which he makes no distinction between Iran’s support for terrorism and the U.S. efforts to stop it; Iran’s mullocracy and American democracy; Iran’s campaign to subvert the free world and America’s efforts to defend it.

“The nuclear issue is the tip of the iceberg, it masks a lot of grievances, security grievances, competition for power in the Middle East, economic issues, sanctions, it has to do with human rights, support for extremist groups, there are a lot of other issues that need to be resolved. Iran could be very helpful as a stabilising force in the Middle East. The US could be very helpful in providing the security assurances that obviously lie at the heart of some of the Iranian activities.”

Let us assume this is nothing worse than pure idiocy, utterly untainted by any other consideration. But as a matter of UN policy, in the interest of providing “security assurances” to the rest of us, it’s high time for a UN inspection regime that includes at least a publicly transparent baseline for inspecting the inspectors.

A note, below, to go with the link here to an article I have out in the current Weekly Standard, on the strange doings in the vast portion of the UN empire known as the UN Development Program –and why, if there are any genuine ethicists out there, this outfit, now dispensing more than $5 billion per year around the globe, flagship of the UN agencies, desperately needs their attention.

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It would complete the grand hypocrisy were the war smoke rising over Paul Wolfowitz’s presidency at the World Bank to obscure entirely the horrific scandal at the UN unearthed by the U.S. Mission back in January — Cash for Kim — in which the UN Development Program, or UNDP, was discovered shoveling hard currency to the rogue regime of Kim Jong Il.

Well, guess what? While all eyes have been on the World Bank, the UNDP’s embarrassing Cash for Kim problem has been slipping quietly out of sight, in a classic UN whitewash — with the promised UN inquiry greatly narrowed, delayed, and hamstrung by the failure of the auditors even to request visas to visit North Korea.

That’s quite a boon to two of the men who have been piously wringing their hands over ethics at the World Bank, Ad Melkert and Mark Malloch Brown. Between them, they have run the UNDP for most of the past eight years — Malloch Brown as top boss from 1999-2005, and Melkert as number two man and hands-on manager since early 2006. It was Melkert who faced the press the day that Cash for Kim hit the headlines, January 19. Questioned by skeptical reporters about UNDP promises of transparency, he said, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

As it turned out, the one who hadn’t seen “nothing yet” was Paul Wolfowitz, blind-sided at the World Bank when 12 days later, on Jan. 31, the complaints first surfaced about Shaha Riza’s pay package. As the fray escalated, both Malloch Brown and Melkert had their say about the World Bank…especially Melkert, who before coming to the UNDP had served at the Bank as head of the ethics committee that set the snare into which Wolfowitz stepped.

Meanwhile, neither Malloch Brown nor Melkert has been called to account for management oddities under their own respective stewardships at the UNDP, where Cash for Kim is less an anomaly than a symptom of a whole range of curious doings worldwide. These include UNDP projects not audited at all, audits turned in late or not at all, and money passed to peculiar projects run by despotic regimes well beyond North Korea — for example, UNDP support to the state-run airline of Syria. Last year, the UN Board of Auditors noted in a financial report on the UNDP, covering the final Malloch-Brown years of 2004 and 2005, that “The Board is concerned at the large number of financial management, record keeping and control issues” — and that’s just a sample of the complaints.

At the World Bank, we’ve just seen plenty. At the UNDP, as Inner-City Press noted back in January, we still ain’t seen nothing yet. When does that start?

Who Next at the World Bank?

May 18th, 2007 - 3:44 am

So, with Paul Wolfowitz ejected by the ethicists of the World Bank, who should be the next president of this beachhead of multilateral morality?

Kofi Annan’s ever-helpful former speechwriter has suggested Tony Blair, which is a terrible idea because the man’s a socialist — and anyway, America has to stick up for its traditional right to pick the head of the Bank.

Some have suggested Paul Volcker, which is an even worse idea for a number of reasons — but to name just one, because Volcker’s former business partner, James Wolfensohn, served as World Bank President for a decade prior to Wolfowitz, and in that position did plenty to foster a lot of the muck at today’s Bank. It could be –dread words — a conflict of interest.

So who? Well, the best solution would be to simply dismantle the Bank and convert its capacious main building into a hotel, convenient to the White House and other Washington attractions. But since that’s unlikely to happen, here’s another thought. While it’s doubtful that Paul Wolfowitz enjoyed his recent experience, the Bank’s fury to oust him did have the salutary effect of attracting enough attention to the institution itself so that all sorts of longstanding sleaze within the Bank was at least beginning to be exposed.

Why stop now? There’s a whole roster of patriotic Americans who would have a similar effect, and as we have just seen, they don’t have to actually do anything wrong. The Bank will arrange that for them. In that spirit, if they are willing to sacrifice for the good of our country, and indeed, the good of the world, how about we send John Bolton, followed by Don Rumsfeld, followed by …. well, you get the idea.

Yes, there’s a silver lining to the UN election of Zimbabwe to chair the Commission on Sustainable Development, or CSD. As happy chance would have it, the UN wouldn’t even have to change the acronym if the world body decided to try some truth in advertising, and rename its CSD the Commission on Sustainable Dictatorships.

In my column for National Review online are some reasons why that would be just the right move — reasons including Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Belarus, Sudan, Iran and North Korea. And, of course, Zimbabwe.

If true, this is beyond outrageous. Having lied, cheated, obfuscated, levered, finagled and extorted billions in aid over the years from the Free World, having repeated this act in particular at the Six-Party talks with America’s amazing chump envoy Chris Hill in Beijing this year — and obtained access to that $25 million frozen in Macau’s Banco Delta Asia without rendering up a thing, North Korea is now demanding that the money be transferred to Kim Jong Il’s hands via a U.S. bank. Demanding, in other words, that the U.S. as a further concession violate its own sanctions on North Korea to convey to Kim the loot.

And in return, America gets…. the collected works of Kim Jong Il, volume XXIII, in hardcover, and a free plutonium-filled jelly jar?

World Bunkum

May 9th, 2007 - 2:47 am

Behind the mudfight over Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank lurks the real question: Why do we still have a World Bank? We shouldn’t. A relic of the collectivist utopian fallacies of the mid-20th century, the World Bank has long been in the business of funneling billions in cheap loans, often accompanied by bad advice, to governments with especially stellar talents for wasting and filching money. Too often, World Bank projects have the effect of subsidizing and supporting despotic regimes that are the real cause of poverty.

The laws of supply and demand suggest that when you lower the price of an activity, you will probably get more of it — and the World Bank, however noble its aims, is fundamentally in the business of picking up the tab for damage done by bad policy, and thus encouraging more of the same. In theory, the Bank offsets this problem by harnessing some of its loans to tutorials in World Bank-approved behavior. But this is an operation underwritten by a grand committee of governments, and implemented by Bank bureaucrats whose tax-free salaries insulate them from the effects of their own preachings. Would you want a World Bank bureaucrat running your life?

That does not excuse the attack on Wolfowitz, which has nothing to do with poverty, and everything to do with politics. This is not a quarrel over the best way to help hungry children; it is a scramble by the Old Boys of the Bank to protect their mighty jampot of World Bank taxpayer-funded clout and patronage. George Will has a good column today on why the World Bank even more than it needs cleaning up needs shutting down.

Again, the blogs picked up on it first, with PJ Media and the American Thinker spotting an article out of Israel about the surreal ad placed by UN-sanctioned Iran in the International Herald Tribune, April 25, inviting bids to build “Two Large Scale Nuclear Reactors in Iran.”

The ad reads like something out of a Graham Greene novel, including phone numbers, an email address for a “Mr. Esmaeili,” and details of an Austrian bank account to which interested bidders are invited to transfer a 15,000 Euro fee to obtain bidding specifications for the reactors. Wondering if it was a spoof, I called the phone number, and was directed — I’m not making this up — to the office of Iran’s ambassador to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, no less, in Vienna. There, an aide was unable to provide much detail, but did confirm that yes, indeed, the ad was the real McCoy. Here’s my column about it in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

And here’s the saga of finding out from the IHT (owned by The New York Times) where, exactly, the ad had run. On Wedneday, I phoned the International Herald Tribune head office in Paris, where a spokesman said he had no knowledge of the ad, and directed me to the IHT’s London office. There, a press officer told me he was unaware of the IHT running any such ad. He suggested it might have been carried by the English-Language edition of an Israeli-newspaper, Ha’aretz which is distributed together with the IHT out of Tel Aviv. So, I phoned Ha’aretz, and spoke with a helpful night editor, who said the ad had come with the rest of the IHT content transmitted from Paris, and had not originated with Ha’aretz.

So, I sent an email back to the IHT press officer in London, who on Thursday, contrary to the IHT statements of the previous day, confirmed to me that not only had the ad run in the IHT in Israel, but it had run in all IHT editions worldwide, which reach more than 240,000 readers in more than 180 countries. Another press officer then provided a statement in which the IHT defended its decision to run the ad on grounds that “We believe that advertising should be as free and open as the dictates of honesty and decency allow,” and “In our view, advertising is an essential ingredient in the broad concept of a free press.” Today’s Jerusalem Post has more on this view.

Further note: To double-check on exactly when and where the ad had run, I rang a friend in Paris, who happened to have a back copy for April 25, dug it up, and found the ad in the Marketplace section, on page 14. Which left me with the following vision, to borrow a line from my column, linked above:

In the street cafes of Paris and New York, people open their newspapers and over their morning coffee browse past this astounding solicitation – one of the signposts along a road leading toward horrors that could dwarf Sept. 11.

Time was when Kremlinologists pored over every grainy photo of the politburo lineup atop Lenin’s mausoleum, trying to discern from who stood where, and who had suddenly vanished, the ructions with the Soviet state. Watchers of Mao’s China read tea leaves. As George Russell and I note in this latest article, trying to figure out what’s going on inside the UN Procurement Department, where your tax dollars get spent on UN business, is not so different.