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Monthly Archives: September 2007

Let the Real Burma Speak

September 29th, 2007 - 10:48 pm

There are reports that UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari arrived today in Burma, where he plans to deliver a message from Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and hopes to produce progress on what he is calling, in the consensus-loving lingo of the UN, “all fronts.” Let’s hope there is less moral equivalence to Gambari’s real message. (I do not hold out great hope for that; he is part of Kofi Annan’s old crowd. But perhaps this is his chance to redeem himself). What’s needed is not progress on all fronts, but progress on one front, which would be that of the demonstrating dissidents; and complete retreat and collapse on another front, which would be that of the military dictatorship.

Here’s something the UN could do to help. In the lineup of speechifiers still in the queue at the General Assembly meetings in New York, a speaker from Burma is scheduled to take a turn on the UN stage Monday afternoon, sandwiched between Algeria and Nepal. If the UN worthies take the organization’s charter even half seriously, they ought to deny anyone connected with the Burmese junta the right to speak.

They should offer the spot instead — by remote hookup, if need be — to a Burmese who represents the dreams of freedom for which Burmese demonstrators died in the suppressed uprising of 1988, and are dying again today. Obvious candidates would be one of the leaders among the dissident monks, or Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party in 1990 won a landslide victory in a genuine election, only to have its members brutalized, detained and swept aside by the military dictatorship. And if the junta will not allow such a speaker to address the UN General Assembly, then the best response would be to have no one speak. During the time allotted for Burma, better to let the members of the world assembly sit in silence, honoring the real Burma, which has no voice at the UN.

That won’t happen. But it should.

This Is Getting Personal

September 28th, 2007 - 8:57 pm

It’s a rainy Friday evening in New York, at the end of a hectic week. The UN General Assembly has gridlocked Manhattan for days, leaving just enough room for Ahmadinejad in his limousine to speed past the demonstrators to his next speaking engagement. But he’s gone, leaving the UN stage to such lesser attractions, scheduled for next week, as the spokesmen for Venezuela, Burma, Syria and North Korea. The UN is about to take a break for the weekend.

So it seems a great time to kick back at home and watch a cable TV movie-on-demand. We were looking forward to “Flags of Our Fathers.” But the movie won’t load. It cannot be accessed. We try, and try, and try again. Finally, we call the Time-Warner Cable helpline number shown on the screen, 718-358-0900. And this is what we hear:

“Due to the UN annual General Assembly session in progress from September 18th through September 30th, Time-Warner technicians may experience delays” – and so, it seems, may their customers, who can expect “a brief, intermittent delay in picture quality on some of their channels” due to UN-related “security transmission.”

That explains not only why there is no movie, but why the TV news broadcasts have been flickering and freezing up all week.

If the UN were really busy making a better world, it would of course be worth sacrificing access to the high-ticket NY TV services of Time-Warner, so UN eminences could beam their urgent secret messages in and out of Manhattan this week (instead, although no one asked permission of the local cable customers, it is apparently our privilege to give priority to the UN).

But apart from giving Iran’s mullocracy a megaphone in America, what exactly has the UN accomplished this week while jamming up local traffic and transmissions? Absolutely nothing of substance has been achieved in the way of stopping terrorist-regime nuclear programs, dealing with any of the other assorted threats to democracy and humanity worldwide, promoting peace, freedom or delivering a better life to anyone except UN dignitaries — who, when I dropped by the Waldorf-Astoria last evening, were on parade with their retinues, all in their evening finery. enroute to another set of post-shopping banquets and haute cuisine blowouts in NY. The UN envoy dispatched post-haste to protect the beleaguered dissident monks of Burma has reportedly ended up stranded amid the luxuries of a Singapore hotel (the UN has failed to persuade the Rangoon junta to allow any intermittent interruptions of its crackdown on dissident monks). And Ban Ki-Moon has devoted his time to trying to persuade the free countries of the world to sign on to a UN-orchestrated experiment in central planning under the label of addressing climate change (the UN can’t even audit its own books, but it is proposing to manage the world’s weather) — for which this same gang of UN worthies will jet to a UN pow-wow in December, on Bali.

So, in the world that the UN brings us, there is no “Flags of Our Fathers.” We went rummaging on the shelves, and pulled out a DVD with the appropriate title: “The Gods Must Be Crazy.”

He’s finally left New York, but not before a final round of grandstanding — hosting a media dinner at New York’s upmarket Barclay Intercontinental and holding a three-hour meeting with religious leaders at the UN Church. During the past four days in Manhattan, Ahmadinejad has enjoyed a publicity tour to die for. And dying is exactly what Americans have been doing at the hands of Iran’s regime, from the 1983 bombings of the U.S. marine barracks and embassy in Beirut, to the Iranian-backed terrorist attacks on our troops in Iraq.

Today, one of my colleagues at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Walid Phares, sent around a note pointing out that the rewrite crews at the Iranian state news agencies have gone to work — as expected — revising the realities of Ahmadinejad’s exchanges in all these splendid New York venues. Walid points out that in the story about his Columbia speech by Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency, the critical introduction by Lee Bollinger has been — snip — cut right out. What’s left is an account of his reception, to a standing ovation, Iran is a peace-loving nation, more applause, etc, etc.

Walid concludes, and right he is, that in Iran all this “will help the authoritarians to accentuate the oppression of the civil society.”

It’s a good bet that was always the main point of this roadshow, though clearly Ahmadinejad also enjoyed the chance to gloat on camera.

And in the end, why all the attention? There are just two things that set him apart from the queue of dictatorial thugs and their envoys now rotating through their annual turns on the UN stage. He personifies a regime which since its inception has systematically used terrorism as a tool of state policy; and that same regime is making nuclear weapons. Apart from that, he’d be just a grinning creep in a zip-front jacket (Yep, it’s time to start worrying that after this year’s Ahmadinnerjacket Show, the guy competing for next year’s spot at the Columbia World Leaders Forum will be … Kim Jong-Il).

The most important news this week is breaking not at the UN, but on the streets of Rangoon, where Burmese monks have been braving armed security forces to protest years of brutal, military rule — Richard Fernandez of PJ Media has a roundup here.

If the UN were a healthy institution, some of those monks would be speaking to us this week from the General Assembly stage.

Instead, courtesy of his hosts, the UN General Assembly, we have had Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmedinejad traipsing around New York, in what has been for the past few days the 24/7 Ahmadinejad Top Hits Propaganda Parade. He has had time to speak at the National Press Club, Columbia University, the UN General Assembly, attend a reception, hold a UN press conference, appear on the Charlie Rose show, and of course taped a curtain-raiser with CBS’s 60 Minutes from Tehran which aired Sunday as he was arriving in New York.

He has told us that there are no homosexuals in Iran (note: where the authorities execute them), that Iran is a free country (note: free from freedom) and with complete disregard for two UN resolutions meant to stop the Iranian bomb program he informed the UN unilaterally, from its own stage, that he considers the nuclear bomb issue now closed, and Iran’s nuclear interests strictly a technical matter for El Baradei’s IAEA (note: which has covered for this bomb program for years). He has effectively repeated his call to wipe Israel off the map, implied there was no holocaust, and told us to abjure Satan, like he does. In exchange for this, the grateful UN General Assembly gave him extra time on stage.

He is now off to Caracas, to chum around in our backyard with his pal, decorated hero of the Iranian regime, aspiring-president-for-life of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.

What Ahmadinejad did not make time to do was answer a question at his press conference from the wife of an Israeli soldier, Ehud Goldwasser, one of two Israeli soldiers kidnapped in July, 2006 from inside Israel by the Iranian-backed terrorist group, Hezbollah.

This was the “dialogue” that took place with Iran’s regime in New York this week, a propaganda package par excellence for Ahmadinejad to send back home to Iran and the rest of the Middle East. It was a betrayal of decency, sanity, morality, and everything the U.S. stands for and the UN was supposed to. Most of all, it was a betrayal of democratic dissidents in Iran — beaten, tortured, imprisoned, murdered, silenced — by the regime personified this week by the grinning man in the zip-up jacket. If it leaves you feeling sick, outraged, and ready to revive that highly relevant phrase, “regime change,” that’s a healthy response.

Meanwhile, in Geneva…

September 23rd, 2007 - 11:43 pm

During the commercial breaks in Ahmadinejad’s propaganda roadshow, spun around the UN General Assembly in New York, spare a thought for the doings at the UN in Geneva. There, along with the thug-loving, Israel-fixated UN Human Rights Council, we also have the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization — where the curious ways of the Sudanese Director-General have apparently persuaded even the State Department to seek “priority action” at the annual meetings opening today — subject of my NRO column on “Dating Yourself.”

Whether Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits Ground Zero or not, he has already achieved what he probably set out to do: Even before arriving in NY –where he is now expected on Sunday — he has created enough ruckus so that he features as this year’s belle of the ball at the annual opening of the UN General Assembly.

For Iran’s terror regime, this is the kind of propaganda coup money can’t buy. For a piece of the action, Columbia University has homed in on Iran’s Islamo-fascist regime, as personified by Ahmadinejad, to speak Monday as part of its series entitled “World Leaders Forum” (This is a “leader?” Has anyone at Columbia got a dictionary? How about “tyrant” or “despot” or “strutting terror-sponsoring megalomaniac” –?)

In spirit, at the very least, Ahmadinejad’s roadshow sure looks like a gross abuse of the purpose for which the U.S. waives most normal objections in order to issue visas for special UN events to UN-visiting thugs-of-state.

Surely the idea of allowing even the worst despots to travel within a 25-mile radius of the UN is solely to let them attend the UN debates, not give them carte-blanche to parade around NY angling for propaganda photo-ops; insulting the memories of Americans their terrorist acolytes have already kidnapped, shot, bombed or otherwise murdered; spouting Orwellian sound-bites, and offering opportunities for p.r.-junkies such as Columbia’s President Lee Bollinger to hitch a ride on a performance that only in the universe of “Darkness at Noon” could qualify as “dialogue.”

At the UN, prime enabler of this outrage — since by lights of the UN charter’s stress on respecting freedom and human dignity, Iran’s regime does not even qualify for membership — Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has been busy doing … what? He has been ding-donging a peace bell, and opining, as if he had spent the past 30 years living in a flowerbed on Mars, that a visit to Ground Zero might show Ahmadinejad the error of his ways. (No, Mr. Ban. It would be a chance for Ahmadinejad to savor the thought, on camera, of how his nuclear bomb projects will let him make more and bigger craters).

Last year, Hugo Chavez, after his sulphur-sniffing antics on the UN stage, went swanning around New York doling out fuel vouchers. Ahmadinejad at Columbia is about to top this. In theory, these swaggering thugs are supposed to be here not to prance around on American turf, but solely for UN purposes — which is quite bad enough. Before this game of exploitation goes any further, how about U.S. authorities in Washington doing something to re-define the terms of the U.S.- UN deal for Visas-for-Terror-Loving-Tyrants. The best answer would be to evict the UN itself from NY; the second-best solution would be to tell the despots running the world’s worst regimes that they aren’t welcome here no matter what the UN wants; and the third-best (surely this much, at least, could be done) would be to restrict them to the perimeter of the UN itself. It’s a place with plenty of handy bathrooms and sofas, and a dining room where they are already in the habit of stuffing themselves on delicacies their subjects could never afford back home. In many respects, it is their natural home away from home. And if someone like Ahmadinejad wants to step outside those bounds, the place where he ought to be invited to engage in dialogue is Guantanamo Bay.

Ahmadinejad and the Craters of World War IV

September 19th, 2007 - 8:24 pm

So now it’s not enough for Iran’s Bomb-Lover-in-Chief Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to make his third trip in three years to New York to address the UN General Assembly — in preparation for which, his envoy has already rolled out the carpet by presenting Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon with his own portrait woven into — what else –a rug (see photo, below). Now we learn that Ahmadinejad wants to go lay a wreath in the crater where the Twin Towers once stood — Ground Zero.

The New York Sun was all over this story when I dropped by their offices in lower Manhattan this afternoon, and is among those reporting that Ahmedinejad’s plan has been rebuffed. Let’s hope it stays that way. He should not be allowed into this country in the first place — if the UN wants to host him somewhere, a slagheap in his own country would be an appropriate venue for the ceremonies. Given the appalling reality that he is coming to New York — yet again — to allow him anywhere near Ground Zero would dishonor our country, and the Americans who died — some trying to save others –on the clear September day when World War IV brought hell to Manhattan.

We did not seek it, but that’s what we’re fighting — World War IV (I’ve just finished Norman Podhoretz’s fine new book of that title, see Roger Simon’s review). There are long and no doubt important debates to be had over the roles, connections and rivalries between radical Sunnis and radical Shia, between the wahhabis and Hezbollah and Hamas and Osama bin Laden and you-name-it. But in this war, our enemies have this much in common: They despise the free world, and seek to subvert, attack and destroy it.

And in that broad and ugly campaign, which began well before Sept. 11, the Iranian regime that Ahmadinejad will represent next week on the UN stage has played a major part. Iran’s rulers have been bombing, kidnapping, terrorizing and poisoning humanity for almost three decades. If Ahmadinejad wants to visit the craters he and his kind have left, in this war they have made, he could save himself the trans-Atlantic trip and start right there in his own neighborhood. There are the bomb craters of Lebanese politicians murdered when they stood up for a country free of Syrian-Iranian-backed repression and terror. There are the sites in Iraq where people now free of Saddam Hussein and aspiring to a decent life have –with Iranian backing — been blown up or gunned down. There are the places in northern Israel where Iranian-backed Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 landed its barrage of Iranian-supplied munitions… the list is varied and very long. Actually, if Ahmadinejad wants to do some wreath-laying, he doesn’t need to leave home at all. He could start with the graves of Iranians tortured and murdered for defying his own regime.

The UN in Africa: Who Benefits?

September 19th, 2007 - 9:31 am

Would you want the UN designing your country’s development policy? (See below, for example, on Ahmadinejad’s annual UN-hosted roadtrip; yet more Oil-for-Food hijinks; “Ethics” duplicity; whistleblower apartheid; weapons-inspection “inventory,” Libyan-led preparations for a reprise of the bigoted “anti-racism” UN Durban conference, etc).

So why are we sending to UN to meddle at every level in Africa? Some observations on this in my article for the new Fall issue — with a focus on Africa– of the Journal of International Security Affairs.

Yes, courtesy of the United Nations, Iran’s nuclear-bomb-building, holocaust-denying, hostage-outfitting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is planning yet another trip to New York, later this month, to attend yet another UN General Assembly opening which kicks off next week. Ahmedinejad plans to arrive on Sept. 23 for a two-day-visit, according to Iran’s Fars news agency, before heading south to drop in on his sulphur-sniffing chum now arranging to be president-for-life of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.

This will be the third time in three years that Ahmedinejad has come to Manhattan to ascend the UN stage, a privilege that the UN appears unwilling to withdraw no matter how many terrorists Iran sponsors, how many nascent nearby democracies it subverts, or how many UN resolutions, treaties, and basic human decencies the Iranian regime treats like doormats.

And, speaking of floor coverings, in the runup to Ahmedinejad’s imminent visit, Iran’s new ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Khazaee, has been paving the way — so to speak — for his arrival. Above is a photo currently posted prominently on the Iranian Mission web site, showing Khazaee presenting Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Sept. 12 with a carpet … the better to walk all over him?

(The photo caption on the Iranian Mission site reads: H.E. Ambassador Khazaee, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran presents to H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon the portray-rug of the Secretary General which has been weaven in Iran, 12 September 2007, New York).

Oil-for-Food in an Alternate Universe

September 12th, 2007 - 1:13 am

No matter how over-the-top-crazy-surreal the UN Oil-for-Food debauch appeared at the height of the scandal, no matter how much horrific information has already come pouring out of the congressional inquiries, UN inquiry, press reports and federal probes, somehow there is always more.

So it’s going at the Oil-for-Food trial in lower Manhattan of Texas oilman Oscar Wyatt, accused of paying millions in sanctions-busting kickbacks to the regime of Saddam Hussein. Opening arguments came Monday. Prosecutor Stephen Miller described Wyatt to the jury as a man who didn’t flinch at committing fraud, and said that Wyatt, to his own profit, helped the Iraqi government evade sanctions with schemes covered up with lies: “Wyatt showed that he was especially willing to help them evade sanctions when it came to getting more Iraqi oil for himself.”

Wyatt denies all charges against him. His lawyer, Gerald Shargel, described him to the jury as a man whose “heart is an American heart,” whose “patriotism was unwavering,” and whose dealings with UN-sanctioned Iraq were prompted by his desire “to continue his role as kind of the senior statesman for the oil industry, the dean emeritus, if you will.”

It turns out this dean emeritus of oil, now 83 years old, has been the talk of Texas for decades. That makes for a very different crowd in the courtroom than at last year’s Oil-for-Food trial of South Korean businessman Tongsun Park, which in mid-summer played as a big draw for lots of Korean diplomats in raincoats. This time, we have Wyatt’s wife, Lynn Wyatt, doyenne of the Houston jet set, surrounded by members of a family that includes partyboy son, Steve, who in 1992 was just one degree of separation from the marital breakup of the Duchess of York — yea, with a distant relative who featured as the other half in the famous toe-sucking photo of Fergie. The Wyatt stories seem endless; the family feuds and fortunes, the rags-to-riches, and especially Lynn Wyatt’s wardrobe. There is a small contingent of Texas reporters in the courtroom who have journeyed north to report to the folks back home on the curious customs of New Yorkers and UN relief programs, but for them, the big story is Oscar Wyatt himself. Part of their routine each day is to check out what Lynn Wyatt is wearing to her husband’s trial (so far, she has been favoring black pantsuits).

So there are really two stories running in tandem here, and how the tale of any UN program could compete with the adventures of the Wyatt family, I don’t know. But if there’s one that has a fighting chance, it’s probably Oil-for-Food.

So let’s talk about that for a moment. I am still marveling over a line of argument introduced Tuesday by Wyatt’s lawyer, Shargel, during a cross-examination of a witness who formerly worked for the program, in which Shargel invoked as exemplars of probity under Oil-for-Food the following list of players: Russia, China, France, and the head of the program, Benon Sevan.

Kofi Annan himself could not have delivered a more eccentric interpretation (actually, Kofi Annan delivered almost exactly the same interpretation, until about halfway through the investigations).

As it happens — although no one has so far mentioned this to the jury — Russia, France and China were among the worst abusers of the Oil-for-Food Program, and Benon Sevan was indicted in the Southern District this past January (a fugitive, beyond reach of extradition on Cyprus since early 2005, Sevan has denied any wrong-doing).

So, in some ways, the Oil-for-Food story is yet again entering an alternate universe. More anon…