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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Even for the United Nations, this is over the top. It’s stock stuff at the UN that the worst offenders periodically plonk themselves down in one or another of the presiding seats and bask in the mantle of the world’s leading multilateral institution, with its promises to promote peace, prosperity and human dignity for all. Thus, in recent years, has Libya chaired the General Assembly and enjoyed a seat on the UN Security Council; thus did Iran chair the governing board of the UN’s flagship agency, the UN Development program, and gain itself a seat last year on the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women. So it is that China, Russia, Cuba,Saudi Arabia and Cameroon sit on the Human Rights Council.

Now the UN has outdone itself, yet again. North Korea has just assumed the presidency of the UN Conference on Disarmament, in Geneva. Never mind that North Korea is a nuclear pace-setter among duplicitous rogue states, has busied itself for years peddling missiles and nuclear technology to the Middle East, is under UN Security Council sanctions, and last year indulged in the unprovoked sinking of a South Korean war ship and shelling of a South Korean island. At the UN Disarmament Conference, the presidency rotates among the 65 member states. North Korea’s turn has arrived. Ergo, because UN procedure routinely trumps all decency or common sense, North Korea has taken up the presidency of the Disarmament Conference.

It is, to be sure, a short presidency. The term for each of these rotating presidents is just four weeks. And the UN Conference on Disarmament is best known these days for having been gridlocked for years, to the point of complete debilitation. It might be tempting to dismiss this outrage as just some sort of cosmetic gaffe — absurd, but harmless.

Except, it isn’t harmless. It gives the lie to everything the UN pretends to stand for, and emboldens North Korea’s regime to believe that monstrous misconduct, at home and abroad, is actually no bar to a seat at the table with civilized governments. The UN promotes itself as a defender of world peace and security, a champion of human dignity. Under the banner of such promises, the UN enjoys billions in funding from the world’s leading democracies — especially the United States, which for the entire UN system foots roughly one-quarter of the bill for all 192 member states. And with the facilities thus lavished upon it, the UN then hands North Korea the presidency of its Conference on Disarmament.

Worse, scroll down past the UN press release, to the statements of member states upon the handover of this presidency to North Korea. There you can peruse the praise and good wishes for North Korea of China, Nigeria, and — yes — Portugal, whose envoy is “looking forward” to working with North Korea in coming weeks. Worse still, is what the world’s governments, including the US. administration, are not saying. Apparently, diplomatic politesse is more important than speaking out to protest the monstrosities that should be obvious here to anyone with an ounce of integrity or sense. Where’s the outrage?

 

 

Counter-Terrorism According to Ban Ki-Moon

June 27th, 2011 - 3:01 pm

As long as Iranian news outlets were the sole source of reports that Ban Ki-Moon sent a congratulatory message to a “counter-terrorism” conference hosted this past weekend by the terror-masters of Tehran, there was just that slight chance the reports were wrong. Which is why, in the previous post, I put a question mark after the news that Ban had congratulated the Iranian fox for guarding the hen house. Scrap that question mark. The United Nations has now confirmed that Ban did indeed convey his blessings on the Iran regime’s perversion of a “counter-terrorism” conference.

Here’s the UN’s own summary, from highlights of the Monday noon press briefing by Ban’s spokesman:

Asked about a message delivered by the Secretary-General at a conference on terrorism in Iran, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General had sent a message to that conference and added that the Secretary-General believes that, since all States and peoples are affected by terrorism, they must all be involved in the fight against terrorism.

By this fascinating logic, it doesn’t matter to Ban Ki-Moon whether a state is fighting terrorism or sponsoring it — as long as everyone is in one way or another involved. This would be the stuff of good satire, except that Iran sponsors real terrorists, who use real bombs and guns to kill real people. In lending support to Iran’s “counter-terrorism” charade — which includes slandering such democracies as America, Britain and Israel, Ban isn’t just discrediting himself and the UN. He is actively helping to set the stage for more bloody attacks by an emboldened Iran.

If Ban felt compelled to send a message to this conference, there’s nothing in the UN rulebook that would have prevented him saying something genuinely useful, such as a public admonishment to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the first priority in fighting terrorism should be for Iran itself to stop engendering and supporting it. Ban could have called for the Iranian regime to scrap its backing for Hezbollah, stop sending weapons to Hamas and drop the weapons deals with North Korea. That would have been an edifying message, and a good use of the UN megaphone. Instead, Ban gave Iran’s UN-sanctions violating nuclear-bomb-seeking terror-sponsoring mullocracy a pat on the back, and left his spokesman to justify it with the Orwellian rationale cited above.

Which takes us back once again to the question of why Ban did it. Is he really such a fool as to believe the meaningless rationale put out by his own public relations department? And if he’s smarter than that — which would seem to be a minimal requirement for his job — then why did he do it? What’s in it for him, and who –beyond Khamenei and Ahmadinejad — is he trying to please?

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, Iran is now offering to coordinate counter-terrorism activities for us all. At a two-day “counter-terrorism” conference just hosted in Tehran and attended by such eminences as the presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Sudan, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed setting up a secretariat to define terrorism, mobilize forces against it, and — in the words of a Mehr News Agency dispatch on this endeavor — “reform colonialist and discriminatory mechanisms prevailing in the world so they incline toward justice” (unofficial short version: more of the Iranian regime’s usual “Death to Israel, Death to America,” plus, apparently, Death to the U.K.).

The absurdity — indeed, the monstrosity — is obvious. Listed by the U.S. State Department as the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism, Iran isn’t even bothering to play both ends against the middle.  This “counter-terrorism” farce in Tehran is all about Iran trying to hijack both the concept of terrorism and the fight against it, and, in consummate Orwellian fashion, redefine it for Tehran’s usual purposes (Death to America! Death to Israel! Death to the U.K.!). It would take a real fool to buy into this hook, line and sinker.

Enter United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon who, according to Iranian reports of the conference, sent an envoy to dignify this Tehran charade with his thanks and his blessing. Hillel Neuer, executive director of a Geneva-based NGO, UN Watch, has written to Ban, asking him — if he really did send such a message — to please retract it. Neuer cited such outrages as Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei opening the Tehran conference with a message denouncing such “satanic powers” as the U.S. and Britain.

All of which raises some big questions about what on earth is going on with the apparently Tehran-loving Ban, who was just “re-elected” to a second five-year term as UN secretary general. According to Iranian news reports, Ban’s giddy message of delight over the Tehran conference was delivered by a UN envoy named Muhammad Rafiuddin Shah. He’s a Pakistani diplomat who late last year became officer-in-charge of the UN’s Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, or CTITF. The CTITF was set up in 2005, as part of the UN’s effort to “enhance coordination and coherence of counter-terrorism efforts of the United Nations system.” If the work of the CTITF now includes sending Pakistani diplomats to thank terror-sponsoring Iran for utterly perverting the entire concept of counter-terrorism, perhaps it’s time the CTITF was dissolved. It seems to have outlived its purpose.

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Not that the United Nations is advertising the fact, but Anne Bayefsky has the story. As the UN prepares for Durban III this September in NY, Iran– yes, you read that right, Iran –  has just been elected as a vice president of the next UN General Assembly, the 66th session, which will run from Sept. 2011-Sept. 2012.

This is the same Iran that since 2006 has come under a series of binding sanctions from the UN Security Council over its rogue nuclear projects; the same Iranian regime whose security forces slaughtered Iranian protesters in the streets in 2009, the same Iranian regime whose leaders propose death to Israel, celebrate the vision of a world without the U.S., and run terrorist networks enjoying global reach.

The UN and assorted diplomats like to downplay the importance of such posts as General Assembly vice-president as mainly ceremonial; there are 20 such vice-presidents at a given time ( you can find the full roster , way down at the bottom, at this UN link). But at the UN, these positions do mean something. There are 192 member states of the UN, competing for various slots involved in running the organization. Positions such as UN General Assembly vice president provide both enhanced prestige and access to a whole array of UN doings. And of all the gin joints in all the world, the UN General Assembly, with 22% of its budget bankrolled by US. taxpayers, has just picked Iran as one of its vice presidents. Anyone bothered yet?

Well, That Was Exciting

June 22nd, 2011 - 3:56 pm

Would I kid you? After a lively campaign, exposing himself to extensive public scrutiny and running against a field of well-qualified, well-publicized and thoroughly vetted candidates, Ban Ki-Moon was re-elected with a solid majority to a second five-year term as United Nations secretary-general.

OK, just kidding. Ban Ki-Moon did indeed just win a second term, which means he will carry on as secretary-general through Dec. 31, 2016. But there was nothing remotely resembling a normal democratic campaign or democratic process. After various backroom discussions, Ban was recommended for a second term by the 15-member UN Security Council, and approved for the job by acclamation -- meaning unanimous consent — of the UN General Assembly. Only in the dictatorships of the world are results like these regarded as “democratic,” which should perhaps tell us something about the nature of such major decisions at the UN.

Usually I’m against the U.S. government spending more money on the United Nations. But after the latest round of UN “human rights” activity, there’s one shovel-ready project that deserves action right now. In the interest of providing the UN with truth in advertising, the Obama administration ought to issue itself the permits and pony up the funds to erect a gigantic billboard in front of the UN’s New York headquarters. This billboard should be truly enormous, and it should be covered with flashing neon lights, spelling out for all visiting schoolchildren, hapless tourists, and chauffeured politicians the message: The United Nations: Anti-Semitism is Us.

No doubt there are some regular UN visitors — Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad comes to mind — who don’t need a flashing sign to understand that virulent anti-semitism is one of the basic themes of today’s UN. But there’s at least a chance that putting that ugly truth right up there in neon lights, in front of the flags and fancy UN building (now enjoying a $2 billion makeover, in big part on America’s tab), would help alert Americans to the monstrous doings within.

The latest twist involves that perpetual sinkhole of UN values, the Human Rights Council. Quick background: Recall that the current Human Rights Council was set up in 2006 as a “reform” measure, after the old, Israel-fixated, despot-packed UN Human Rights Commission disgraced itself with Libya serving in 2003 as the chair, and such features as Sudan, mid-genocide, holding a seat. The new Human Rights Council was set up amid promises from various UN poobahs that it would perform as an actual human rights body — though such clear-eyed experts as former Ambassador John Bolton were skeptical from the start.

The Human Rights Council, like its festering predecessor, was fashioned as a creature of the UN’s thug-friendly General Assembly. In no time flat, courtesy of that same General Assembly, it was decked out with its own roster of human rights abusers, and had defaulted to the General Assembly’s usual obsession with condemning, in particular, the sole robust democracy in the entire Middle East. You guessed it. Israel.

This past week brought the culmination of a UN review of the first five years of the “reformed” Human Rights Council, and on Friday the General Assembly voted to keep the Council rolling along. This included the following piece of business, as adeptly summarized by the Geneva-based watchdog nonprofit, UN Watch:

The UN Human Rights Council has an agenda that defines the work of all its meetings. Only Israel is subjected to its own standing item, so that condemnation of the Jewish state is a required feature of every single session.

And on June 17, in deciding to maintain the Human Rights Council as one of its subsidiary bodies, the 192 member General Assembly voted to keep this item, singling out Israel for chronic condemnation, as an integral part of its agenda. Not all of the UN’s 192 member states cast a vote. But enough of them did so to tell you all you need to know about  the mix of moral rot and craven behavior that shapes the doings of the UN’s leading “human rights” body. The vote was 154 in favor, and four against — the four being Canada, Israel, Palau and the United States.

So much for the Obama administration’s promises of reforming the UN by gracing it with stepped-up U.S. engagement, bathing it in billions of U.S. tax dollars, and stooping to join the Human Rights Council. This is just the latest big reason why it’s time to stop the engaging and funding in areas that actively damage the interests of America and America’s allies, and start telling the truth — if necessary, in neon lights.

Shopping at the UN for Global Leadership

June 16th, 2011 - 4:20 pm

Leading from behind may be President Obama’s preferred approach on foreign policy, but apparently that doesn’t apply when it comes to paying for the United Nations, where the U.S. is just one of 192 voting member states, but gets stuck with roughly one-quarter of the bill for the entire system. When it comes to spending billions on the UN, administration officials keep making the pitch for America to lead from the front. As far as there’s any logic to this pretzel of an approach, it seems to entail staying way out ahead of the pack on funding, while trying to lead from behind on policy.

The latest pitch came this week from Assistant Secretary of State Esther Brimmer,  in a June 15 address to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Brimmer attempted the contortionist feat of combining, in a single speech, a profession of American support for Israel with a pitch for a continuing flood of American money into the UN system. What with the UN being a relentless font of Israel-fixated anti-Semitism, one might have supposed the better move would be to cut off the funding on which such UN bigotry enjoys a free ride. But so far that’s not in the administration’s playbook. Instead, the argument is that yet more U.S. money for the UN will help buy a degree of integrity from that institution which loads of money have already failed to produce. Brimmer says of the U.S. at the UN: “We must be a responsible global leader, and that means paying our bills.”

No, it doesn’t. Not when those bills are supporting an institution that undercuts American interests and savages an American ally. If the Obama administration wants to buy its way back toward global leadership, forget the UN — it’s time to go shopping somewhere else.

 

Iran is under a heap of United Nations sanctions for its rogue nuclear program, but that’s apparently no bar at the UN itself to Iran doing business as usual. Later this month, the top job is coming open at the UN’s Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization. Among the six candidates vying for the slot, there’s a nominee of Iran: Mohammad Saeid Noori Naeini. Already, Tehran has been savoring his prospects — here’s an item from May on “Iran Moves Closer to FAO Presidency

Does Iran’s man have a chance? The new director-general will be elected by secret ballot at the FAO’s 37th conference in Rome, due to be held June 25-July 2. Naeini is running against candidates from Austria, Brazil, Indonesia, Iraq and Spain. But he has an inside edge, by way of having worked for 11 years at UN food agencies in Rome, including a stint a few years ago in which he chaired the 49-member governing council of the FAO itself.

If elected, Naeini would in theory be serving in an independent capacity, as a senior UN official, not as an envoy of Iran. That, however, is one of those laughable UN fictions. Naeini’s resume lists a Ph.D., years ago, from Cornell University in the U.S., but his home address is in Tehran. To run for the post, Naeini had to be nominated by the government of Iran — scroll down in this UN document to see the official letter of nomination from Iran’s foreign ministry. And here’s his web site. Naeini is the candidate of the same Iranian regime  whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, came to a UN food summit in Rome in 2008 and held a news conference there at which he denounced the U.S. as a power with “devilish motivations,” called Israel “a fabricated entity…doomed to go,” and celebrated his vision of a future in which, Iran triumphant, food and fuel would be handled, with apocalyptic purity, by “righteous and justice-seeking managers.”

Of course, an FAO run by the man from Iran could still find a role for the U.S. That would be the usual U.S. role at the UN of picking up the biggest share of the tab. According to U.S. administration figures on U.S. taxpayer contributions to the UN, the U.S. in 2009 chipped in almost $260 million to the FAO, which amounted to a whopping 25% of the FAO’s budget. … Anyone bothered yet?

The Truth About the Tiananmen Massacre

June 5th, 2011 - 11:49 pm

Was there a massacre in 1989, in China’s Tiananmen Square? This question has now rolled round again, with a Guardian story, based on Wikileaked cables from 1989, headlined: “Wikileaks: no bloodshed inside Tiananmen Square, cables claim.”

Lest anyone conclude there was no bloodshed at all, the story itself goes on to explain that “soldiers opened fire on protesters outside the centre of Beijing.” But who reads past the headline these days? The message that makes news here is the apparent Wiki-debunking of one of the most convulsive events in modern China. That headline could have been written by the Chinese government itself.  No Tiananmen bloodshed, ergo no massacre, ergo why all the fuss?

Because there was a massacre. There was a massacre in Beijing, in the streets leading in to the square. The distinction drawn at the top of this article, saying that soldiers opened fire “outside the centre of Beijing” is wildly misleading. It sounds as if the soldiers fired some shots on the outskirts of the city, then moseyed the rest of the way in to clear the square armed mostly with nothing but what a Chilean diplomat, cited in one of the Wikileaked cables, concluded was anti-riot gear (he saw wrong; the soldiers had AK-47 assault rifles, as well as clubs). As one of the reporters who was an eyewitness to some of the events of June 4, 1989, in and around Tiananmen Square, I can tell you that the soldiers may have opened fire outside the city center, but they went on firing all the way into Tiananmen itself. There was particularly heavy gunfire just before the entry to the square, cutting across one of the main roads, near the Chinese leadership compound of Zhongnanhai — an area into which a large crowd of people, when I last saw them, were being driven by the advancing troops. I ran through that area ahead of the crowd, shortly after midnight, in order to reach Tiananmen Square. When I tried to return to it around dawn on June 4, that area had been sealed off by tanks and armed solders.

As for there being no bloodshed at all in the square, that is absolute nonsense. The soldiers fired tracer bullets into the square. As far as I saw, they didn’t mow down protesters in rows, but they did hit some of them. During a half hour or so I spent near a hospital tent set up in the north end of the square, I saw seven people carried in, all of them shot. They were bleeding. Whether more were brought in, I don’t know, because I did not dare linger near that medical tent. There was too much gunfire in that part of the square.

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Durban III: The Good News and the Bad News

June 1st, 2011 - 11:00 pm

In the United Nations cosmos of Orwellian ventures, one of the prominent features has become the series of conferences named for an initial 2001 conclave in Durban, South Africa. That gathering was supposed to be about fighting racism. Instead, it became a debauch of anti-Semitic Israel-bashing so extreme that then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell ordered the U.S. delegation to walk out. That conference is now known as Durban I.

With the aim of building on the achievements of Durban I, the UN followed up in 2009 with Durban II, also known as the Durban Review Conference. That was held in Geneva, Switzerland, amid the manicured flowerbeds, peacock-bedecked lawns and BMW-filled parking lots of the UN’s Palais des Nations, former home to the failed League of Nations. Durban II is most memorable for having featured, as a star speaker, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Obama administration decided close to the last minute to boycott that conference. Ahmadinejad’s speech triggered a walkout by a host of Western delegates. PJ Media’s Roger Simon and I had gone to Geneva to cover Durban II (we found ourselves staying in a hotel where Ahmadinejad had booked 40 rooms to accommodate his entourage) and when the conference fizzled into a gross embarrassment for the UN, thanks to Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust-denying style, Roger quite reasonably hoped that might mean an end to the Durban “process.”

The UN General Assembly decided otherwise. A Durban III conference is now scheduled for Sept. 22, this time at UN headquarters, in New York, timed to coincide with the annual opening of the General Assembly. Officially, it is styled as a 10th anniversary commemoration of the original 2001 Durban I conference. That was an event so hate-filled and grotesque that one might suppose the UN would wish either to forget it, or apologize for it — not commemorate it. But that’s not how things work at the UN, where standard operating procedure of the General Assembly is that U.S. taxpayers supply the biggest share of the money, and outfits like the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, or the  131 members of the so-called Group of 77 (presided over in 2009 by Sudan), decide how to spend it.

The good news is that the Obama administration has finally decided to boycott Durban III. As UN Watch reports, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York led a coalition of 18 senators who months ago called on the U.S. administration to follow the lead set by Canada, and pull out. On June 1, the State Department sent Gillibrand a letter saying the U.S. “will not participate” in Durban III, and had voted against the General Assembly resolution establishing this event “because the Durban process included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we did not want to see that commemorated.”

The bad news is that the UN is still going ahead with Durban III. The next “consultation on the scope, modalities, format and organization of the high-level meeting of the General Assembly to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action” is scheduled for this Friday, at 10 A.M., in the UN’s General Assembly Hall in New York. The “co-facilitators” of these consultations, the ambassadors of Monaco and Cameroon, sent a letter on May 27th to the president of the General Assembly, Switzerland’s Joseph Deiss, inviting him to draw up a list of NGO representatives to attend Durban III. That’s not reassuring, given Deiss’s record as the General Assembly president who this past March employed the UN’s General Assembly Hall as the extravagant and utterly inappropriate venue for the U.S. premiere of a movie trashing Israel.

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