The Rosett Report

If George Clooney really wants to be a "Messenger of Peace"...

… then why is he shilling for the United Nations?

As Hollywood buffs and UN money-raisers already know, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has just named actor George Clooney as the UN’s newest Messenger of Peace, with a “special focus on UN peacekeeping.” Clooney, currently visiting Sudan, is expected to “receive his designation” Jan. 31st at UN headquarters in New York.

This would all be great if UN peacekeeping actually produced peace. But the illusion that the UN is a grand force for good in this world deserves to be catalogued somewhere between World’s Most Amazing Scams and Believe It-Or-Not Best-in-Special-Effects. The reality of today’s UN is more like a cross between “Animal House” (the movie, with John Belushi) and “Animal Farm” (the book, by George Orwell). Libya and Vietnam have just joined the Security Council, where China and Russia hold permanent seats. The Organization of the Islamic Conference has turned the General Assembly into its Manhattan clubhouse — which Iran’s mushroom-cloud-in-chief Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now uses every September as a base to parade around New York and lecture his audiences that Iran is a country of peaceful intentions and no homosexuals.

The Human Rights Council, with the eager help of Libya and Pakistan, is busy planning a “Durban II” reprise of its 2001 Durban I hate-fest against Israel and America. There is still no official UN definition of terrorism (which means that by UN lights, the Sept. 11 attacks were not committed by terrorists). And with assorted federal investigations going on in the U.S. into bribery, visa fraud and money laundering emanating from the UN (so, really, why did the UN Development Program in North Korea have $3,500 in counterfeit $100 bills in its office safe?), Ban Ki-moon — erstwhile chief administrator of the place — has been busy running around in a ski parka, and importuning on Bali, in his top priority campaign for massive transfers of wealth from democratic countries to dictatorships such as Cuba, China and Sudan, in the name of waging war on the weather.

In UN peacekeeping, which will be Clooney’s special focus, peacekeeper sex scandals continue to bubble up, with their own special focus on under-age locals the peacekeepers are supposed to be protecting (almost three years after the UN declared a zero-tolerance policy for such outrages). Peacekeeping has been one of the major areas of UN corruption, with even the UN itself finally acknowledging hundreds of millions worth of tainted contracts.

In Sudan, where Clooney has taken a special interest, the UN has been dithering and talking and negotiating and re-negotiating for years, and the vaunted peace is still no where in sight. Meanwhile, the government of Sudan enjoys a seat on the 72-member executive committee of the UN Refugee Agency, or UNHCR; while complicit in genocide the Sudanese government had a seat on the former UN Human Rights Commission; and of course Sudan from its General Assembly seat finds itself entitled to vote along with such countries as Saudi Arabia and Iran to use millions in U.S. taxpayer dollars to bankroll such ventures as Durban II. (For more on one of the latest UN Sudan money-related peacekeeping flaps, here’s Matthew Russell Lee of Inner-City Press wondering about a $250 million no-bid no-transparency UN contract… )

Anyway… enter George Clooney, UN Messenger of Peace.

Is anyone surprised that one of the first activities his UN handlers have scheduled for him in NY on Jan 31 is attendance at a “meeting of the countries that contribute to United Nations peacekeeping efforts” –? Translation: Step one in the UN cookbook is, if it’s not working, bang the drum for more money, more per diems, more conferences, more procurement contracts…

The UN “Messengers of Peace” program was set up by Kofi Annan, whose talents deserve to be remembered in the context of Oil-for-Food, genocide in Rwanda, massacre at Srebenica, and endless ways of finagling more money for the murky UN system … not peace for the planet. The UN web page for “Messengers of Peace” tells us (highlighting is mine) the messengers “volunteer their time, talent and passion to raise awareness of United Nations’ efforts to improve the lives of billions of people everywhere.” Is that really what the UN does? Improve the lives of billions? … Or does it use billions to improve the lives of select UN special interests, of the kind sketched out above.

There’s nothing wrong with ER’s former Dr. Ross calling attention to genocide in Darfur. It’s better for the world than if Clooney were instead spending the time filming, say, “Son of Syriana.” But “Messenger of Peace” seems an odd title for a movie star enlisted (along with Spiderman) to help polish up the image of UN. Maybe Ban should appoint some Messengers of Transparency and Accountability. That might be less attractive to a Hollywood hot property like Clooney. But if the idea is truly to help Darfur, it’s not a UN-tinsel-town partnership that’s needed; it’s an honest, or at the very least, competent, institution (that rules out the UN on both counts) — able to come to the rescue.