Just when you thought the United Nations could not possibly become any more inane, out comes a story in London’s Sunday Times that the UN is about to appoint a special envoy for alien life forms. The idea, apparently, is that if aliens contact or land on earth, demanding “Take me to your leader,” the UN will have a designated official ready to step in as chief mouthpiece for the human race.
My first guess is that this close encounter of a UN kind would end swiftly, and not well. Imagine, for a moment, that you are an alien arriving on earth, curious about the ways of homo sapiens — and your first real sitdown is with a member of the UN bureaucracy. Either you’d speed back into space, howling: “The horror! The horror!” Or, if you’re an alien of strong stomach and advanced weaponry, you’d listen just long enough to conclude that earthlings have arrived at some endpoint of blithering and irredeemable decay, and zap them wholesale off the planet. Either way, there’s really no need for a UN-alien interface. The question we ought to be asking is how many U.S. tax dollars the UN plans to lavish on this new arrangement.
However — while I may be wrong about the response of the average alien, there might just be a serious dimension to this plan. And it might be this: While President Barack Obama has NASA reaching out to the Muslim world, the Muslim world — via the UN — is making a grab for the UN’s outer space portfolio. And space programs do have some bearing on odds and ends such as guidance of long-range missiles, and whatnot.
The UN official reportedly in line for the new role of head of alien outreach is a Malaysian astrophysicist, Mazlan Othman. She currently heads the UN’s Vienna-based Office for Outer Space Affairs, also know as UNOOSA, or OOSA. According to London’s Sunday Times, Othman recently gave a recorded talk, in which she said that in the event of signals from extraterrestrials, humankind should be ready with “a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject.” She said the UN is a “ready-made mechanism for such coordination.” And, according to the Times, the UN deems Othman ready-made for the role — which she is expected to detail shortly at a conference in the UK. Absent any signaling aliens, it’s all too likely she’d begin her duties with some of those trademark UN decrees about whose “sensitivities” trump the rest in trying to commandeer the future of the planet.
The conference where Othman is expected to elaborate on all this may be a saga in itself. Titled “Towards a scientific and societal agenda on extra-terrestrial life,” (note that “societal agenda” ) it is slated for Oct. 4-5 at the Royal Society’s Kavli conference center in Buckinghamshire — where the fancy premises were acquired just this year, thanks to support from the California-based Kavli Foundation. This is a nonprofit which earlier this month, in Oslo, featured as a keynote speaker for its Kavli Prize Science Forum none other than President Barack Obama’s left-fringe science adviser, John Holdren — the command-and-control zealot who now wants to re-engineer your life to battle not global warming, but “climate disruption.”
But I digress. Back to Mazlan Othman, the Malaysian head of the UN’s Office for Outer Space Affairs and reported alien-outreach ambassador wannabe. Othman may be obscure to most Americans, but at the UN’s offices in Vienna, she has been busy at OOSA for quite some time. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Oil-for-Food Annan appointed Othman as OOSA’s director from 1999-2002. Then she went home to spend five years as the founding director-general of the Malaysian space program — which led to Malaysia putting its first astronaut into space. In 2007, she returned to the UN post of director of OOSA, which she still holds.
Who else holds a prominent position in OOSA’s orbit? Why, you guessed it! The head of Iran’s space agency, Ahmad Talebzadeh. This Iranian official was recently “elected” at the UN for a two-year term chairing (you couldn’t make this up — see page 2) the Legal Subcommittee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space — for which the Othman-headed OOSA serves as the secretariat.
Together with OOSA and one other German-chaired subcommittee on outer space, the job of this Iran-chaired Legal Subcommittee is to track legal and technological developments and applications related to space, in order to provide information and advice to UN member states and international organizations, including the rest of the UN itself. So, if the Malaysian head of OOSA ends up doubling as a UN envoy tasked with crafting a program for representing the “sensitivities” of all mankind to aliens, it would be nothing more than normal UN procedure should she end up huddling with Talebzadeh, head of the Iranian space agency, to draft a plan for the planet. That might be less worrisome were Malaysia and Iran a tad less cozy these days — but as it is, Malaysia was one of the three countries which last November at the UNs International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna voted against rebuking Iran over its sanctions-busting nuclear program.
Forget the aliens, folks. If there are any adults at all still minding the store in Washington, it’s high time they sent an envoy empowered to sort out what human beings are doing right here and now on planet Earth, at the UN’s outer space bunkers in Vienna.