In Paris, terrorist gunmen massacre the staff of a French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. Having injured at least 11 people and murdered 12 — including cartoonists, writers, the magazine’s director Stephane Charbonnier, his bodyguard, and a policemen — the killers depart the scene shouting “Allahu akbar.”
And from the top officials of that multilateral empire known as the United Nations — headquarters of the so-called international community — comes the ritual mix of platitudes, hypocrisies and misdirection. There are, of course, the expressions of horror. This event is quite monstrous enough that these expressions may well be heartfelt, even if some of the phrases have been recycled often enough to sound like the product of a diplomatic word extruder. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pronounced himself “appalled and deeply shocked.” At UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), which is headquartered in Paris, Director-General Irina Bokova — whose native Bulgaria has nominated her to succeed Ban as UN secretary-general in 2017 — said she is “horrified by this shocking attack.”
Quite. But what will the UN do? Where does the UN really stand? There was no reference in these UN press releases to any form of Islam, despite the jihadi battle cries of the terrorists, and the record of threats, as well as the 2011 fire-bombing of Charlie Hebdo’s offices, after the magazine dared to exercise its right to free speech by caricaturing, among many other religious figures, the Prophet Mohammed.
Instead, Ban defaulted to the generic UN call for global “solidarity.” He called for “we” — the world community — to “stand against forces of division and hate.” He then took it a step further, to warn immediately against any reaction by generic “extremists” — not just denouncing the attack on Charlie Hebdo (the UN has a habit of denouncing attacks, rather than denouncing the attackers) but, as Ban put it: “I am very concerned that this awful, calculated act will be exploited by extremists of all sorts.”
UNESCO’s Bokova was similarly generic in her effusions: “The world community cannot allow extremists to silence the free flow of opinions and ideas.”
All that might sound good, conjuring visions of some amorphous and benevolent world community, its shocked and horrified members standing shoulder-to-shoulder against “extremists of all sorts.” But the vaunted world community is neither entirely benevolent, nor, I would wager, are all its members entirely shocked. The world community — if community it is — runs the gamut from free nations to terrorist sponsors to failed states. Among the members of this community, with seats and votes at the UN, are such states as Iran (world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, according to the U.S. government) and North Korea (which in November responded to criticism of its horrific human rights violations by threatening to conduct a fourth illicit nuclear test), as well as Syria (which was shocked! shocked! to be accused in 2013 of using chemical weapons against its own people). The world community is composed of highly self-interested players, and in too many cases their schemes have nothing to do with defending freedom of expression, or freedom of any other kind. To recruit the world community is to recruit everyone, and therefore, in reality, no one. It is, at best, grandstanding without substance. And when Ban warns against extremists of all sorts, who or what is he really talking about? Anyone who might take action to genuinely confront a menace that manifests itself not with UN-style abstractions, but with a bloody trail of bullets and bombs?
Similarly, what are we to make of the hypocrisy of UNESCO’s Bokova? In her declaration of horror, she declaimed that “UNESCO is ever more determined to stand for a free and independent press.” Seriously? Is that what UNESCO stands for? This is the same Bokova who in recent years has sympathized with the terrorists of Hamas, lavished praise on the highly censored, communist-party-indoctrination-driven school system of Cuba, and this past April paid a cordial visit to the censorship-loving, terror-sponsoring regime of Iran, where UNESCO’s Tehran office last month put out a press release noting “Iran’s longstanding and excellent relationship with UNESCO.”
What’s really needed here is not a UN summons for the entire world community to stand together (an event that in reality is largely confined to global agreement that it’s nice for the U.S. to bankroll the biggest share of the UN budget), but a focused determination by the leaders of the Free World to step out way in front — to define clearly the real threats, and deal with them at the source. Quite possibly in ways that Ban or Bokova might deem extreme. That way lies the route to more lives saved, and greater freedom for many, than anything dreamt of in the philosophy of world community bureaucrats.
A note, on the ways of the world community. Last night, I sat down to post an item on PJ Media about the way in which the UN — a.k.a. the world community — has dealt with the horrendous terrorist bombing in Beirut, in 2005, that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, along with 22 others. The UN-shepherded response was all very world-community-minded and procedurally correct. A dedicated tribunal was created near the Hague, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, to identify suspects and bring them to justice. It is now almost 10 years since that bombing. More than $120 million (probably much more) has been spent on this tribunal, which has put down roots as a bureaucracy unto itself. Ban has just extended its mandate for another three years. What has all this accomplished to date? In the face of a scheme that appeared to extend back to the government of Syria, a grand total of five individual members of Hezbollah have been indicted. Last year, nine years after the bombing, the trials finally began in the Hague — with the defendants entirely in absentia. Hezbollah has declined to turn them over. Not one is in custody. Perhaps that is world-community justice in action, but it’s hardly a deterrent to more bombings.
A further note. I wrote that post on the eve of the January 7 terrorist massacre in Paris. I began, far too cavalierly, by saying “We interrupt the mayhem of the hour... .” This phrase was a way to introduce an update on the international community’s handling of a 10-year-old terrorist bombing case, which had faded years ago from the news. It was not a reference to the terrorist slaughter at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, which, when I wrote last night’s post, had not yet taken place. A few hours later, the attack in Paris was all over the news, a horror, and a warning klaxon of spreading mayhem that will take serious, focused and active leadership from the Free World — not the “world community” — to defeat.