It's Time the UN Stopped Congratulating Kim Jong Un

Protocol has its uses, not least at the United Nations. But when it comes to lavishing on murderous tyrants the same pro forma felicitations accorded to the elected leaders of free nations, it's time for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to clean up the act of the UN Protocol and Liaison Service -- which reports to him.

What's the problem? There are many problems, actually, and they stem from the UN's morally incontinent practice of doling out to all member states  -- whether totalitarian or democratic; North Korea or Costa Rica -- the same perquisites, including a lot of diplomatic swag for the most monstrous dictators on the planet.

Lest that sound too abstract, let's turn to one of the latest outrages. This cameo starts with a UN communique to war-wracked Syria, where last month the state news agency, SANA, reported that President Bashar al-Assad had just received "a cable of congratulations from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the occasion of Syria's independence day." According to the SANA dispatch, (boldface mine) Guterres in this cable "expressed his warmest congratulations to the Syrian people and government on this occasion."

For anyone even remotely familiar with the doings of Assad and the condition of Syria, that message sounds more than a tad out of touch. Assad is a despot who inherited power upon the death of his despotic father 17 years ago. During the first decade of his rule, operating as Iran's chief mascot in the Middle East, Bashar Assad presided over a terror-sponsoring state (a patron of the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas), employed the help of North Korea in building a clandestine nuclear reactor with no evident purpose except to produce nuclear bomb fuel (the Al Kibar reactor, destroyed by an Israeli air strike in 2007) and -- with his secret police, torture chambers, dungeons and related atrocities -- oppressed his own countrymen so thoroughly and brutally that in 2011 they rebelled.

As we all know, Assad refused to give up power. He talked about elections, and offered a complete sham. He fought back, as head of a merciless tyranny. He has by now used everything from barrel bombs to chemical weapons against his fellow Syrians. In the UN's official protocol list, Assad has kept his place as Syria's official head of state -- a position he has retained at the cost of a war that has brought the deaths of more than 400,000 people, misery for millions of refugees, the rise of ISIS and the return of Russia to the Middle East as the weapons-bearing godfather of Damascus.

In this context, it was hard to believe that Guterres would send a message of "warmest congratulations" to Assad, whatever the topic. Surely this report from SANA was just another piece of propaganda from the Syrian regime?