It was a bittersweet return. I visited the UN yesterday for the first time in a long time. The occasion was a screening of an important documentary produced by my friend John Roche and called Return to Afghanistan.
The film itself is about a bittersweet return. It’s the moving and courageous chronicle of the journey taken by the Afghani brother and sister filmmakers who made the much-admired Firedancer about Afghani exile life. Here we see them in Afghanistan in footage shot a few weeks before 9/11 when the Taliban still ruled and women were literally not allowed out of doors. And then after the liberation, when they return and try to show Firedancer in a stadium where, once, women who violated Talibanic sharia law were executed.
It was powerful, uplifting and also a bit ominous in the way it made the newly-won freedoms seem so perilous.
Why was the experience of going to the UN itself bittersweet for me? The last time I’d been there had been back around the Millennium to attend a press conference/reception at which Ted Turner and then-wife Jane Fonda announced Turner’s purported billion dollar gift to the UN. So idealistic! (Does anyone know what happened to that billion by the way? Somehow I suspect the full billion has not yet reached the poor and diseased it was supposed to help, in fact I wonder how much if any reached the UN at all.)
I’d been there before the Turner/Fonda press conference of course. Many high school field trips, boy scout troop trips, you name it. It was the destination of choice for do-gooder indoctrination. And back then it had seemed so hopeful and sleek and modern. It was the shrine of enlightened liberalism that would transcend petty nationalism and prejudice and lead us into a united world promised land. Indeed when I was growing up I was so inspired by my visits I even joined the United World Federalists which advocated a world ruled by the UN.
And now. Now it’s a haunted house to me. Two genocides and one ethnic cleansing verging on genocide and the UN is 0 for 3 in taking any effective steps to have halted them.
I picked up a program of UN activities on the day of the screening. Thirty pages of meetings. All well meaning on the outside. Even the “Working Group” devoted to “criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission”.
I know through the reporting of Claudia Rossett among the few who have focussed attention on it, not just the financial crimes, but the horrors committed by UN “peacekeeping forces”.
But these crimes of commission are petty compared to the crimes of omission: the failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda, the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and the on going genocide in Darfur.
On p. 26 of the UN’s Daily journal there’s stark evidence of its failure. it’s a General Assembly agenda item:
“Report of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Genocide and Other Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of Rwanda…Report of the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia…”
Yes, lots of reports on ineffectual, after the fact, action. No mention of the way UN peacekeepers had cut and run when the mass murderers went to work. no prosecutions of the UN for a shameful record of failure, for dereliction of humanitarian responsibility.
And no mention of Darfur. There seems to have been some kind of meeting on the subject on another page in the agenda item. but while the murderers went about their business in Darfur, the well fed, expensively clothed UN delegates and bureaucrats bustled around attending to such self-parodic business items described this way:
“There will be informal ‘informal’ consultations on agenda item 13 (i)(United nations Forum on Forests…conveyed by the facilitator…in Conference Room D.”
Yes, you read that bureaucratese right: “Informal ‘informal’ consultations”. That says it all doesn’t it?.
The only inspiring thing about the visit was the film, the presence of a 100 inner city kids invited to watch it and the appearance on a post-screening panel of a UN delegate from Afghanistan who had replaced the Taliban theocratic fascist rep. But the UN did nothing to facilitate that did it?
I think it’s time for the entire UN to immediately adjourn to Darfur, set up shops (including Conference Room D for the all important “informal ‘informal'” consultations of the Forum on Forests).
Maybe that will make it impossible for them to avert their face from ongoing mass murder they have pledged, but failed shamefully, to stop. Maybe they will reduce their agenda from 30 pages of useless meetings to one item: stop the killing.