The PJ Tatler

Kofi Annan, How Soon We Forget

The United Nations and Syria have now jointly appointed former Secretary-General Kofi Annan as their joint special envoy “to deal with the crisis in Syria.”  There are many reasons why Annan is the wrong man for the job, including his abominable record of mismanaging the vastly corrupt 1996-2003 Oil-for-Food program in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in which Syria was one of the major transgressors. But memories are short.

How short? I read with astonishment an article this morning by Adrian Blomfield, a Middle East correspondent for the Telegraph, in which he ponders the question, “Kofi Annan: is he the right trouble shooter for Syria?” In it, Blomfield says that Annan’s record is “mixed,” and goes on to review Annan’s record — reminding us that “In 2008, he persuaded Saddam to re-admit UN weapons inspectors… . ”

2008? A neat trick, because Saddam was hanged two years before that, on Dec. 30, 2006. But never mind, thought I. Surely it was just a typo, and the correspondent meant to write 1998.

Except, reading further, one learns that “four years earlier” Annan “persuaded President Bashir to rein in his Janjaweed militiamen” in Darfur. Four years earlier than what? That would presumably be four years before the miraculous return of Saddam, complete with weapons inspectors, in 2008?

Lower down in the same article, one learns of Annan that “In 2004, as head of UN peacekeeping operations, he was accused of ignoring repeated warnings from Romeo Dallaire” — that is clearly a reference to Annan’s job not in 2004, but in 1994, when as head of UN peacekeeping he ignored warnings from his man in the field about the impending genocide in Rwanda.

If the only way to avoid the mistakes of the past is to learn from them, I’d say in defense of this correspondent that he is at least trying to remember Kofi Annan’s record . If he hasn’t quite mastered the job, he’s still way ahead of the folks at the UN and Arab League, whose apparent total amnesia is about the only reasonable excuse for ignoring Annan’s sorry record, and choosing him as their envoy for dealing with Syria.