WWW Opinion Times

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Kofi Annan--Bureaucrat Extraordinaire

UN Secretary General's speech

"The vulnerable lack effective recourse, while the powerful manipulate laws to retain power and accumulate wealth. At times even the necessary fight against terrorism is allowed to encroach unnecessarily on civil liberties. At the international level, all states - strong and weak, big and small - need a framework of fair rules, which each can be confident that others will obey. " --Kofi Annan

"The perfect bureaucrat everywhere is the man who manages to make no decisions and escape all responsibility." --Brooks Atkinson, Once Around the Sun, 1951

Kofi Annan in his UN Speech on Tuesday saw fit to accuse the United States of being an international bully. He has called the United States effort in Iraq "illegal." He claims international law as the standard by which he comes to this judgment. One of those values, as expressed in his speech at the UN on Tuesday, is "restraints on the strong." Is strength illegal?

In the ongoing battle against political-speak, let me make a grammatical distinction here: illegalities refer to laws made by some government or institution, wrongness refers to inappropriate action, behavior or function or to moral responsibility adjudicated by Divine Decree.

If we were to accept the fact that there is some international law which precludes the United States, or any country--strong or weak--from seeking military means to protect its people from harm after a 9/11-type event , then the United States took an "illegal" action. If we consider the moral grounds upon which the invasion of Iraq was taken, the United States was right.

The people of Iraq were gassed and tortured. They were stripped of basic human rights and treated as cattle slaughtered by government policy. No disgrace, indignity, cruelty or torture was withheld from them. The Hussein government supported terror all over the world to the fullest extent possible before and after sanctions were imposed upon them in the early 90's.

In the light of the horrible death of tens of thousands worldwide over the last few decades due to terror--highlighted by the toppling of the World Trade Center towers--it seems incumbent upon an organization founded to mitigate such disasters to take action. I guess Mr. Annan was too busy coordinating his oversight of the Oil for Food Program in Iraq.

Since the Secretary General believes his organization has principles by which we should abide, it seems necessary at this point to refer to the UN Declaration of Human Rights to provide him with some guidance. It will be a good exercise for us to consider this document as a means to help educate Mr. Annan as to the role and purpose of his organization.

Article 1.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 3.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 5.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.

Article 8.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 12.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

.....And many more could be cited here. Clearly, none of these principles were being consulted when Kofi Annan and some UN member states decided to sit out the atrocities in Iraq. And when other members decided to act, offense was taken and irrational excuses were given to justify the irritation felt.

The point is this. Mr. Annan believes his political position over an international institution allows him an opportunity to find reasons to subjugate the "strong" when he believes they assert an authority higher than his. To do so, he must ignore the principles clearly outlined in the institution he leads. But worse than this, he has no independent moral judgment which causes him to look with compassion on subjugated peoples. But, many UN member states have no reason to desire freedom, and he maintains his political power through them.

The United Nations is dead from within because it is established not on the principles of freedom, but of bureaucracy.