Thursday, August 26, 2010

The United Nations as Peacekeeper

Rebel groups raped over 150 women in the so-called Democratic Republic of Congo almost a month ago, though the report has only recently come out. The atrocities occurred throughout villages within twenty miles of a UN forward operating base. Roger Meece, spokesman for MONUSCO, the UN’s “stabilization” mission in the central African country, claimed the blue helmets knew nothing about this grim event until ten days after the fact. Moreover, peacekeepers had gone through the main village where the crimes had occurred, but presumably out of fear and intimidation nobody informed them of mass rape. I was planning to write about the United Nations on October 24, United Nations Day. Here I’ll limit my condemnation of this perverse organization to its mismanagement in central Africa. Let me explain from the outset that the perpetrators, not UN peacekeepers, are entirely to blame for the rapes. However, I’m not letting the United Nations off the hook so easily.

Let us not forget that UN soldiers also raped local women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some officials made snuff and porno films of captive girls. Last time I checked, there were 150 investigations into pedophilia, rape, prostitution, and sexual abuse on the part of UN personnel. MONUSCO enjoys a $750 million budget and embraces about 11,000 peacekeepers from forty-seven countries. Why are UN peacekeepers in Congo? The problem started in the mid 1990s when the Hutu perpetrators of the Rwanda genocide fled to Congo. Some of the rapists in this latest instance of sexual violence were in fact Hutus. The United Nations had set up refugee camps for survivors of the genocide, but officials didn’t manage it well. Killers went into the camp to continue their murderous assault on Tutsis.

As a grade-schooler I recall proudly taking a UNICEF box with me during Halloween and collecting people’s donations. True, I had an extremely vague notion at best as to what the United Nations was about, but I believed I was doing my part in helping to feed starving children throughout the world. Though that worthy cause had to compete with baseball practice, riding my motocross bike, and playing army in the vacant lot across the street from my house, I think it might have registered in a small, albeit fleeting way, in my childish heart. Later as an adult I would learn with no less pride that great Americans had founded the organization and based it firmly on liberal democratic principles. President Franklin Roosevelt proposed and push for the noble idea. President Truman took up the banner after his predecessor’s untimely death. Eleanor Roosevelt helped draft a Manifesto of Universal Rights. (There are other wonderful Europeans involved in this story, but I single out Americans for my American readers.) In the immediate aftermath of World War II, the founders restricted membership to “peace-loving states” that valued democratic ideals. Today the situation is quite different.

Current UN Peacekeeping operations continue today in about eighteen countries: Western Sahara, Congo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sudan, Darfur, Central African Republic, Chad, Haiti, India vis-à-vis Pakistan, Timor-Leste, Cyprus, Georgia, Kosovo, the Middle East, Golan Heights, and Lebanon. I’m not confident that these places are better off without UN intervention. “At least the United States military,” Stanford University historian Victor Davis Hanson says, “is subject to a president who has to go get funding from a congress whose people are elected and subject to censure and audit by a supreme, legitimate and independent judiciary. That doesn’t happen with the United Nations.”  Countries like Syria, Algeria, Iran and Cuba—who violate human rights left and right—sit on committees for human rights. Various member states and senior officials in the UN committed what must be the crime of the century. In the “food for oil” scandal, the UN and others bilked $30 billion, cutting deals with an evil dictator, Saddam Hussein, who was supposed to be using the proceeds for the benefit of the Iraqi people but instead it went into his coffers and those of UN officials.

If I were impolite or honest to a fault, I might suggest that those charlatans, careerists, sadists, anti-Semites, miscreants, kleptocrats, hypocrites, crooks, scoundrels, profiteers, vermin and other loathsome primates who operate the United Nations, a precious institution that liberal democrats had created with such hope for the future, are ineffectual in promoting peace at best and too often turn a blind eye to crimes against humanity.