Friday, December 03, 2004

Scandal of Convenience 

Joe Conason on the broader purpose of Kofi-hatred:
For the moment, conservative critics are focused on U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. They've demanded his resignation as punishment for corruption and mismanagement of Iraq's "oil-for-food" program. Designed to ease economic sanctions on the Iraqi people by allowing oil to be traded for food and medicine, the program fell prey to exploitation by Saddam Hussein during the final years of his dictatorship. From newspaper investigations, it is clear that Saddam used the program to enrich himself and to import illicit items -- and that various companies and political figures in Russia, France, China and the United States, among others, profited along with the dictator . . . .

Behind the attacks on Annan lies the broader purpose of bringing down the U.N. itself. Once praised by the likes of the late Sen. Jesse Helms for implementing fiscal reform, the secretary general provoked deep enmity on the right by opposing the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and by criticizing its illegality again last September during the U.S. presidential campaign. Worse yet, U.N. inspectors made the terrible mistake of being correct about the nonexistent "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq.

For the Bush administration and its conservative allies, the U.N. represents embarrassment and obstruction. Seeing no value in debating and discussing world problems with lesser nations, they regard the U.N. as nothing but an unworthy obstacle to the exercise of American power. To them, the world body symbolizes all that they hate about multilateralism and diplomacy.

Certain starry-eyed neoconservatives broach the idea of a new global organzation that would only admit "legitimate" democratic governments (as defined, perhaps, by the Heritage Foundation or the Wall Street Journal editorial board). In the neocon scenario, the U.N. would be hollowed into a meaningless, impoverished shell, and left to such pariahs as Kim Jong Il and the Iranian mullahs.

As fantasy, this explains much about the mind-set of the neoconservative right in the aftermath of the Iraq debacle. They need somebody to blame, other than themselves, and Annan provides a most convenient target. As policy, however, the abandonment of the U.N. is just as crazy as when the John Birch Society printed its first bumper sticker -- as the neocons might acknowledge if they listened to our closest allies.
Our revered colleague Avedon Carol suggests that our U.N.-hating colleagues on the right should be careful about throwing stones. Extra careful.

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