It is still “technically possible” for Iraq to hold elections in January as scheduled, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday, while acknowledging that the United Nations may not have enough staff on the scene to support preparations for the vote.
Annan also said allegations of corruption in the U.N.-run oil-for-food program for Iraq had harmed the world body’s reputation.
Gee. Ya think?
“I want to stress that it is the Iraqis who are planning the elections, who are organizing the elections. We are offering support and advice,” he said.
“There has been some question as to whether we have enough U.N. staff on the ground or not. As we move forward, it will become necessary to send in additional staff,” he said, adding that staffing arrangements would depend on either a more secure environment or “solid arrangements for protection.”
The United Nations said Wednesday that Fiji had offered 130 troops to protect U.N. staff and facilities in Iraq, making it the first country to respond to requests for a protection force separate from U.S.-led coalition forces.
Uh, isn’t it a request for protection separate from the U.S.-led coalition forces that led to the UN’s tail-between-the-legs cowardly retreat from its job almost a year ago? As I recall, the UN specifically rejected our suggestion for US protection, then ran for the hills after bad guys (I mean, who would have imagined BAD GUYS in Iraq besides US troops?) blew up some of their people.
The. United. Nations. Is. Irrelevant.
Don’t. Ask. Someone.
Just. Look. Around.
Last December, after the UN moved its Iraq operations to the Jordan and Cyprus (hey, by the way, Cyprus is a stellar example of the UN in action) offices, a commenter took me to task over my dismissal of the international body. Since about thirty people a day visited MO at that time, most of you missed that discussion. Read the original post and comments if you like.
Here is part of my responses, which I formed into another post:
If the UN had been serious about Iraq, that country could have been turned around in the mid-90s. Instead we were left with standoff after standoff. Even Bill Clinton went so far as to bomb them. But there we sat at the end of 2002, with more than a dozen resolutions totally ignored, playing the same old games the same old way.
Why the hell hasn’t the UN fixed the Korea problem by now? They’ve had FIVE DECADES. And that’s since a UN war where US troops did most of the fighting and dying. There’s no end in sight, except maybe another unilateral “rush to war.”
In any event, the US is not in Afghanistan or Iraq for the same reasons that the UN should have been there earlier. We are there for US security first, security of our Allies second, and general world security in an indirect way third. Pacification and nation building are only weapons in our war, not the end goal we’re working for. For what it’s worth, if an iron-fisted martial dictatorship was in our best interest in Afghanistan or Iraq, I’d support the idea.
The UN has a different purpose and a different responsibility than the US government…We’re there to carry out OUR mission, partially because the UN didn’t do much of anything.
Too many people seem to think that the UN represents some sort of “world government” or has some sort of authority over its members. It’s really nothing but a designated meeting place for nations to vent. There is no “UN” as such, in and of itself. In some nebulous way, “the UN” may exist as a collective opinion of its members, but that’s all it is.
We are in Iraq conducting US-centric missions because it is in our national interest to do so. If more nations in the UN had been more willing to stand up for what’s fair and just, maybe we wouldn’t have to do what we’re doing. Or maybe we would have done it with a lot more help.
But to pretend that the UN holds some sort of authority over us (or anyone else) and that getting approval from it is critical to our success is wrong. And to complain about the US ignoring the UN is going to be as effective as complaining that North Korea or Saddam ignored the UN.
I haven’t given up on the UN. I don’t want the UN abolished, and I don’t want the US out of the UN. I’m just not expecting the UN to solve anyone’s problems at this point. If people can solve their own problems by meeting within the UN, that’s great. But condemnations and resolutions carry no weight without the threat of force when you’re talking to many nations. The only time that UN inspectors seemed to make any headway in Iraq was when we massed troops on the border.
Dialog is important, but only when both sides are willing to talk. And I’ll agree that the United States could be more diplomatic most of the time. I’ll even admit that the current administration doesn’t seem to take talking as seriously as I wish they did.
But I think that everyone has to agree that the US wasn’t the only nation unwilling to compromise in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq. Critics make it sound like we weren’t willing to meet France and others half-way. We probably weren’t, but France wasn’t willing to meet half-way, either. The only acceptable compromise was total capitulation by the United States.
Following form and going through the motions of diplomatic games isn’t the END. It’s supposed to be the MEANS. When the means don’t justify the end, use other means. The United States and our Allies have decided that other means are called for.
Iraq is a good chance for the UN to prove that it (via its member nations) can contribute to the greater good after diplomatic channels have failed. Korea is a good chance to prove that the UN can play a positive role in heading off trouble before it erupts and interested nations are forced to take matters into their own hands.
I just don’t see it happening. I wish I did.
This is more than ten months later. Since then, we’ve seen the transfer of power to the interim Iraqi government, the establishment and first battles of a new Iraqi army, and free elections in Afghanistan.
And Kofi Annan says elections in Iraq are only “technically possible”.
Annan also made the news about the Sudan:
The impression that… which has been gained in some quarters, that if you were only to label it genocide things will fall in place, I’m afraid, is not really correct. We know what needs to be done. We need to have the will and the resources and go in and do it.
So, um, “support and advice” aren’t enough, then? Even though words aren’t enough, Kofi, you have barely even that to offer.
Meanwhile, in Korea, the threat of post-war war drags into its fifth decade.
I’d say that the reputation of the UN is suffering from far more than just the Oil-for-Food scandal.
But it’s nice to know Kofi thinks that elections are “technically possible” in Iraq.