Absurd censure may finally wake us up to UN’s decline. It is disappointing that the recent outrageous criticism of Quebec by the United Nations Human Rights Council has not led to a serious debate in Canada about the country’s almost slavish veneration of the United Nations. The basic problem with the UN is that almost no one has used it for what it was ostensibly intended for: To produce equitable cooperation, or at least civilized exchanges, between all the countries of the world. It was devised by Franklin D. Roosevelt to help convince his previously isolationist countrymen that the world was less dangerous than they feared, and to disguise through international organizations and U.s.-directed collegiality the blunt fact that the United States effectively ruled the world except for what was under direct occupation by Stalin’s Red Army.
The permanent members of the Security Council were the five principal allies in the Second World War, (though Canada made a greater contribution to victory than France or China); all were countries that were heavily indebted to the United States for war-time — and, it was assumed, correctly in most cases — post-war assistance. Roosevelt reckoned that the docile Latin American republics, the traditional Commonwealth dominions, and the European countries liberated by the Western Allied armies would provide a durable proAmerican majority in the General Assembly, and that Britain, France and China would be reliable Security Council allies. Even after the communist victory in China in 1949, this calculation was correct through the 1950s (and the People’s Republic of China did not occupy China’s place on the Security Council, in place of the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek that fled to Taiwan, until 1971). The American isolationists were routed, and the U.S. had no real difficulty consistently outvoting the Soviet Union at the UN.
President Eisenhower proposed the internationalization of the atom with his Atoms For Peace program, in which atomic science would be pooled under the auspices of the United Nations, in 1953. The U.S.S.R. rejected it, and in some respects, the U.S. was able to continue the imaginative program unilaterally with no military aspect. The United Nations performed some useful services at Suez and in the Congo. The U.S. ambassador to the UN, Henry Cabot Lodge (who was given cabinet rank to show that Eisenhower took him and his mission seriously) had the idea of a UN peacekeeping presence to cover the debacle of the Anglo-French invasion of Egypt, supposedly to promote peace after they had incited Israel to seize the Sinai while they took back the Suez Canal. Lodge gave it to Lester Pearson, then Canada’s minister of external affairs, as he thought it would be better received from a less controversial country, rather than the U.S. itself. (Pearson was rewarded with the Nobel Prize for Peace, the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada two years later and election as prime minister five years after that).
It all became more complicated in the 1960s, after the talented UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold died in a plane crash in 1961, Fidel Castro stirred up pro-communist agitation throughout Latin America, Gaullist France created a raft of new member states from its former African colonies and staked out a policy at sharp variance with the Anglo-Americans in support of the Arabs (after he had abandoned Algeria, and two million French and pro-French Algerians fled to France), and the United States became mired in Vietnam. For the past 45 years the United Nations has become steadily over-populated by poor states, failed states, petty despotisms and militant Muslim counties chiefly preoccupied in diplomatic matters with the harassment and denigration of Israel. Most of the agencies have become sink-holes of patronage and corruption for poor countries paying themselves with the contributions of rich countries and polemically biting the hands that feed them.
It has become a source of payola windfalls for corrupt agency officials as well as a substitute for theatre and psychiatry for many of the world’s most disreputable regimes. Muammar Gadaffi’s Libya was elected to the chair of the Human Rights Commission (precursor of the present Human Rights Council), and the whole hierarchy of the UN was implicated in the scandalous misappropriation of many millions of oil dollars supposedly destined for humanitarian purposes in Iraq. The chief humanitarian beneficiaries were Saddam Hussein and crooked UN officials. Many of the peacekeeping missions are staffed by unqualified soldiers from very poor countries, which rent themselves out to the warring factions for cash; and thereby increase, rather than control, local violence.
Unfortunately, Canada was, for most of the UN’S history, far too indulgent of it. First, as a victorious ally and charter member, it was part of the Anglo-american governing consensus. Then, after Lodge gave Pearson the Suez peace-keeper idea (and Pearson forgot that it wasn’t his originally), the foreign policy establishment in Ottawa began to view the Unas a way for Canada to distinguish itself from the U.S. at little cost, and to allow itself, with a modest foreign aid budget, to pander to Third World countries without seriously annoying our traditional allies. This gradually developed into the Chrétien government’s endorsement of “soft power,” a phrase originated by former U.S. president Bill Clinton’s national security adviser Joe Nye, which was a soft alternative to the use of American military might. It is a concept that has any validity only when there is a hard power option, which Canada did not possess. As practised by this country, soft power was a fraud, it was just more softness.
Despite Canada’s long championship of the United Nations, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay (a Tamil South African from Durban and notorious anti-western racist), still saw fit to criticize the absence of human rights in Quebec last week, lumping Canada in with Syria, Mali, Eritrea and North Korea. (The first three of those countries have been wracked by civil wars, replete with tortured political prisoners and executions; and the fourth is the most severe totalitarian state in the world.) Pillay was the chief author of the Durban declaration against racism in 2001, itself a militantly racist document, and she has disputed the legality of killing Osama bin Laden and ostentatiously supported Iran’s lunatic president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. In her recent comments, she praised the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which makes all rights subject to the law of Shariah. She did not recognize that the Quebec law on the right to assemble and demonstrate has not led to general violence, is not violently imposed and is subject to review by an independent judiciary and to revocation of the government by voters in free elections.
At the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on June 22, there was a parallel meeting held by Hamas and other radical Palestinian organizations, with the blessing and publicity of the United Nations, in which Israel was subjected to the customary flood of blood libels. More than 40% of the Council’s own resolutions are devoted to the pathological Jew-baiting and anti-Zionism of radical Islam and its secular espousers.
Undoubtedly, there will be those in Canada who decry the Harper government’s comparative friendliness with Israel and call for appeasement of Pillay and her foaming claque. What we should do instead is lead agitation for a massive transformation of the United Nations — back to the defence of Eleanor Roosevelt’s Universal Declaration on Human Rights (which is not subject to Shariah law or any other such barbarities), jettison the antiquated Security Council and propose a variable system of voting in the General Assembly, where votes are accorded to countries and groupings of countries according to a combination of their population, economic strength and objectively assessed respect for human rights.
Canada is well placed to organize the support for such measures by the countries that pay most of the UN’s bills. This would be a much more appropriate stance for Canada, now that it has been so unjustly pilloried by the anthill of bigotry of a Human Rights Council, than continued reverence for this citadel of hypocrisy. The United Nations is both a mad cow and a sacred cow; it is in desperate need of radical reform