U.S. President George W. Bush has finally rescued himself and his country from the quicksand of U.N. diplomacy this week. He has announced that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would have 48 hours to get out of town, or face a high-noon-type showdown with the "Cowboy in Chief" and his posse of roughly 300,000 troops. Bush put Iraq, the U.N., and the entire global community on notice. No one could accuse THIS Texan of being "all hat and no cattle."
It's too bad the same can't be said for the United Nations, which has now proven to the world, in a very high-profile way, that it is nothing more than a glorified debating society--big on pontification but not on action. Perhaps these member nations figured that when they passed U.N. Resolution 1441 last year, requiring that Iraq present for destruction all of its deadly weapons (chemical, biological, nuclear or otherwise), they were only playing at diplomacy in the same way that little kids play at being surgeons with that classic Hasbro game, "Operation." In all fairness, though, I suppose it would have been really easy for most of these U.N. member countries to believe that this was indeed the case.
Even back in April 2001, Philip Gourevitch--author of the book, "We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories From Rwanda" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998)--told Washington Times reporter Nat Hentoff that "one of the U.N.'s chief legacies is as an institution that insulates its officials and its member states from accountability when they prefer to do nothing to stop mass political violence around the world." The most recent inaction on the part of the United Nations to actually follow through on its mandate to stop terror--whether it be in the form of providing equipment or biological weapons to known terrorist groups, or imposed directly on a society by an oppressive government that kills, rapes and maims its own people in order to maintain power--is, once again, proof-positive that the U.N. Charter isn't worth the paper on which it's written. The Charter may as well have the musical score for "My Fair Lady" written on it somewhere, because without enforcement, it's totally useless.
The U.N. couldn't ask for a more fitting representative than Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Here is a man who refused to act or to say anything publicly while the genocide of over 800,000 Tutus and their sympathizers was being carried out in Rwanda in 1994. Experts figure that fewer than 5,000 U.N. troops could have stopped these atrocities if Annan had not turned his back on these people.
Moreover, as Hentoff reports, "to this day, Annan has said nothing about the massive enslavement of black Christians and animists in Sudan by the National Islamic Front government. Nor has he said anything about the gang rapes and murder that accompany slave raids on the villages of southern Sudan."
Just as Annan and the U.N. turned their backs on these citizens of the world, they were also keen to do the same with the people of Iraq. And what was Annan's comeback when confronted with past inaction? In reference to yet another atrocity that ensued back in 1998 in East Timor when the U.N. encouraged the people to vote for their independence from Suharto's Indonesia without taking precautions to protect these people from the regime, Annan said, "Nobody in their wildest dreams thought what we are witnessing could have happened. We are no fools." No doubt Annan would have recycled this doozer in a few years and used it to reference the situation in Iraq, if the United States hadn't stepped in and snatched the reigns from the incompetent, blood-drenched hands of the U.N.
In the 1990s, former US President Bill Clinton bypassed the U.N. and led a coalition of the willing into both Bosnia and Kosovo. In 1998, while Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic was carrying out ethnic cleansing against Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, the United States' U.N. Ambassador-designate at the time, Richard Holbrooke, pointed out that "diplomacy will only work with Milosevic if it's backed up with force. . . . Milosevic should understand, and this is the core point, that this is not a replay of Bosnia, that NATO is poised and involved in a way it wasn't for four years in Bosnia. If he thinks this is empty theater today, he's making a big mistake. . . .
The lesson of Bosnia was to not get involved early is to get more deeply involved later. . . . In Kosovo today, several hundred have died, about 10,000 to 50,000 are now refugees. . . . If that keeps up, we'll have a serious, much more serious situation on our hands. The lesson of Bosnia is do it early. It'll be more expensive later and it'll be harder to put the fabric of society back together" [ABC "Nightline," 6/15/98].
George W. Bush is--in principle--doing nothing different from what Clinton did in bypassing U.N. approval to prevent atrocities--both at home and abroad. Just because Bush is a former oil industry businessman, is the son of a former U.S. President who had a beef with Saddam, and has a penchant for John Wayne-style cowboy hats, people figure that Bush must have some sort of hidden agenda in moving forward with military action against Iraq. All these critics have to do is take a glance back at history to see that Bush doesn't need any ulterior motive. If military action from without stops the war from within Iraq--the one waged against the Iraqi people by Saddam Hussein--then that's all the justification any thinking, feeling, compassionate human being should need.
George W. Bush--along with his British counterpart, Prime Minister Tony Blair--is selflessly putting his entire political career and legacy on the line to do what he believes is right. Meanwhile, other world leaders--like Prime Minister Jean Chretien of my native Canada--are either coming out against U.S.-led action, or they're allowing the fenceposts on which they're firmly planted to become even more intimately acquainted with their indecisive behinds.
I've never been so embarrassed and so disgraced to be a Canadian as I have been this week. If I could do so today, I would become a citizen of the United States and renounce my Canadian citizenship. At one time, Canada stood for democracy and world peace, and we were actively committed to maintaining both. Chretien has opened up this once-great country to being labeled the "France of the New World Order." I can hear the jokes now: Going to war without Canada is like going swimming without a toaster oven . . .
And the Liberal Party sheep who thunderously applauded Chretien when he announced on the floor of the House of Commons that Canada would have no part in liberating the people of Iraq without the involvement of the U.N. are ignoramuses whom I am appalled to call my countrymen. I predict that in ten years, when a peaceful democracy is in place in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries--thanks to the American and coalition liberators that acted in 2003--citizens of the world will recall that Canada sat idly by while their fellow human beings suffered and a new wave of global terrorism risked taking hold.
The current situation will play itself out, and everyone involved will eventually be held accountable--even the fence-sitters. In the words of British politician and philosopher Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." The fence-sitters and the war critics are Saddam Hussein's biggest allies, and the biggest enemies of peace and humanity. And they too will one day go down in history as such.