Even as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent John Bolton’s nomination as our next ambassador to the United Nations to the Senate floor last week, rumors began emanating from the United Nations that Secretary-General Kofi Annan may just hang it up before his term ends in December 2006 and head home to Ghana either to raise tomatoes or run for president.
Things do change. Just a few weeks ago it appeared that Annan had a better chance of surviving the spring than Bolton. Annan bristled at the suggestion that he would consider resigning even in the face of mounting evidence of his involvement in the now notorious Oil-for-Food scandal. The money diverted on Annan’s watch enriched his son and allowed Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to pocket billions of dollars meant for the poor of Iraq while bribing politicians in London, Paris, Moscow and elsewhere to oppose U.S. policy toward his regime.
On March 29, the first phase of the supposedly independent investigation initiated by Annan himself and headed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker was released. In that report, Volcker reported that he could find “no evidence” of Annan’s direct involvement in the decision to hire an incompetent auditing firm that employed his son and turned a blind eye to the diversion of literally billions of dollars. The lack of evidence or the proverbial “smoking gun” surprised no one, of course, since Annan’s chief of staff began shredding tens of thousands of documents covering the period Volcker was asked to investigate on the very day Volcker agreed to do so.
Still, Annan and his cronies claimed that the report exonerated him, and he held a press conference to inform all and sundry that it was time to move on. A reporter asked the secretary-general if, given the totality of what he and the United Nations were facing, he might at least consider stepping down. Annan looked him the eye, said “Hell NO!” and quickly ended the press conference.
Since then his situation and the reputation of the United Nations itself have been in free-fall. Annan has been forced to admit his involvement in the affair was perhaps greater than he originally suggested. Volcker, attempting to salvage his own reputation, has disputed Annan’s claim he has been “exonerated,” and disgruntled investigators convinced Volcker is running a cover-up have resigned and turned thousands of documents over to congressional investigators.
Add to this Annan’s earlier role in facilitating the Rwandan genocide and his general incompetence and it’s no wonder he’s thinking about leaving.
To their credit, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), among others, have believed from the beginning that the corruption presided over by Annan had to be uncovered, and they have worked doggedly to bring this whole mess to the attention of the public, their colleagues and the rest of the world. The public has reacted with outrage, their colleagues don’t know quite what to do about it, and the world community still seems to hope that the secretary-general’s reputation can be salvaged.
It is no wonder Coleman emerged during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on Bolton’s nomination as a chief proponent of sending a strong-willed advocate of U.S. interests to New York. He and the president believe strongly it is time for the United States to demand reform of the world body instead of quietly acquiescing in the corruption and anti-U.S. bias of an organization we fund and allow on our soil.
Those who might oppose Bolton because he has been overly critical of the world body might want to reflect on all this. The fact is that those who have refused to demand reform for fear of being seen as insufficiently wedded to the idea of world cooperation have allowed people like Annan virtually to destroy any credibility the United Nations may have once enjoyed.
The United Nations may survive Annan, but he and those who have touted his judgment and integrity will not be looked on kindly by history.
Saving the United Nations won’t be easy, but if it is to be done it will take people who recognize it for what it is rather than what they wish it to be.
If the president and Congress want to begin really changing things, Bolton’s first order of business upon arriving in New York should be to inform the boys and girls at Turtle Bay that U.S. taxpayers are fed up and that we are suspending all payments until things change and at least until we get notice that Annan has headed home to grow tomatoes.
Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, is a managing associate with Carmen Group, a D.C.-based governmental-affairs firm (www.carmengrouplobbying.com).