To save the U.N., cut the dues

Whether the United Nations were located in New York or in Geneva, Congress cannot and should not continue to spend our money paying dues to an organization that will not open its records to our elected officials who are seeking to investigate numerous reports of corruption reaching high up in the U.N. organization.Whether the United Nations were located in New York or in Geneva, Congress cannot and should not continue to spend our money paying dues to an organization that will not open its records to our elected officials who are seeking to investigate numerous reports of corruption reaching high up in the U.N. organization.

When the son of the secretary-general is accused of receiving payments from a contractor in the oil-for-food program and the very administrator of that effort is, himself, implicated in its corruption, it is time to investigate. While Paul Volcker’s investigative mission to get to the bottom of the scandal must proceed, the U.S. Congress has a separate duty to the American people to see to it that our tax funds are not dissipated in a scandal.

If the United Nations refuses to open its financial records to our congressional investigators, the United States should suspend payment of part of its annual dues as a punishment for the United Nations’ intransigence.

The oil-for-food scandal is, of course, the first major scandal of the global community. Normally each nation sets its own standards for its leaders’ integrity and the other nations of the world are obliged to deal with whoever holds power, however doubtful his or her honesty. But the oil-for-food scandal raises two key questions.

The first, of course, is how to deal with officials appointed by multinational organizations, whether the United Nations or, in the future, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, NATO, the World Trade Organization or the European Union. These officials must be held accountable. If their own organizations have no ability or willingness to investigate their wrongdoing, it is the duty of the major nations involved, the ones whose taxpayers foot the bill, to demand accountability.

The second issue, however, is even more important: How are we going to deal with the use of international funds as payoffs to national leaders of the countries whose votes set up the program?

It is usually France’s business, not ours’, if their president, Jacques Chirac, or their interior minister, Charles Pasqua, profited from the oil for food program. It is usually Russia’s business if Putin or his United Russia Party was enriched from the same table. But when Chirac and Putin were influenced by these payoffs to cast their nations’ votes in the United Nations for or against the Saddam Hussein regime, the matter becomes our business. We must not let the U.N. Security Council become an auction in which the corrupt sell their votes to the guilty or the aggrieved based on who can pay them off more handsomely.

Self-regulating organizations generally police their own honesty ineffectively. When the entities are international, the disdain of their officials is palpable. They consider themselves above the law of any nation and dismiss the claims of the U.S. Congress as political demagoguery, taking refuge in their diplomatic status and the international nature of their organizations to escape scrutiny.

In Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s case, he apparently let the oil-for-food largesse flow to his son for years after he had claimed that it had been terminated. In response to questions from journalists, Annan admits only to having a “perception” problem.

But if the United Nations is dishonestly administered and its credibility is undermined by scandal, the very effort for globalism, essential and laudable as it is, will be besmirched. The humanitarian work of organizations in the United Nations will be impaired, and the world body will no longer be an honest broker.

The stakes for the world body could not be higher. Annan should understand that restoring the body’s reputation for disinterested integrity, created in the first instance by its illustrious former Secretary-General Dag Hammerskold, is vital.

There is no more important mission. If Congress has to cut the U.N. funding to force its leaders to live up to the ideals to which they should be committed, it is vital that it do so.

The United States may have to cut the United Nations in order to save it.
Morris is the author of Rewriting History, a rebuttal of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) memoir, Living History.