U.N. Faces New Political Threats
by Thalif Deen
www.asiantribune.com, Nov 24.
John Bolton, the abrasive U.S. ambassador
to the United Nations who has been dubbed by one New York newspaper
as "a human wrecking ball", is living up to every critic's
Last week, he threatened U.N. member
states, specifically the 132 developing nations, that if they
don't play ball with the United States, Washington may look elsewhere
to settle international problems.
"It is obvious," Jim Paul of
the New York-based Global Policy Forum told IPS, "that Washington
has once again threatened the United Nations with its usual warning:
'Do what we say, or we will send you into oblivion"'. He
said Bolton's message is clear, "If you don't, we will wreck
Addressing a gathering at Wingate University
in North Carolina last week, Bolton said: "Being practical,
Americans say that either we need to fix the institution (the
United Nations), or we'll turn to some other mechanism to solve
Asked for his comments, U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan refused to be drawn into the debate. "I am not
the interpreter of Ambassador Bolton," he bluntly told reporters
early this week.
Told that it was a "serious statement"
requiring a serious response from Annan, U.N. spokesman Stephane
Dujarric would only say: "Again, I think the secretary-general's
words were that he wasn't going to interpret what Mr. Bolton said,
and if he's not, I don't think I would risk it too."
"But we are working with the United
States, its Permanent Mission and with Ambassador Bolton very
closely, as we are with all the other member states, on the issues
of reform that are being discussed right now," Dujarric added.
But Phyllis Bennis, a senior fellow at
the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, had a more
critical take on Bolton's controversial statement.
"Bolton himself, who said in a debate
with me in 1994 that 'there is no United Nations', has now surpassed
his own quote, claiming he is enjoying his job as ambassador to
the United Nations because it is 'a target-rich environment',"
Bennis told IPS.
She said that since the "failed
U.N. summit" last September, the administration of U.S. President
George W. Bush has used the demand for "management reform"
as a means of achieving its political ends.
These include disempowering the General
Assembly and assuring that future holders of the secretary-general's
position will be unequivocally accountable to Washington's unilateralist
agenda: an instrumentalist view in which the United Nations provides
multilateral cover for unilateral and illegal U.S. interventions
and wars, said Bennis, author of several publications on the United
Nations and international politics.
She also pointed out that U.S. domination
of the world body is hardly a new story. It was back in 1995,
during the self-declared "assertive multilateralism"
of the presidency of Bill Clinton that then-U.N. ambassador Madeleine
Albright famously said "the U.N. is a tool of American foreign
"But the Bush team, led by John
Bolton, has taken that long-standing domination to an entirely
new level," said Bennis, author of "Challenging Empire:
How People, Governments and the United Nations Defy U.S. Power".
The 132 developing countries of the Group
of 77 (G77) say that U.N. reforms are primarily driven by the
Bush administration and backed by right wing neo-conservatives
who have made U.N.-bashing into a fine art.
The G77 has told Annan that it is strongly
opposed to the neo-conservative view that the world body should
be run like a U.S. corporation, with the secretary-general playing
the role of a chief executive officer (CEO).
Paul of the Global Policy Forum says
the Bush administration wants Annan just to be that: a glorified
CEO. "This is not compatible with democratic institutions
like the United Nations. U.S. corporations are authoritarian,
with no decision-making powers with employees," Paul added.
He also pointed out that the Bush administration
sees Annan as being "a vector of influence, and pliant to
U.S. interests than the U.N. General Assembly will ever be".
Since Washington cannot control the General
Assembly, it wants the top leadership in the U.N. Secretariat
to be in its pockets, he added.
Concurring with Paul, Bennis said that
many of the secretary-general's top staff have been replaced over
the last two years or so with active supporters of the U.S. agenda
for the United Nations.
"That effort includes the U.S.-orchestrated
replacement of Kofi Annan's longstanding chief of staff Iqbal
Riza with Mark Malloch-Brown (who called Bolton 'very effective'),
and the appointment of Bush loyalist and right-wing American State
Department official Christopher Burnham as undersecretary-general
for management," she said.
But Bennis argued that Annan himself
has maintained some level of independence and has not completely
collapsed under the coercion (he has not retracted his characterisation
of the Iraq war as "illegal," for example) -- but the
pressure is rising.
Bennis said that some of Annan's senior
advisers have played "a major role in reassuring Washington
power-brokers, including Bolton's anti-U.N. backers, that the
United Nations remains a pliant and malleable tool for U.S. policy
Paul said that developing nations should
collectively remain united. "If they cave in to U.S. threats
now, they will only help open up new threats."
"The United Nations, which consists
of 191 member states, cannot be run according to the dictates
of a single country," he added.
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