Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Beauty of Procrastination

Sometimes procrastination is the absolute best policy. The reason? Because sometimes if you wait, the problem either takes care of itself, or someone else goes to the trouble of taking care of it for you.

For example, I had been meaning to put together a post pulling together some of the stories about the complete moral failure in Kofi Annan's UN career. Fortunately, a couple of weeks back The Times of London put the story together better than I could have ever done.

Srebrenica is rarely mentioned nowadays in Annan’s offices on the 38th floor of the UN secretariat building in New York. He steps down in December after a decade as secretary-general. His retirement will be marked by plaudits. But behind the honorifics and the accolades lies a darker story: of incompetence, mismanagement and worse. Annan was the head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) between March 1993 and December 1996. The Srebrenica massacre of up to 8,000 men and boys and the slaughter of 800,000 people in Rwanda happened on his watch. In Bosnia and Rwanda, UN officials directed peacekeepers to stand back from the killing, their concern apparently to guard the UN’s status as a neutral observer. This was a shock to those who believed the UN was there to help them.

Annan’s term has also been marked by scandal: from the sexual abuse of women and children in the Congo by UN peacekeepers to the greatest financial scam in history, the UN-administered oil-for-food programme. Arguably, a trial of the UN would be more apt than a leaving party.

The charge sheet would include guarding its own interests over those it supposedly protects; endemic opacity and lack of accountability; obstructing investigations, promoting the inept and marginalising the dedicated.
The article then goes into some detail about some of the particulars: Annan's failure to prevent the genocide in Rwanda, the massacres in Srebrenica, and the ongoing whatever-the-hell-it-is in Darfur. Read it all, before it disappears into the archives.

All of which makes me want to ask, again: Where does "moral authority" come from? Who decides who has it, and who doesn't? And if the UN has it, why should I do anything other than curse the whole concept?

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