It isn't very likely that anything Lakhdar Brahimi would say would ever be a
presidential-campaign issue in this country.
But maybe it should be.
Brahimi, the Algerian who is special envoy of the United Nations to Iraq,
recently volunteered his opinion to the press that the greatest obstacle to
creating a new Iraqi government is, believe it or not, the State of Israel, which
he termed the "great poison" in the region.
When later asked to back off from these incendiary remarks, Brahimi would
have none of it, and told ABC news last week: "I think that there is unanimity in
the Arab world, and indeed in much of the rest of the world, that the Israeli
policy is wrong, that Israeli policy is brutal, repressive, and that they are
not interested in peace, no matter what you seem to believe in America."
It is no surprise that a former high official of the Arab League or a former
foreign minister of Algeria would spew hatred of Israel. But it is equally
unsurprising for somebody representing the United Nations to be doing it either.
The irony is that Brahimi was appointed to the post with the blessings of
Washington and, in particular, President Bush, who is eager to get some U.N.
participation in the recovery of Iraq.
TAR HIM WITH THE BRUSH
Bush has been widely accused of running a "cowboy" foreign policy that
ignores world opinion. But if Brahimi's first days on the job are an indicator,
Bush has, at least on this point, been too multilateral.
This provided the president's Democratic rival, Sen. John Kerry, a perfect
opportunity to tar Bush with the Brahimi brush, and to point out the folly of
America farming its foreign-policy troubles out to a world body that has little
interest in creating a new democracy in Iraq or in bringing out about peace in
But anyone waiting for Kerry to do this hasn't been paying attention. In
fact, the keynote of Kerry's foreign-policy platform appears to be a hymn to the U
nited Nations, and a drive to get it even more involved in the ongoing battles
against terrorists in both Iraq and Israel.
Indeed, Kerry pledged this month on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "within
weeks of being inaugurated, I will return to the U.N., and I will literally,
formally rejoin the community of nations."
Kerry believes Bush's distrust of the "community of nations" is a grievous
fault. But in the opinions of those European governments and U.N. bureaucrats
that Kerry is seemingly eager to embrace, the worst fault of the Bush
administration is its support for Israel. Kerry has been careful to allow no daylight
between his positions on Israel and those of Bush. He is right to do so, but
Israel appears to be the glaring exception to Kerry's multilateralist
For men like Kerry and fellow Democrat Rep. Joseph Hoeffel, who will be the
party's nominee for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, the world body is still an
essential policy tool for American interests.
Echoing Kerry's stand, Hoeffel believes that "these institutions are not
perfect, but I think it is the height of recklessness for the Bush administration
to be so disparaging of the multilateral institutions that wiser heads than
they created 60 years ago."
The United Nations has proved useful in some peacekeeping missions, but you
have to question the wisdom of a Democratic campaign strategy tied so closely
to the organization's reputation. Because, if anything, recent events have
shown that the Brahimi incident is just one of many that prove just how corrupt
and fundamentally opposed to democratic principles the United Nations has become.
NOT AN EXCEPTION
A case in point is the scandal over the United Nations' "oil for food"
program, which was supposed to feed hungry Iraqis during the last years of Saddam H
ussein's reign. Instead, it funneled billions of dollars into Saddam's
pockets, as well as those of his French, German and Russian business partners. Among
those suspected of crooked dealing here is the son of U.N. Secretary General
Why anyone would believe that the organization so busy helping to swindle and
starve Iraqis a year ago would now be the only body capable of aiding the
cause of democracy there defies reason.
Nor is Iraq the only case of widespread fraud or misbehavior on the part of
the United Nations; the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine
Refugees has been an ongoing scandal for more than 50 years. Supposedly set up
to help Arabs who fled Israel after its founding, it has instead served to help
Arab regimes keep those folks homeless. It has also turned a blind eye toward
terrorism, and allowed itself to become a propaganda tool in the Arab world's
unrelenting war on the existence of Israel.
Even those U.N. institutions set up specifically to aid the cause of human
rights have become something of a mockery.
The U.N. Human Rights Commission that recently met in Geneva is just such an
example. The commission's current members include such despotisms as Cuba,
Saudi Arabia, Sudan, China and Zimbabwe; the group itself has been chaired by
representatives of the tyrants that run Libya and Syria. Columbia University law
professor Anne Bayefsky, an expert on the commission, has written that the
latest six-week-long session of the group managed to, for the most part, ignore
the war and widespread human-rights abuses going on in the Sudan, as well as
those taking place in Zimbabwe, Tibet and China.
But it did find time to adopt five resolutions condemning Israel, and even
"took three hours out of its schedule" to, as Bayefsky reports, "mourn the
death of Hamas terrorist leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin." The violation of Israeli
human rights by terrorists from Hamas and other Palestinian groups didn't interest
the commission. Nor did the worldwide rise in anti-Semitism, a term that Bayef
sky says goes unmentioned in the commission's global report. Of course, it
was the United Nations that helped promote Jew-hatred during its 2001 Conference
on Racism in Durban, South Africa.
All this adds up to a rationale for a foreign-policy approach that both
Democrats and Republicans ought to be able to agree on. A multilateral policy that
is rooted in support of the cesspool of anti-Semitism and corruption that is
the United Nations is no prescription for the promotion of democracy in Iraq or
anywhere else. But it is an albatross that Republicans can tie around
Democratic necks in November.
Though some of his European friends won't like it, if Kerry is to score
points on Bush, he might have to shift course and abandon the sinking U.N. ship to
which he's lashed his campaign. A healthy dose of unilateralism might be just
the thing for Kerry, lest he be linked with the real poison in global
diplomacy that is the United Nations.