The UN’s heart of darkness

It looks like UN corruption reaches into a deeper darkness than anyone thought. Nile Gardiner and Joseph Loconte write about forced prostitution, human rights abuses, and more.

Comments

  1. If the Catholic Church not only could not prevent widespread child abuse within its members but spent many years sweeping it under the rug and protecting the offenders, why should it come as any degree of surprise when a similar scandal occurs in as diverse and less-controlled organization as the United Nations?

    Tragic? Yes. They should acknowledge and condemn these acts and remove those guilty of perpetrating these crimes from their positions.

    The numbers (which involve probably less than 1% of the UN peacekeeping officials) don’t seem to reflect a completely corrupt institution any more than a few rogue priests reflected the entirety of the Catholic Church. Let’s keep things in perspective.

  2. Why doesn’t this story lead the news broadcasts & frontpages like Abu Ghraib did? Could it be because it puts Leftist saints in a bad light? Roger Kimball and Mark Steyn certainly seem to think so:

    “… the U.N. Sex Scandal. You remember: U.N. staffers in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and the Congo preyed on refugees. Pedophilia. Rape. Prostitution. Sure, it’s reported. Heads wag. But where’s the “flood the zone reporting” that would be brought to bear were some unanointed organization involved? Mark Steyn, writing in The Daily Telegraph, gets it exactly right:

    “on a UN peace mission, everyone gets his piece. Didier Bourguet, a UN staffer in Congo and the Central African Republic, enjoyed the pleasures of 12-year-old girls, and as a result is now on trial in France. His lawyer has said he was part of a UN paedophile network that transcends national boundaries.

    “Now how about this? The Third Infantry Division are raping nine-year olds in Ramadi. Ready, set, go! That thundering sound outside your window isn’t the new IKEA sale, but the great herd of BBC/CNN/Independent/Guardian/New York Times/Le Monde/Sydney Morning Herald/Irish Times/Cork Examiner reporters stampeding to the Sunni Triangle. Whoa, hold up, lads, it’s only hypothetical.

    “But think about it: the merest glimpse of a freaky West Virginia tramp leading an Abu Ghraib inmate around with girlie knickers on his head was enough to prompt calls for Rumsfeld’s resignation, and for Ted Kennedy to charge that Saddam’s torture chambers were now open “under new management”, and for Robert Fisk to be driven into the kind of orgasmic frenzy unseen since his column on how much he enjoyed being beaten up by an Afghan mob: “Just look at the way US army reservist Lynndie England holds the leash of the naked, bearded Iraqi,” wrote Fisk. “No sadistic movie could outdo the damage of this image. In September 2001, the planes smashed into the buildings; today, Lynndie smashes to pieces our entire morality with just one tug on the leash.”

    “Who’s straining at the leash here? Down, boy. But, if Lynndie’s smashed to pieces our entire morality with just one tug, Bush’s Zionist neocons getting it on with Congolese kindergarteners would have the Independent calling for US expulsion from the UN – no, wait, from Planet Earth: slice it off from Maine to Hawaii and use one of those new Euro- Airbuses to drag it out round the back of Uranus.

    “But systemic UN child sex in at least 50 per cent of their missions? The transnational morality set can barely stifle their yawns. If you’re going to rape prepubescent girls, make sure you’re wearing a blue helmet.”

    I can’t imagine what gets Mr. Kimball and Mr. Steyn all worked up. It’s not like there’s a liberal bias in the media, right Jim?

  3. Yes, certainly, lets keep things in perspective. In the spirit of keeping things in perspective, I think those who want to shove this story aside, while pointing at the Catholic Church saying, “Yeah, but look at what those wretched priests over there are doing!” can go explain your apparent indifference to “the 15-year-old deaf mute daughter of Aimee Tsesi, who told [ABC's "20/20" reporter Brian] Ross she was turned away at the gates of the U.N. camp when she went for assistance. “The U.N. is not able to give me food or money for my grandson,” she told ABC News. “But if the U.N. hadn’t brought this soldier here, my daughter would not have become pregnant. And I would not be going through this suffering.” ”

    A hat tip to ABC for focusing a 20/20 segment on this story. Generally speaking, however, the media has, for all practical purposes, shrugged its collective shoulders on this story.

    And as to this being just a small portion of UN Peacekeepers, you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t believe the figures provided by the defenders of the pedophiles and rapists, i.e., the UN. Let the story come out and let the chips fall where they may, you know, kind of like the Catholic Church scandal.

  4. Note 1. What makes you think the Catholic Church could not have prevented the abuse?

  5. I think it’s dangerous to look at the behavior of members of any one particular group as indicative of the norm for that group unless it can be positively shown that the percentage of members committing that behavior falls much above or below the average of those outside of it. Even then, one must look at other facts before making a judgment.

    For example: though there are Catholic priests who have abused minors, I’m doubting that the percentage of those who do is any greater than “non-clergy” in the general population (I certainly know several females who have been abused by non-clergy but no one by a priest). It’s just that the idealization of a priest as being worthy of absolute trust put the few strays into the spotlight. If someone has statistics that show otherwise I’m certainly willing to admit error on my part.

    The statistics don’t appear to be “50%” for the UN, which would indeed be a systemic abuse of power at the organizational level.

    As far as whether the abuse scandal in the Church could have been prevented … I’d say that although it could have prevented only repeated cases by the same offender(which they certainly neglected to do), I believe that no level of screening of applicants or tightening of requirements can completely prevent that first time offender from doing what they will.

    My reasons for not putting much faith in the UN has more to do with intrinsic problems of operating such a global organization and the management, linguistic and cultural disparities that naturally arise within its ranks. It would appear to me to be a management nightmare.

  6. Jim Holman says:

    Daniel writes: “Why doesn’t this story lead the news broadcasts & frontpages like Abu Ghraib did? Could it be because it puts Leftist saints in a bad light? . . . It’s not like there’s a liberal bias in the media, right Jim?”

    I see the bias detectors are turned up to maximum sensitivity. When people talk about liberal bias in the media they generally refer to issues of attitude, emphasis, nuances of language, terminology, and so on. So if a story appears on page 12 instead of page 1, that’s bias, etc.

    When I talk about right-wing media bias I’m talking about talk shows, foundations, think tanks, web sites, journals, pundits, TV networks, media empires, interlocking boards of directors, rich financiers, publishing houses, and so on, all frequently working in a highly-coordinated (though not lockstep) effort toward the goal of political domination.

    So when you and I discuss “bias” in the media, we’re really talking about two very different things. It’s sort of like talking about “illness,” except that when you refer to illness you refer to the condition of having a cold; when I refer to illness I refer to the condition of terminal metastatic cancer.

    So I’ll make you a deal. In order to avoid future discussions over media bias, I’ll grant that there is a liberal bias in the mainstream media, if you will grant that there is a purposeful, long-term, and large-scale effort at the political domination of the United States through the coordinated efforts of a vast and highly-funded right-wing propaganda machine, in which continual accusations of “liberal bias” are part and parcel of the strategy.

    Concerning the difference in coverage between Abu Ghraib and the UN scandal, I would point out two relevant factors:

    1) the things done at Abu Ghraib were done by U.S. soldiers, and severely undermined the U.S. presence in Iraq. It put at risk the lives of U.S. soldiers, gave aid and comfort to the enemy through confirming their propaganda and probably adding to their ranks, and threatened the stability of the entire country through a further undermining of the U.S. position there (as if the administration had not already done enough of that itself).

    2) given the military command structure any time something such as this occurs you always have to ask whether these people are acting on their own or whether they are following orders. This is especially relevant when you have an administration that can’t quite bring itself to say that torture is wrong.

    Given both the above, especially #1, it seems to me that Abu Ghraib story is indeed more important than that U.N. story. That’s not to downplay the U.N. story, but only to make the fairly mundane observation that some stories are more important than others, and sometimes, just sometimes, stories end up on page 1 because they should, not because of liberal bias.

  7. Let me see if I get this. There is a vast right wing conspiracy that seeks to dominate all political and cultural discourse. Because of this conspiracy, the story of UN corruption ought not to receive any noticeable coverage. Did I get it right?

  8. Note 5. Actually, the Catholics could have avoided this problem in significant measure, although probably not completely, if that had not ordained homosexuals to the priesthood from the sixties forward. One of the reasons the Boy Scouts have been able to manage this problem so well is that they don’t allow homosexual scoutmasters (for which they are continually excoriated, btw).

    Nevertheless, the institution corruption of the UN seems to pervade the entire organization. I’m not sure how you can clean it up given that it consists of both free nations and some of the most corrupt on earth (Libya headed the human rights committee for example). It also has no accountability. The UN does some good but it is probably time to pull the plug on the whole sordid mess.

  9. Fr. Hans writes: “Let me see if I get this. There is a vast right wing conspiracy that seeks to dominate all political and cultural discourse. Because of this conspiracy, the story of UN corruption ought not to receive any noticeable coverage. Did I get it right?”

    Not quite.

    First, it’s only a conspiracy in the sense that any joint human activity can be called a conspiracy. For example, I suppose you could call Ford Motor Company a conspiracy to make cars, but it sounds kind of strange.

    The right-wing media enterprise is decentralized but joined together by a common interests, methods, people, and to some extent, funding. It is subsidized by a relatively small number of wealthy financiers. This is all well-known. It is easy to find out who funds what think tanks, who writes for what journal, who funds the journal, whose book is hyped on what program, who owns what TV network.

    One standard method of the right-wing is to claim liberal media bias. Note that this is almost always utterly subjective. For example, a couple of weeks ago Daniel said that the LA Times showed bias in printing the results of some poll on page one. I pointed out that since they paid for the poll, perhaps that’s why they put it on page one. But it was “bias” to him. Around the same time he detected “bias” in an article about Bush’s telephonic speech to pro-life demonstrators. I pointed out that the article quoted Bush extensively, that a large piece of the article consisted of direct quotes from Bush, and that the opposing point of view was barely represented. Nonetheless, Daniel detected bias. Now today the media are biased because Abu Ghraib was on page one and the U.N. scandal wasn’t. Tomorrow Daniel will have some other smoking bias gun.

    And this is the problem with the claim of liberal bias. It is almost always completely subjective. It is typically based on the vaguenesses of what articles are printed on what page. Whether a certain commentator is referred to as “right-wing.” Whether one’s candidate is criticized too harshly. The frequency that certain issues are covered. Nuances of language and terminology. And so on. It’s largely an interpretive activity aimed at detecting all sorts of things that are often very trivial. It’s rather like the Red Guards continually discovering “bourgeois” or “counter-revolutionary” thoughts and tendencies. If you look for it, you’ll find it.

    Now that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a certain amount of liberal bias. Generally, people in the media are more politically liberal than the average American. On the other hand — and this is rarely mentioned — the owners and publishers tend to be more conservative, so at the executive level there is a conservative bias. But even so, I’m happy to admit that yes, one can be legitimately concerned about whether news coverage is appropriate and balanced. Surely there are times when it is not.

    But in the hands of the right-wing, the charge of liberal bias serves very special purposes. That charge is used for three things: first, to get people to distrust the media, to assume from the start that any story or information critical of a right-wing position or person is due to “liberal bias.” Second, it is used as a way of leveraging right-wing commentators and pundits into positions of greater authority and popularity though making the “liberal” media feel guilty. Third, it is used to downplay undesirable stories — Abu Ghraib — or to gain attention for desirable stories — U.N. scandal.

    Now there’s nothing wrong with having conservative commentators. The problem is that many of these people currently are or have been political operatives. They are there to promote the party line and party luminaries. They function as propagandists, and many of them operate from talking points handed out by other operatives and politicians. This gives the right-wing message an appealing solidarity and cohesiveness. In addition some, such as Sean Hannity, actively campaign for particular candidates or issues — not merely recommend, but campaign.

    Now in the case of someone such as Daniel, the charge of liberal bias is just something that he’s been taught. This is a way of interpreting the media that has been given to him. So Daniel’s little bias antennae are always up, always sampling the media, set to highest sensitivity. He looks for bias, and behold! he finds it.

    But in the hands of right-wing public figures, the charge of liberal bias is a political tool used as a way of dominating public dialog with a certain point of view. It is a conscious, intentional strategy.

    Concerning the issue in question, I never said that the U.N. scandal isn’t an important issue. I said that it isn’t as important as Abu Ghraib, for the reasons I mentioned previously. Big difference. But here’s a question: do you want the U.N. story to get more play because you want the U.N. be better, or because you don’t like the U.N. in the first place, or because you hope it will help to take attention off the Abu Ghraib scandal?

  10. I’ll start with the last question: “But here?s a question: do you want the U.N. story to get more play because you want the U.N. be better, or because you don?t like the U.N. in the first place, or because you hope it will help to take attention off the Abu Ghraib scandal?”

    It makes no difference. The UN story is huge, and needs to be reported. I argued the same for Abu Ghraib. I don’t really like the UN, but my dislike for it has no bearing on its corruption or that the corruption needs to be exposed. The only arguments I offered against Abu Ghraib were the conclusions some reached it was tantamount to torture (it wasn’t). I argued the perpetrators needed to be tried and convicted if guilty (they were).

    I’m not so sure why you want to argue that liberal bias doesn’t exist, however. The issue here is not really the bias, but the masquerading of bias as objectivity. No conservative here argues that their view is “objective.” They argue their view is better, but this something entirely different.

    Dan Rather, one of the lumbering giants of establishment news, fell like Humpty Dumpty because of bias. How is he any different than the “propagandists” you decry on the right, except that he is not forthcoming about his liberalism?

    I don’t see what the problem is about journalists just being honest about their political and cultural predispositions.

  11. It is an obscene moral calculus that says to Aimee Tsesi, “Sorry dear, the sexual humiliation of grown men is worse then the raping of your 15 year old deaf mute daughter. Please, go somewhere else with your cries of outrage.”

    Or maybe some who are reading this think that Mrs. Tsesi’s grandson, being the product of a rape, should have been aborted? The UNFPA would have been glad to help her out with that procedure. That’s right, the UN won’t feed the children produced when their “peacekeepers” rape the people they are supposed to protect, but it will help abort them.

  12. Daniel and Father Hans,

    I am ready to quit the U.N. and banish it from American shores. I couldn’t agree more with your critiques of the U.N. You are both right, and should be commended for it.

    Now, will the Bush Administration go along? Will the U.S. declare the U.N. a corrupt and failed institution and kick it out of the country?

    I doubt it. One of the major stated reasons for going to war in Iraq was to enforce U.N. resolutions. The same reason may be used in the future against some other state, with equally less validity.

    Gentlemen, I agree! Out of the U.N.! Now, when are we going to start pressuring the Bush Administration to do it?

  13. Jim Holman says:

    Fr Hans writes: “I’m not so sure why you want to argue that liberal bias doesn’t exist, however.”

    I don’t argue that. What I argue is that it’s far less than what many people think; that many of the supposed instances of bias are not, or are relatively trivial; that accusations of bias are primarily a tool used to gain political advantage.

    Fr. Hans: “The issue here is not really the bias, but the masquerading of bias as objectivity. No conservative here argues that their view is ‘objective.’ They argue their view is better, but this something entirely different.”

    On the one hand conservatives give up on the concept of objectivity for themselves for strategic reasons. It’s like the person with biggest gun and the longest knife giving up on non-violence. To strive for objectivity would be to give up an advantage. On the other hand conservatives insist on objectivity in the rest of the media so as to gain an advantage there. Over the last 30 years a large number of mainstream programs and publications have added conservative voices in response to accusations of bias. So conservatives argue either for or against objectivity as it suites their needs.

    Fr. Hans: “Dan Rather, one of the lumbering giants of establishment news, fell like Humpty Dumpty because of bias. How is he any different than the ‘propagandists’ you decry on the right, except that he is not forthcoming about his liberalism?”

    First of all, the report did not find that bias had occurred, and that there were other explanations for the situation. But let’s assume that the report is wrong and that there was overt bias involved. One obvious difference is that Rather gets the boot and the right-wing propagandists don’t. The reason why Rather got booted is because he failed to live up to the standards of the journalistic community. He violated the very standards which he was supposed to uphold.

    Fr. Hans: “I don’t see what the problem is about journalists just being honest about their political and cultural predispositions.”

    I think what you’re suggesting is not that they just be honest about their predispositions but that they actually operate from those predispositions. Being honest about one’s party affiliation is one thing; working as a political operative — working to achieve party goals under the guise of being a journalist — is a very different thing.

    Objectivity and even the appearance of objectivity are valued in many fields. For example, every jury member has predispositions. But the duty of a juror is to lay aside those predispositions and operate instead according to the standards of what it means to be a juror. I used to work in a state agency with a purchasing manager who refused to accept anything from a vendor — not even a pen or a coffee cup. When he went out to lunch with vendors he paid for his own meal. Striving for objectivity in the course of one’s duties is a very moral thing. The idea that we would value it in all these other areas and then junk it in journalism is unthinkable to me.

    When news reporting is dominated by people working as political operatives and trying to achieve political goals — at that point we no longer have a press that operates independently of the government. In effect you then have a state press, perhaps with a private source of funding, but very similar to what we used to denounce in communist countries.

  14. Let’s get down to some nuts and bolts.

    You wrote regarding Rather: “First of all, the report did not find that bias had occurred, and that there were other explanations for the situation. But let?s assume that the report is wrong and that there was overt bias involved. One obvious difference is that Rather gets the boot and the right-wing propagandists don?t. The reason why Rather got booted is because he failed to live up to the standards of the journalistic community. He violated the very standards which he was supposed to uphold.”

    He got the boot because he got caught peddling fraudulent evidence. It’s that simple. It doesn’t matter if a reporter is liberal or conservative — peddle fraud and you’re out. Fraud has more to do with rules of evidence than “standards of the journalistic community” BTW, although I agree those rules should be adopted by journalists.

    I don’t know what else to add here. I don’t think liberal journalists are de-facto “political operatives” as you seem to think conservative journalists are. I make a distinction between journalists and opinion pundits like Al Franken and John Hightower for example. Franken, Soros, Moore, the whole crew definitely wants a Democratic win, but they are not in the same category as, say, a liberal news reporter.

    Again, I don’t see the problem in naming political and cultural predispositons. But then I don’t share your implicit conclusion that a reporter with a conservative bias is no different than a paid political operative. That would be saying that a liberal reporter is no different than Al Franken or Michael Moore. It clearly is not true.

  15. Fr. Hans writes: “But then I don’t share your implicit conclusion that a reporter with a conservative bias is no different than a paid political operative.”

    No, that’s not what I believe either. I have no problem with a journalist being conservative or reporting on stories from a conservative perspective. We need a variety of perspectives, and citizens are no more served by an overwhelmingly liberal press than they are by an overwhelmingly conservative press.

    The problem is when anyone — liberal or conservative — *functions* as a political operative while serving in a journalistic position. A related problem is the extent to which information necessary for a democracy is increasingly channeled through paid political or ideological operatives and their organizations, and the degree of connectedness betweeen those people and organizations.

  16. I have no trouble with that formulation at all. In fact, I think a free press is the best antidote for it.