Monday, January 10, 2005

The UN Continues to Fail Spectacularly

In all the hubbub surrounding Memogate, I wanted to make sure to get this link in, from CBS, no less (I guess they're trying to show us right-wingers that they're fair and balanced). I quote at length:
The commander of the U.S. military's relief effort in Indonesia says the United Nations was supposed to coordinate the supplies and relief workers sitting idle at the international aid hub in Sumatra.

"Who's organizing the NGOs, I'm not sure. I understand the United Nations was to get them together. Without being critical, I think they are making a nascent attempt at coordination," said Rear Adm. William Crowder, who commands the U.S. presence there.

At the air base in Banda Aceh, many relief, medical and rescue workers from a dozen nations sit unused in what is becoming a tent city.

Cartons of food and medical supplies, unloaded from incoming C-130 transport planes, lay in large piles by the runway, with many water-logged and coming apart from the heavy monsoon downpours of the last two days.

There is no coordination on the ground among the growing number of NGOs, major international organizations and various foreign military units gathered to help tsunami victims in Indonesia, according to some U.S. officers.

In sharp contrast, Navy seaman rush to helicopters landing on a nearby soccer field, forming daisy chains to speed rice bags into the craft or offloading injured survivors on stretchers to an emergency aid station.
If you can't guess the UN's response, you just haven't been paying attention. That's right, they blamed the U.S., after whining for a week about how we weren't letting them grab any attention. I quote again:
On Thursday, the U.N. official coordinating relief efforts on Sumatra, Michael Elmquist, complained to reporters that the U.S. military's aid mission was failing to coordinate and provide critical information to other relief organizations.
But Michael, I thought that was the job of the UN! Surely you aren't suggesting that your organization is impotent without American military support...the Diplomad has more on this sad, sorry state of affairs.

In other UN news, Judith Miller has this story in the New York Times on the Volcker Commission's prelimary findings on the audits of Oil-For-Food. This is an early release of information that was starting to leak, according to Volcker. There is no smoking gun here. I have been very vocal on Oil-For-Food, and I want to be clear that I'm not just stirring flames. The Volcker Commission has, so far, uncovered a great deal of incompetence and lax enforcement of standard accounting procedures resulting in huge amounts of waste, but has yet to release any information that would indicate massive corruption.

Two things are worth stressing: (1) this is a preliminary report on one facet of the program (and not even the official prelimary report, due at the end of January), not a clean bill of health, and (2) many observers doubt that the Volcker Commission has the necessary resources and authority to perform a thorough investigation. Consider these comments from outgoing UN ambassador John Danforth (hat tip to Friends of Saddam):

"The fact that he doesn't have subpoena power, he doesn't have a grand jury, he can't compel testimony, he can't compel production of documents and witnesses and documents that are located in other countries might be beyond his reach," Danforth told FOX News' Jonathan Hunt on Friday.

"Those are tremendous handicaps so what he is � I wouldn't say likely to do � but what is possible, is that his focus would move from the bad acts, from the criminal offenses to something that he will view as more manageable � namely the procedures and was it a tight enough procedural system, which might be interesting but not the key question to investigate."

Wait for the report before you condemn, say my liberal friends (yes, I have a couple). I will make a deal with them and you. If the Volcker Commission can provide convincing evidence that it has thoroughly investigated the allegations and found no major corruption, I will trumpet my mistaken beliefs in huge banner headlines at the top of this blog for a week (convincing evidence, now, not just a claim by partisans on either side). However, I submit to you that given the UN's continued gross mismanagement of the billions of dollars vouchsafed to it, the damage has been done. Clearly, the UN is out of control. Kofi Annan has lost his credibility. The UN needs new, credible leadership, or we need to pull the plug, fast.

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