By Antaeus Edelsohn
“These are the times that try men’s souls.” In Thomas Paine’s exordium to his immortal treatise, The Crisis, he expresses the need for good men to stand up to tyranny. Though he penned these words over two hundred years ago, their stark and haunting tone rings true even today, especially regarding the United Nations. From brutal crackdowns of member states to suppress their own peoples, to power grabbing, political maneuvering and self-aggrandizement by corrupt officials, the United Nations has severely fallen from the noble path it embarked upon almost seven decades ago.
Born out of the smoldering embers of the Second World War, the victorious Allied Forces created the United Nations as tool to prevent the world from ever repeating the horrors and atrocities which led to the deaths of over sixty million people. States from around the world came together to form an international body, with the goals of “maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.”
Originally, the United Nations was comprised solely of those countries which had declared war against Germany and Japan by March 1945. After its formal inception upon the ratification of its charter, the United Nations (UN) opened its doors to the membership of any peace-loving state who accepted the obligations contained in the UN Charter.
The key words here are ‘peace-loving’ and ‘obligations’: specifically an obligation to pursue peace and security throughout the world in the hopes of securing a brighter world for future generations. Today, the United Nations is composed of such ‘peace-loving’ countries as Afghanistan, Angola, Burma, the Congo, Egypt, Iran, Libya, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Turkey, and Yemen, just to name a few. These are countries where, as we can see on the nightly news, governments routinely kill citizens for their sexual orientation, the clothing they decide to wear, what religion they practice, and criticism of local or national leaders.
Since its inception in 1945, many have viewed the United Nations as a body whose value and standing is beyond reproach. After all, it is hard to question the moral fiber of an organization with such a diverse membership and a self-proclaimed acceptance and conviction in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, this type of questioning is just what is required in times like these. Despite its supposedly noble intentions, one need only look back at some of the latest General Assembly meetings to see how far the UN has fallen.
There is something inherently wrong when a man like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the public face of the Islamic Republic of Iran and a man who has called for the obliteration of numerous democratic nations and the complete destruction of the Jewish people is allowed to speak at the United Nations, denying the Shoah (the Holocaust) and accusing the United States of organizing the September 11th attacks. There is something even worse at hand when members of the United Nations choose to sit and listen to him.
Ahmadinejad’s hateful actions are not the least of the injustices that the UN passively accepts. In the opening months of 2011, Hezbollah, an internationally recognized terrorist organization took control of the government in Lebanon and began open management of the country. During the month of September 2011, Lebanon’s representative to the United Nations was the chairman and president of the Security Council. The UN body was tasked with maintaining international peace and security through the establishment of international sanctions, peacekeeping operations, and approved military actions.
Concurrently, in the last months of 2011, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim country, had been violently cracking down on the minority Shia population after its attempts to protest the severe discrimination it faced at the hands of the government.This backlash came months after Saudi troops were instrumental in helping the neighboring country of Bahrain put down similar uprisings. The Kingdom’s discrimination doesn’t end with the Shias though; it is illegal to openly practice any religion except Islam in Saudi Arabia, and in the nation’s recent addition to the Delta Airlines team, it has refused to allow Jews or Israelis to enter the country . Additionally, the Kingdom does not allow any non-Muslims to enter or even come near the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina. In spite of all this discrimination, Saudi Arabia is still a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The Islamic Republic of Pakistan was also just a member of the UNHRC, even though it is currently prosecuting for treason a citizen who provided intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden.
Meanwhile, in Syria, official counts put the death toll of the anti-government uprising between 6,000 to 7,000 people in the past few months, with over twice that number sustaining injuries . Additionally, untold tens of thousands or more have fled or attempted to flee across neighboring borders. The UN has not revoked, suspended, or called into question Syria’s membership, or the memberships of Egypt, Qatar, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq or Tunisia (all countries currently undergoing revolutions and widespread upheaval). And, despite the efforts of some countries, the UN Security Council has not levied international sanctions against the man in charge of the state-terrorism, Bashar al-Assad.
The list goes on and on and on, with government oppression, restricted rights, and state-sponsored terrorism garnering little to no public comment by the UN or its various judicial or social bodies. Member countries propose and adopt almost no sanctions, either officially or unofficially, and allow the perpetrators to sit at the same tables, speak at the same lecterns, and vote with the weight as everyone else. It is hard to believe such a thing would be conceivable in one country, let alone over a half dozen, but sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. There is all this injustice even before factoring in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Since Israel gained independence in 1948, the Arab-Israeli conflict has drawn considerable attention from the United Nations General Assembly and various other UN bodies. In that time period, Israel, a country which is roughly one millionth (.00013%) of the total land on earth, has managed to become the focal point of roughly forty percent of all resolutions the UN passes. Over the years, official UN documents and statements have condemned Israel over 200 times, a sum which is more than the combined total of condemnations against countries including: China, Nigeria, Cambodia, Sudan, and North Korea.
To put this fact in perspective: the UN condemns Israel, a democratic country which has universal suffrage for all its citizens regardless of color, class, or creed, as well as one of the highest standards of living in the world more than regimes which routinely make Parade Magazine’s list of the world’s worst dictators.
From another angle, up to 40,000 people have been killed in Mexican drug wars in one of most deadly conflicts of the last decade, and certainly the deadliest in the Western hemisphere in centuries. Thus far, after over ten years of conflict, neither the UN, as an organization, nor its member states have done much to stem the violence. Meanwhile, at international conferences and forums for its social practices, the leaders of such civic minded states as, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Arab Republic of Egypt, and the Republic of Yemen, routinely attack the State of Israel. Concurrently, on the other side of the security barrier and in the Gaza Strip, the death toll in inter-Hamas and Fatah attacks steadily climbs. The UN as an organization has reprimanded neither the Palestinian Authority (Fatah and the PLO) nor Hamas.
As far as the Israel-bashing is concerned, the UN set up a conference in Durban, South Africa in 2001, called the World Conference Against Racism. While the news and description of the conference called for an address of all global racism, almost the entire event was spent vilifying Israel, Zionism, and denying much of Jewish history. This conference has had two successors, both just as acrimonious against Israel and dedicated to the propagation of racism, rather than its eradication. It should be noted that none of these conferences mentioned events regarding Shia/Sunni relations, Arab/Kurd relations, or the situations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Timor Est, Chechnya, Kosovo, Sudan, or any of the other places where racism, oppression, and corruption are daily occurrences. In one of the most recent displays of hypocrisy on the issue, Syria has called for international help to stop Israel’s alleged ‘State terrorism’. It should go without saying that all of these countries, detractors, and locations of racism and racial violence are all members in good standing in the United Nations.
The doublespeak, the hypocrisy, and the double standards all just continue, clearly showing the fetid decay which currently afflicts the United Nations. The words of Edmund Burke are as apropos as any: “All who have ever written on government are unanimous, that among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist.” As this article has demonstrated, the corruption is undeniable. All that is left to figure out is whether liberty has ceased to exist. In light of the apparent nonchalant acceptance by the United Nations and its composite countries of the plethora of massacres taking place daily all over the world, from the streets of Mexico City to the paddies of Laos and Burma, this assessment certainly seems to be the case. These are indeed times to try all our souls.
4. http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/10/03/ahmadinejad-calls-leaders-buried/, http://www.voanews.com/english/news/Ahmadinejad-Praises-Lebanon-for-Resistance-to-Israel-104868079.html, http://www.adl.org/main_International_Affairs/ahmadinejad_words.htm
12. ibid & http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/25/us-syria-idUSL5E8DB0BH20120225
15. http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/, http://www.parade.com/dictators/index.html
Published on page 50 of the Winter 2012 issue of Leviathan.