We hardly expected Kofi Annan’s last public speech as Secretary-General of the United Nations to be an introspective summing-up of the manifold failures and weakness of the organization he headed for 10 years and of his abject failure — nay, resistance — to any semblance of reform in one of the most unaccountable organizations in modern times.
An acknowledgment just was not in the cards that the Iraq Oil-for-Food program was perhaps the biggest scandal in history and that he oversaw the bureaucracy that perpetuated it, or that rape by U.N. peacekeepers is a problem, or that the Human Rights Council created from the ashes of the U.N. Human Rights Commission is an utter farce.
But a speech at the Truman Library in Missouri dedicated to criticizing the United States for failing to cooperate more fully with the U.N. in pursuit of woolly, sometimes hypocritical and always statism-enhancing projects around the world was a bit much to take.
We feel much the way U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., did after Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez came to the U.N. earlier this year and called President Bush “the devil.” Don’t come into our country and criticize our president and our government. In a free society, that’s our job.
There are plenty of Americans — including this newspaper from the beginning — who have criticized the Iraq war and other aspects of U.S. foreign policy. We have just held an election whose results guarantee the president will be under much more serious scrutiny and criticism for the next two years. We don’t need Kofi Annan lecturing us on our “responsibilities.”
It is valid to worry whether “America remains true to its principles, including in the struggle against terrorism.” But the five “principles” that Annan considers essential in this age — collective responsibility, global solidarity, rule of law, mutual accountability and multilateralism — are either ignored by the U.N. or are vaporous clichés. An organization that respected the rule of law would not have tolerated the Oil-for-Food scandal or operated so often in secrecy, and one that believed in mutual accountability would not have covered up that and other scandals. And what are “global solidarity” or “collective responsibility” but calls for more centralized control, perhaps the most egregious mistake of our age?
The principles this country should worry about abandoning are constitutional limited government, respect for individual liberty and property rights, and an emphasis on individual responsibility. The Kofi Annans of this world would have us abandon them at an accelerated pace.
Kofi Annan, having made the U.N. even more irrelevant than before he took over, will go on to luxuriant sinecures funded by deluded billionaires. It would be appropriate if he were never heard from again.