by Bill Berkowitz
(IPS) -- Like other schemes that have languished out of the spotlight in the backrooms of some of the nation's most prominent right-wing think tanks, the "U.S.-out-of-the-UN" and the "UN-out-of-the-U.S." project appears to be reaching critical mass.
The Bush administration's recess appointment of longtime UN-basher John Bolton as its U.S. ambassador to the institution, the unrelenting focus on Iraq's oil-for-food program, particularly by the Fox News Channel, and the recent launch of "EYE on the UN" by a conservative think tank may channel the right's multi-decade dissatisfaction with the UN into a battle-plan for obliteration.
James Traub, an author and contributor to the New York Times Magazine, recently suggested that the UN should be abandoned entirely, and a new "democracy-friendly" institution should be created in its place.
The new organization might look "more like NATO, which consists only of members with a (more or less) shared understanding of the world order and thus a shared willingness to confront threats to this order," Traub wrote.
Traub's bottom line: "No such organization, no matter how constituted, could prevent" Washington from "pursuing what it deemed a matter of vital national interest," as it "did in the case of Iraq."
Whether Traub's vision comes to fruition remains to be seen. Nevertheless, since the Bush administration took office in January 2001, and especially during the run-up to the war in Iraq, it made no secret of its antipathy for the UN.
Early on, Bush argued that the international body would descend into irrelevancy if it did not give unqualified support for the war. The administration also insisted that UN weapons inspectors were taking too much time to do their work and risked getting snookered by Saddam Hussein.
Moreover, apparently without any regrets, President Bush allowed then-secretary of state Colin Powell to lead the Security Council astray with a pre-invasion presentation that consisted of a litany of misinformation and disinformation.
Starting with the premise that the UN "has squandered the commitment and passion of its original benefactors," the Hudson Institute's "EYE on the UN" is dedicated to "making the UN's record transparent, offering a unique analysis of UN output and bringing together a wide range of articles and documents detailing UN failures to live up to its Charter."
"EYE on the UN" provides information on a broad cross-section of issues, including UN criticism of the United States and "Using UN as terrorist cover."
The project is produced and edited by Anne Bayefsky, a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute and a visiting professor at Touro College Law Center, "who has been following the UN for more than 20 years."
Other participants include assistant editors Gillian Collins, the project coordinator and chief researcher of the Human Rights Treaty Study at York University, Toronto, Canada, and Rebecca Tobin, a researcher at the Hudson Institute specializing in human rights and the UN
An impressive gaggle of conservative writers and longtime UN critics are lined up to contribute. They include Frank Gaffney, the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy; Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and currently a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; Charles Krauthammer, the longtime syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group; and several analysts with the conservative Heritage Foundation, among others.
Given its roster, the "EYE on the UN" project will both mirror the Bush administration's take on issues facing the UN as well as move the debate over the UN further to the right.
The Indiana-based Hudson Institute was founded in 1961 by the late Herman Kahn, and his colleagues Max Singer and Oscar Ruebhausen from the RAND Corp. Until Kahn's death in 1963, it focused on his interests -- domestic and military uses of nuclear power, the future of the U.S. workplace, and the science of "futurology."
While the institute isn't clearing the vaults of money from right-wing foundations, it did receive some $15 million between 1987 and 2003, according to Media Transparency, a Web site tracking the money behind the conservative movement.
In early September, the report of the Independent Inquiry Committee into the Iraq oil-for-food-program, headed by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker, found UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan not guilty of any wrongdoing. It did report, however, that his "cumulative management performance" fell short of the standard the United Nations "should strive to maintain."
A few days later, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the U.S. would "continue to press management and secretariat reforms. They have to be concrete reforms, not just hortatory language about how important it is to reform," Rice added. "In the light of the oil-for-food problem, I think it's even more urgent that those get done."
And in a remark that, judged against the several hundred billion the U.S. has spent on the war in Iraq, can only be seen as ironic, Rice added that since the United States "is the largest single donor to the United Nations, we owe the American taxpayers an accounting for the fact that their tax dollars are being used well."
During his mid-September speech at the UN, President Bush said, "If member countries want the United Nations to be respected and effective, they should begin by making sure it is worthy of respect."
Bush added that, "When this great institution's member states choose notorious abusers of human rights to sit on the UN Human Rights Commission, they discredit a noble effort and undermine the credibility of the whole organization."
On Sept. 19, Bayefsky blasted Annan for "delud[ing] the world about the consequences of the [recently concluded World] Summit and the future of the United Nations."
Bayefsky concluded, "The summit was closer to a nail in the coffin of UN-led multilateralism than to its resurrection."
The World Summit, which drew leaders of more than 170 countries, was organized primarily to review progress by the world's poorer nations on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set in 2000, including a pledge to halve extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.
The United States was embroiled in a controversy over its demand that all references to MDGs be eliminated from the meeting's final declaration, although Washington later softened its stance.
With John Bolton in place and the Hudson Institute's "EYE on the UN" tracking its every move, the UN is in for a bumpy ride.
November 9, 2005 (http://www.albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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