Jewish World Review Dec. 23, 2003 / 28 Kislev, 5764

Peter A. Brown

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UN proves yet again it's dangerously misguided | If there was any doubt that those who run the United Nations live on a different planet, the issue of whether Saddam Hussein should face the death penalty answers that question.

For those of you who missed it, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan proclaimed that he and the body he leads could not support subjecting the former Iraqi leader to the death penalty if he is convicted of his alleged crimes.

I guess that, if the United Nations had been in business at the time, it would have opposed executing Adolf Hitler too, had he been captured alive.

It's easy, and frankly enjoyable, to bash the United Nations for its bloated bureaucracy and misguided views and values.

But there is a serious question related to this that even those who don't share my political perspective need to ponder.

An American's views about the United Nations are becoming a key component of what may well be the overriding issue of the 2004 presidential election - President Bush's foreign policy and the war with Iraq.

The Democratic candidates criticize him for not making his policies more acceptable to the international community, as embodied by the United Nations. The candidates seem to trust the United Nations' collective judgment over the president's.

That line of attack seems to be playing pretty well among Democratic primary voters. But the candidates should be held accountable for those views.

Annan's comments make one question a potential commander in chief who would give such influence to an organization so out of sync with the American people. His views also raise the question of how seriously Americans should take the United Nations.

Being against the death penalty for your garden-variety murderer is one thing. I disagree with opponents of the death penalty but don't question the judgment of those who feel that way.

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Being against the death penalty for a genocidal maniac such as Saddam is another matter. It is beyond comprehension.

The greatest outrage is that Annan's comments are in character for the United Nations and its leadership. The United Nations huffed and puffed for a dozen years about how Saddam needed to live up to the treaty he signed to end the 1991 Gulf War. Saddam violated it with impunity because he knew the world body was run by a bunch of wusses.

Kofi Annan and his brethren have a moral objection to capital punishment, which is the politically correct position in much of the world. He's entitled to his opinion, but, when dogma overrules common sense, one has to question those who want to give the United Nations such clout in U.S. foreign policy.

This is not an academic exercise in which honorable gentlemen debate theory.

Saddam's regime is believed to have killed at least 300,000 of his own citizens in an effort to stifle dissent and silence political opponents during his decades in power. He used chemical weapons against his own people.

Since Iraq's liberation by U.S.-led coalition forces (who did so without U.N. authorization, you might remember, because the United Nations believes that talking is always preferable to acting) hundreds of mass graves have been found.

If it were up to the United Nations, Saddam would still be living in his palaces and killing innocent civilians.

However, because Bush did not listen to Kofi and his crew, Saddam now is likely to be tried by a special war-crimes tribunal set up by the Iraqi Governing Council. Strange as it seems to me, there are some out there who even now want the United Nations to have a hand in that proceeding also.

It takes all kinds.

The Iraqis, one assumes based on the tongue-lashing its new U.N. ambassador gave Annan, see the world body for what it is - an anachronistic debating society whose views and values strain common sense.

Surely, Saddam deserves a fair trial. But to argue that if convicted of genocide he should be sent to prison is ludicrous on its face.

What kind of message does that send about the willingness of the international body to police the world if it allows mass murderers to get off with a jail sentence and possibly return to power if the political winds shift in Baghdad?

Let's hear from those who claim that the United States needs to make its foreign policy more U.N.-friendly on whether they think Saddam should be executed if convicted. If not, then at least they are consistent, although it is a position many Americans will simply not understand.

But if the Democratic presidential candidates think Saddam should be subject to the death penalty, then how can they justify wanting to give the United Nations such sway in U.S. foreign policy?

Peter A. Brown is an editorial page columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. Comment by clicking here.


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