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Jewish World Review July 8, 2004 / 19 Tamuz, 5764

James Lileks

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Genocide can't happen if we banish the word | We have the party of the United States, and the party of the United Nations.

Within the former you'll find wildly diverse opinions about the worth of the United Nations: Some think we should leave it tomorrow, while others think we should leave it today and let battleships use the building for target practice. The moderate among them want to stay in the United Nations, if only to obtain the stern-sounding resolutions they can use to mollify editorial writers. See? We got a hall pass! We can invade now!

In general, though, the party of the United States thinks the United Nations is a toothless lion that hasn't just given in to the hyenas, but granted the hyenas a place in the pride.

The party of the United Nations regards the organization as a great improvement over the country in which the U.N. headquarters resides. Moderates may admit that it's venal, corrupt, top-heavy and unresponsive, but it's better than nothing -- and besides, it provides a necessary counterweight to America. Without the United Nations, America would do what it wants, scorning Kyoto, bombing Serbia, invading Iraq ... well, yes, America still did all those things, but don't you think it felt the teensiest bit guilty?

Within the party of the United Nations, however, are some who think it is the purest expression of humankind, a chock that keeps us from rolling backward into the Dark Ages. The very name has a talismanic quality. United Nations! If you say it, they must be.

Want a perfect example of the U.N. party's devotion to Pope Kofi and his magnificent band of tireless humanitarians? Behold this story from Agence France-Presse:

Several members of the House of Representatives want the United Nations to send observers to monitor the Nov. 2 U.S. presidential election to avoid a contentious vote like that in 2000. Recalling the long, drawn out process in Florida, nine lawmakers sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan asking that the international body "ensure free and fair elections in America," according to a statement issued by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, who spearheaded the effort.

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By some peculiar twist of events, the nine lawmakers are all Democrats. Imagine the odds! You wonder how far they'll go: If John Kerry loses, can we take the election to the Security Council? Or will we be a unilateral, go-it-alone, ally-defying rogue nation that installs its leaders over the objections of France and Syria? America's choice, after all, affects the rest of the world. Shouldn't they have a say?

The moony love of the United Nations would make a bit more sense if the institution lived up to its platitudes. But as the Oil-for-Food scandal unfolds we see how inertia, corruption, bribery and patronage are probably the norm, not the exception. If you wanted to raise the ethical temperature at the United Nations you'd have to fire everyone and replace them with Enron accountants, overseen by Tony Soprano.

The United Nations is about to get its latest last chance, in the Sudan. The word "genocide" has not been officially deployed, since that would require the United Nations to do something -- that whole "never again" idea, don't you know? Well, if you never call something "genocide," it can never happen again. At least officially. The victims of the militias can take comfort that however bad their last days might be, the world was united in its impotence.

Imagine France brought the full weight of its awesome (cough) military force (cough) down on the Sudan in defiance of U.N. go-slow strategies, threw the bad guys into nasty dank prisons run by the Foreign Legion, and stopped the slaughter. It would get enthusiastic applause from most, including the United Nations Party here at home. Hoorah for unilateralism!

Dream on. The United Nations will probably agree, once again, to do the wrong thing together rather than the right thing alone. A single death, after all, is a tragedy. A million deaths is a U.N. committee report. Nicely bound. With graphs and pictures.

Great place, the United Nations. It's like a court that indicts itself and never bothers with the trial. You want these guys checking your ID at the polling place? 

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JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


07/01/04: Dropping political discourse level
06/24/04: Kerry's Science Buddies and the Silly Sanctity of Life
06/17/04: Behold the Summer of Bill Clinton!
06/10/04: Whatever happened to respect for the presidency?
06/03/04: Tales at the intersection of war and popular culture
05/20/04: Athletes on Notice: Strive Unflaggingly
05/13/04: America likes Rumsfeld, and the Dems can't take it
05/07/04: Kerry Supporters Have a New Take on Vietnam War
05/05/04: New cell phone does everything, but there's a problem...
04/29/04: John Kerry, prisoner of symbolic politics
04/22/04: Shall we grovel? Kerry Plan to Restore America's Place in the World
04/08/04: Sept. 11 Might Have Been Different If ...
04/02/04: Slinging slime or citing facts?
03/26/04: One War, One Enemy
03/22/04: Bloodied Spain Rejoins Old Europe
03/12/04: Why All Those Foreign Leaders Want Kerry to Whup Bush
03/08/04: Introducing the Kerry Doctrine
02/27/04: Introducing the AWOLs: Angry White Outraged Libs
02/20/04: Sifting the headlines of election year 1992
02/18/04: Guess Which Candidate Our Enemies Want to Lose in 2004?
01/29/04: Every Laptop a Truth Squad
01/27/04: When the battle over artistic freedom goes over the edge
12/31/03: For the Left and Right, Some New Year's Resolutions
12/22/03: Dean's black helicopters
12/15/03: Dems Are Mainstreaming the Extreme
12/08/03: Does Dean Really Want to Be President? One Wonders, When He Opens His Mouth
11/24/03: The real story: Most Brits see U.S. as force for good
11/19/03: The Trouble With Al Gore's Screed on Civil Liberties
11/11/03: Can a fellow win with the Confederate Metrosexual vote?
10/22/03: Let's make Greenpeace pay
09/29/03: Ah-nold & Clark may be on different sides of the aisles, but their supporters are cut from the same cloth
09/19/03: All Hail the Ninth Circuit Court of Surreal
08/26/03: This time, the record industry doesn't stand a chance!
08/18/03: Assessing the Schwarzenegger Factor in Republicanism
08/08/03: No wonder Howard ‘Two Covers’ Dean gets all the buzz
08/04/03: Expect bad news for the foreseeable future
07/28/03: Despot's Deserts
07/21/03: No winners in this game of gotcha
07/14/03: Doing the right thing in Liberia may not be the right thing to do
06/27/03: On feet in Democratic mouths
06/16/03: The real story behind Hillary's book
06/09/03:America's new mission was and remains: Extirpating the flaming nutballs and the societies that nurture them
06/03/03: The Constitution as gag order
05/23/03: Sometimes the theme of world events is chaos itself
05/16/03: Newspapers are only human, after all
05/13/03: What McCarthy messed up
05/06/03: Still think the International Criminal Court was a good idea?
04/03/03: The world is ending, the world is ending! Doesn't anybody care!? Why won't anybody listen!?
03/14/03: Kerry and the Dems are banking on American electorate's tendancy to forget history
02/28/03: Roadmap to peace?
02/13/03: We live in an age where the poet has been cast out from the halls of power --- sob, sob
02/10/03: Found: League for International Justice and Peace talking points
01/30/03: The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper
01/23/03: People who'd volunteer for the Iraqi army if they saw Saddam wearing a "Free Mumia" button
01/16/03: One of those head vs. heart things
12/27/02: Whistleblowers?
01/06/02: The second year of this jangled millennium
11/16/01: Attack of the 'Patriotism police' and other Hollywood fare
11/12/01: From the bleats of dismay
10/30/01: Osama and the Genie
10/08/01: "We can stop the Bush Death Juggernaut"
11/04/01: America, loathe or it leave it
09/25/01: Do the Europeans actually think that the war on murderous zealotry will be furthered by undercutting America?
08/27/01: If the economy is in a funk, why aren't we dancing?
08/14/01: Dubyah's embarrassing presidential vacation
08/10/01: Hail to our co-chiefs?
08/03/01: Constitution: George the Uniter picked a doozy to unify detractors
07/25/01: The real reason why we need missile defense (What those uppity policy wonks won't tell you!)
06/18/01: Paining the egalitarian soul
06/01/01: One of the stranger indexes you'll ever hear about
05/21/01: One man's toke is another man's snort
05/08/01: Republicans want poisoned water
04/23/01: We bleat as we're sheared
04/10/01: Boys will be boys. And that's the problem
04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
03/26/01: You've been warned
03/16/01: The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold
02/23/01: Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011?
02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2003, James Lileks