December 16, 2004

December 16, 2004 | Commentary on International Organizations

A Clarion Call for Annan

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently told reporters he expects to keep his job for the next two years. "I have quite a lot of work to do," he said.

It's true there's plenty to do at Turtle Bay. But Annan's not the man for the job. That's why President Bush should deliver a clear message to the secretary-general: It's time for him to resign.

Annan must take responsibility for the numerous failures under his watch as a senior U.N. official. Annan has recently acknowledged and accepted organizational responsibility for a major scandal involving U.N. personnel and peacekeepers in the Congo. The U.N. stands accused of human-rights violations against refugees on a scale that dwarfs the Abu Ghraib scandal.

And then there's Oil for Food.

The developing scandal surrounding the U.N.-administered program, which was supposed to help the Iraqi people but actually enriched their corrupt rulers, has done immense damage to the world body. As CEO of the United Nations, Kofi Annan must take responsibility for what is undoubtedly the biggest scandal in the history of the U.N. and the biggest financial fraud of modern times.

Just one example of the level of corruption is found in the report filed by U.S. weapons inspector Charles Duelfer. In that report, Benon Sevan, the man Annan picked to run the program, is alleged to have received a voucher for 13 million barrels of oil from Saddam Hussein.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration has sent mixed signals with regard to Annan's leadership.

And in a surprise statement, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, former Sen. John Danforth, recently expressed "confidence" in the secretary-general, claiming he is "doing a good job."

Many congressmen disagree. Some 60 representatives from across the country have called on Annan to step down, including Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who is leading one of the five congressional investigations of Oil for Food.

For his part, President Bush has declined to express confidence in Annan. In his only statement on recent scandals at the U.N., Bush demanded a "full and open disclosure of all that took place with the Oil for Food program." That's a good first step, but it's time to go further. The Bush administration needs to send a clear signal that the U.N.'s failure to cooperate with congressional investigations into the Oil for Food scandal is unacceptable and that the U.N.'s management -- headed by Annan -- must be held accountable.

As Sen. Coleman has written, "as long as Mr. Annan remains in charge, the world will never be able to learn the full extent of the bribes, kickbacks, and under-the-table payments that took place under the U.N.'s collective nose."

As if Oil for Food wasn't bad enough, since the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq, the U.N. secretary-general has tried to undermine American and British efforts to boost international support for the rebuilding of the country and defeat the al Qaeda backed insurgency.

In fact, Annan was so opposed to removing Saddam from power that he described the Iraq war as "illegal." He also called on U.S. and British forces to pull back from taking the insurgent-held city of Fallujah, urging "a new chapter of inclusiveness and national reconciliation." Annan, who had barely lifted a finger to help the people of Iraq, was now calling on them to embrace the terrorists who have sowed death and misery across their country.

Annan's remarks gave aid and comfort to some of the most barbaric terrorists of modern times and demonstrated the total lack of moral clarity projected on the world stage by the United Nations. They highlighted the extent to which the U.N. is completely divorced from political reality on the ground in Iraq.

Under this secretary-general, the U.N. has proven unable to play any role in bringing democracy to Iraq. Just 25 U.N. staffers are on the ground in the country, huddled in the safety of the Green Zone. In contrast, more than 160,000 U.S. and coalition personnel are putting their lives on the line each day to secure Iraq's future.

Kofi Annan will go down in history as a monumental failure, the man who presided over a steep decline in the reputation of the United Nations. Annan is increasingly a "lame duck" secretary-general who has become a severe liability to the effectiveness of the U.N. as a world body. Serious reform of the organization to make it more transparent, effective and accountable will be impossible as long as he remains in power.

To get the repair process underway, President Bush should insist Annan step aside -- as quickly as possible.

Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., is a fellow in Anglo-American security policy at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Nile Gardiner, Ph.D. Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
The Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom

Related Issues: International Organizations

First appeared on The Knight-Ridder Tribune wire