Secretary-General Kofi Annan is in Washington this week to meet
with Secretary of State Colin Powell and his successor Condoleezza
Rice. Annan's controversial visit comes amid growing calls on
Capitol Hill for his resignation over the U.N.'s mismanagement of
the Oil-for-Food program. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), chairman of the
powerful Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and sixty
Members of Congress have called for Annan to stand down. Among them are nine
members of the House Appropriations Committee, which provides the
U.N. with 22 percent of its operating budget each year, and eight
members of the House International Relations Committee.
senators are expected to support Coleman's call for Annan's
departure when Congress reconvenes in January. Initial calls in
October for Annan to stand down have grown into a chorus that now
echoes across the United States.
So far, the Bush
Administration has sent mixed signals with regard to Annan's
leadership. In a completely unexpected and unhelpful statement, the
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, former Senator John
Danforth, expressed "confidence" in the Secretary-General, stating
that he is "doing a good job." There is little doubt
that Danforth's somewhat charitable remark has undermined
congressional pressure on Annan to fully cooperate with
investigations into Oil for Food. International media have seized
on Danforth's words to wrongly suggest that the Administration is
at loggerheads with Congress over the Oil-for-Food issue.
surprise pronouncement stands in sharp contrast to the position of
President Bush, who has declined to express his confidence in
Annan. In his only statement on recent scandals at the U.N.,
President Bush demanded a "full and open disclosure of all that
took place with the Oil for Food program." A distinction must be
drawn between the statements of an outgoing U.S. ambassador to the
U.N. and the American head of state. Clearly, the President
maintains the option of calling for Annan to step down, especially
as more evidence emerges on the magnitude of the U.N.'s corruption
and mismanagement of Oil for Food. The notion that President Bush
supports the deeply unpopular U.N. leader, after all of Annan's
efforts to undermine U.S. foreign policy, is faintly ludicrous.
It is in the
interest of the White House to support congressional calls for
Annan's resignation. Congressional pressure in both the House and
Senate is likely to build significantly in the early part of next
year, and with it public disillusionment with Annan's leadership of
the United Nations. 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 must be held accountable.
Annan himself must
be held responsible for numerous failures under his watch as a
senior U.N. official (including his tenure as head of U.N.
peacekeeping), from his refusal to confront genocide in the Sudan,
Rwanda, and Bosnia, to his appeasement of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Kofi Annan has proved ineffective in addressing the rising threat
posed by rogue states such as Iran and the growing scourge of
global terrorism. In addition, 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, the scale of which
dwarfs the Abu Ghraib scandal.
Why Annan Should Go
scandal surrounding the U.N.-administered Oil-for-Food program has
done immense damage to the world organization. As Chief Executive
Officer 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. It is inconceivable
that Annan was unaware of the scale of the fraud being carried out
by Saddam Hussein. Embarrassingly for Annan, the man he picked to
run the program, Benon Sevan, is alleged in the report of U.S.
weapons inspector Charles Duelfer to have received a voucher for 13
million barrels of oil from Saddam.
Annan's failure to
fully cooperate with five major congressional investigations into
Oil for Food, by refusing to release 55 internal U.N. audits, gives
the impression of cover-up. 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."
management of the Oil-for-Food program took place against a
shameful record of appeasement of Saddam Hussein's regime by the
U.N. As Iraq's Interim Defense Minister Hazem Sha'alan recently
remarked, "Where was Kofi Annan when Saddam Hussein was
slaughtering the Iraqis like sheep?"
Since the U.S.-led
liberation of Iraq, the U.N. Secretary-General has tried to
undermine American and British efforts to build international
support for the rebuilding of the country and to defeat the
Al-Qaeda backed insurgency. Annan was firmly opposed to the removal
of Saddam from power and has 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.
Secretary-General's words were rightly condemned as an unwelcome
and inappropriate intervention. 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.
The idea that the
U.N. is playing a vitally important role in bringing democracy to
Iraq is a myth that has been blown out of all proportion. Just 25
U.N. staff are on the ground in the country, to assist with the
January elections from the safety of the Green Zone. In contrast,
over 160,000 U.S. and coalition personnel put their lives on the
line daily to secure Iraq's future.
to stand up to Saddam Hussein while he was in power and his
subsequent refusal to support the use of force against the
terrorist groups now spreading fear across Iraq are symbolic of the
U.N. Secretary-General's broader failure to confront terrorism,
brutal dictatorships, and acts of genocide.
Annan not only
failed the people of Iraq, but also, while head of U.N.
peacekeeping in the 1990s, let down millions of the world's weakest
and most vulnerable people in Africa and the Balkans. The U.N.'s
failure to prevent the slaughter of thousands of Muslims at
Srebrenica in 1995 and the mass killing of hundreds of thousands of
Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 are shameful episodes that will haunt the
United Nations for generations. There are echoes today of Bosnia
and Rwanda in the killing fields of Darfur in the Sudan, a tragedy
that the U.N. refuses to categorize as genocide. Once again,
Annan's leadership has been found to be lacking at a critical
moment in history.
- The White House
should call for Kofi Annan to resign, in the interest of both the
United States and the United Nations.
- The Bush
Administration should call on the U.N. and the U.N.-appointed
Volcker Commission of Inquiry to make available to Congress all
internal U.N. documents relating to Oil for Food.
- U.N. officials
should be made available to testify before Congress on Oil for
- The Bush
Administration should press for the U.N. to be made more
transparent and accountable.
- The United States
should appoint an Ambassador to the U.N. who will aggressively
advance the US national interest and who will fully support
Congressional efforts to investigate the Oil-for-Food scandal.
Kofi Annan will go
down in history as a monumental failure 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
Annan has become a
symbol of the U.N.'s culture of arrogance, secrecy, mismanagement,
weakness, and impotence, and it is time for a new figure at the
helm, a secretary-general who will seek real reform of the U.N.
bureaucracy and aggressively stand up for democracy, human rights,
and freedom on the world stage. A call by President Bush for Kofi
Annan's resignation will make Annan's position untenable and will
pave the way for a fresh start for an institution that has largely
lost the confidence of the American people.
Ph.D., is Fellow in Anglo-American Security Policy at the