Column: Broken promise

By John Bambenek

The echo chambers have been full this week with noise about the Valerie Plame investigation that has overshadowed two important events. The first event is the 60th birthday of the United Nations on October 23rd; the second was a statement by U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres that the situation in Sudan would degenerate in a matter of weeks into genocide.

For the past many years, Sudan has been engaged in a civil war. The government (Arab) has been racially cleansing the southern rebels (Christians and animists) since the government imposed the Sharia law in 1983. Normally, this would be a clear case of genocide.

This issue came to the forefront because of the activities of former Secretary of State Colin Powell who maintains the ability to call genocide, genocide. The United Nations, while conceding there was a problem, could not bring itself to call it genocide. This is in part the U.N.’s indifference and in part the Chinese and French opposition to the label genocide because of their lucrative oil contracts with Sudan. Oil – it’s not just for rich Texans anymore.

There is a fundamental difference between how the United States and most of the rest of the world views treaty obligations. We would rather not sign a treaty like Kyoto when we don’t want to fulfill its obligations. Europe, on the other hand, will sign such treaties because it’s good public relations and then fail to meet its obligations (like the obligations in the genocide treaty).

One could ask why the United States doesn’t go in and stop the genocide themselves. If the United States invaded another Arab country, anti-war protesters would take time out from whining about the “international Zionist conspiracy” to rail against the Christian crusade against the Arab world.

Today the Sudanese government forces operate with near impunity targeting not only civilians and rebels, but also the U.N. aid workers as well. With the Sudan conflict off the TV screens, it does not look like much will change, and the country will deteriorate back into a genocide blood field. This is the legacy of 60 years of the United Nations: hundreds of thousands die while diplomats fight over words.

This is not the first time genocide has occurred on the United Nation’s watch. There was the genocide in Srebenica in the “U.N. safe-zone,” in East Timor as U.N. workers watched, in Guatemala, Rwanda, Cambodia, and Bangladesh to name a few. When they said “never again” it meant that they’d redefine genocide out of existence, not that mass murder won’t be allowed to happen.

Many attack conservative criticism of the United Nations calling it ridiculous, because the United States created the United Nations. This is not true when you take a look at the facts. The head of the San Francisco Conference and drafter of the U.N. Charter was Alger Hiss of the U.S. State Department. Alger Hiss, some will remember, was found guilty in law of perjury, but in fact of being a communist spy and traitor on behalf of the Soviet Union. This shows that Richard Nixon, and for that matter, Joseph McCarthy, were right in their anti-communist concerns (although Tailgunner Joe often behaved like a tool).

During the investigation of Alger Hiss, he said that if he was a communist spy many of the advances made by his help (the New Deal, the United Nations, etc.) would have to be reexamined. Unfortunately, this reexamination never happened. Maybe the reason the United Nations is indifferent, if not implicated in the face of so many genocides, is because it was formed under the influence of an agent of a genocidal power who killed about 25 million people. This week’s celebration of 60 years of the United Nations is a celebration of a legacy of ineptitude and death.

John Bambenek is a graduate student and a University employee. His column appears every Friday. He can be contacted at [email protected]