Sunday, March 13, 2005

Is The United Nations Committed To Transparency and Getting Along With The US?

Watching Fox News Sunday today, I was taken by the candor and conciliatory tone as well as the "get along" attitude of Mark Malloch Brown the new chief of staff to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Brown countered the opinion of liberals here in the states by practically signing off on President Bush's new choice for ambassador to the UN, Josh Bolten when he said:

People forget a little bit more than 10 years ago he was a very effective assistant secretary of state in the State Department dealing with the U.N.

Second, you know, a U.S. ambassador to the U.N. has to be very effective in New York, but he also has to be very effective in Washington. And, of course, that's where there's a real silver lining to John Bolton's appointment, because if he can corral the different congressional points of view and the administration's point of view into a single set of recommended reforms for the U.N., which we can respond to, that's good news for us.
Next we finally note the UN sounding the alarm over proven allegations of prostitution, child sexual abuse and rape by UN troops towards innocents in Africa's Congo and elsewhere:
Well, it's devastating. It's a terrible set of allegations, that peacekeepers sent to keep the peace in poor, weak countries with vulnerable people who have not been able to have their rights protected for years, that some of them behave in this way. I mean, it completely undercuts our mission, and we recognize that.

And the secretary-general has made it clear that use of prostitution, sex with under-age children, that fraternization beyond strict limits, all of this is not allowed and will be a cause for peacekeepers to be sent home and, in some cases, to make them criminally prosecuted.

So he's coming down on it hard, and he's sent the equivalent of his vice president, the deputy secretary-general, out to the main missions over the last few weeks to lay down the law, make sure everyone understood it.
But host Chris Wallace doesn't let him off the hook with that mere platitude and presses Brown on the fact that abuses have been attributed to the UN before:
But why over the last few weeks? The fact is, in Cambodia, in the early 1990s, there were allegations of this, and a top U.N. official said at the time, "Boys will be boys."

This isn't a recent incident. This has been going on for more than a decade. Why are you sending officials out in recent weeks saying this will not be tolerated?
And Brown responds:
Because it's happened in some missions, and when it happened in Cambodia, it was attacked there, and we tried to address it.

But I think the problem is, we are dealing with something which in some ways is as old as soldiering itself. And the difference is that the U.S. military or my own military, the British military, have in recent decades invested a huge amount of leadership and resources to break these old habits of occupying military groups, to make them realize that this abuse of women in the community is utterly unacceptable.

In our case, our very underfunded peacekeeping missions, with soldiers stitched together from Bangladesh, Jordan, many other different countries, all under their own different commands and without the resources to give them the other recreational options, that the standards of behavior have not been modernized in the same way that has happened with the American or the British military, and we've now got to tackle that.

And the governments who support us in the Security Council have to help us do it by improving the lines of command and putting the resources in it to give soldiers other options.
But then Wallace finally gets to the meat of the matter, the Oil for Food scandal:
There's also -- and I don't want to pass over this, and we're starting to run out of time -- the Oil-For-Food scandal, in which billions of dollars were skimmed off.

U.N. investigators found that the U.N. director of that program, Benan Sevan, had a grave and continuing conflict of interest. They're still investigating whether Annan's son, Kojo, made money off this deal -- very serious allegations.

And yet, when Kofi Annan wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal just a few weeks ago, his first response to the investigation by Paul Volcker was to say that the charges were overblown and a hyperbole.
Depending on your political leaning, Brown's answer for this might leave much to be desired:
Well, look, you know, I think that sometimes the U.N. is like the sort of Washington politician who says, "Yes, I may have been in the midst of a scandal, but look at the other guys." Because it is a fact that, you know, a lot more money went missing from the sanctions that the U.S. and other Security Council members turned a blind eye to, when the oil was smuggled out, money went missing after the U.S. occupation. So it is the case that our bit of this is a part of a bigger scandal.

But having said that, for the U.N. to have had management breakdowns that led to this kind of abuse, even if it's on lesser scale than sometimes FOX and others implies, is a terrible problem. And it's why we're introducing a whole set of management reforms over the coming months, to make sure something like this could never happen again.
So indeed it appears that The United Nations is finally admitting it has problems but Kofi Annan will remain the head of the UN and there is some question of whether or not the United Nations is taking full responsibility. Those like me might still say, "Get the US out of the UN."

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Iraq, Niger, Wilson, Plame & 16 Little Words

Powerline has been covering the hoax perpetrated by Joseph Wilson upon the American Voter during the run up to the 2004 election. They reveal that when all the evidence and information was out in the open, the only charactor caught lying about what was and was not said and done was Joseph Wilson, the man who said Bush lied.

One of the most stunning revelations contained in the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA is that virtually everything Joseph Wilson has said about his trip to Niger, and the report that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger, is a lie.

First, contrary to what Wilson has said publicly, his wife, CIA employee Valerie Plame, did recommend him for the Niger investigation:

The report states that a CIA official told the Senate committee that Plame "offered up" Wilson's name for the Niger trip, then on Feb. 12, 2002, sent a memo to a deputy chief in the CIA's Directorate of Operations saying her husband "has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity." The next day, the operations official cabled an overseas officer seeking concurrence with the idea of sending Wilson, the report said.
Confronted yesterday with the Senate report, Wilson could only offer a non sequitur and a lame denial:

Wilson stood by his assertion in an interview yesterday, saying Plame was not the person who made the decision to send him. Of her memo, he said: "I don't see it as a recommendation to send me."
Further, the Senate report indicates that Plame and Wilson, from the beginning, had an absurdly biased view of the subject Wilson was supposed to be investigating: "The report said Plame told committee staffers that she relayed the CIA's request to her husband, saying, 'there's this crazy report' about a purported deal for Niger to sell uranium to Iraq."

Further, the Senate report indicates that Plame and Wilson, from the beginning, had an absurdly biased view of the subject Wilson was supposed to be investigating: "The report said Plame told committee staffers that she relayed the CIA's request to her husband, saying, 'there's this crazy report' about a purported deal for Niger to sell uranium to Iraq."

As has been widely reported, Wilson conducted a half-baked investigation into the uanium report. But here is the most astonishing fact uncovered by the Senate Intelligence Committee: in his book and in countless interviews and op-ed pieces over the past year, Wilson has been lying about the contents of his own report to the CIA!:

The report also said Wilson provided misleading information to The Washington Post last June. He said then that he concluded the Niger intelligence was based on documents that had clearly been forged because "the dates were wrong and the names were wrong."
"Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the 'dates were wrong and the names were wrong' when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports," the Senate panel said. Wilson told the panel he may have been confused and may have "misspoken" to reporters. The documents -- purported sales agreements between Niger and Iraq -- were not in U.S. hands until eight months after Wilson made his trip to Niger.

Wilson's reports to the CIA added to the evidence that Iraq may have tried to buy uranium in Niger, although officials at the State Department remained highly skeptical, the report said.

Wilson said that a former prime minister of Niger, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, was unaware of any sales contract with Iraq, but said that in June 1999 a businessman approached him, insisting that he meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq -- which Mayaki interpreted to mean they wanted to discuss yellowcake sales. A report CIA officials drafted after debriefing Wilson said that "although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to UN sanctions on Iraq."

According to the former Niger mining minister, Wilson told his CIA contacts, Iraq tried to buy 400 tons of uranium in 1998.

So: what Wilson actually told the CIA, contrary to his own oft-repeated claims, is that he was told by the former mining minister of Niger that in 1998, Iraq had tried to buy 400 tons of uranium from that country, and that Iraq's overture was renewed the following year. What Wilson reported to the CIA was exactly the same as what President Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union address: there was evidence that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa.

Recall Wilson's famous op-ed in the New York Times, published on July 6, 2003, which ignited the whole firestorm over the famous "sixteen words" in Bush's State of the Union speech. In that op-ed, Wilson identified himself as the formerly-unnamed person who had gone to Niger to investigate rumors of a possible uranium deal between Iraq and Niger. Here are the key words in Wilson's article:

[I]n January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa. The next day, I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them.
It was this flat-out lie about what Wilson learned in Niger, and what he reported to the CIA upon his return, that fueled the "sixteen words" controversy and led to the publication of Wilson's best-selling account, titled, ironically, The Politics of Truth.

One can only conclude that Joseph Wilson has perpetrated one of the most astonishing hoaxes in American history. But here is what I really don't get: didn't the administration have access to all of this information about Wilson's report? And if so, why didn't they use it when Wilson was dominating the news cycle with his lies?

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Where SoCalPundit Readers Visiting Oregon Will NOT Want To Stay

I thought this article from was too funny to not share.

Inn Bans Bush-Voting Guests

An Oregon inn that offers what it calls "nature friendly lodging" has banned guests who voted for President Bush.

"No Bush Voters," the Web site for Ocean Haven demands, explaining that the policy is a result of the president's "environmentally destructive policies [such as] nonparticipation in Kyoto Treaty, The Clear Skies Act, [and his] continuation of naval sonar in marine mammal habitats."

Although Oregon Haven management boasts, "WE WELCOME DIVERSITY," it maintains that the no-Bush-backer rule is part of the resort's commitment to "limiting human impact on nature."
Also banned at Ocean Haven: pets, phones, TVs and "Hummers" [no other SUVs are mentioned].

A spokeswoman for Ocean Haven confirmed the Bush-backer-ban to Fox News, saying the policy has generated a lot of response.

Democrats are mostly freaked out and embarrassed by the Bush ban, she explained, while Republican voters are proud.

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