Rex Murphy: The United Nations, once a noble dream, is now just a joke
September 24, 2010 – 12:32 pm
Lucas Jackson / Reuters
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad listens to delegates speak yesterday at the UN General Assembly.
On Thursday, Stephen Harper visited the United Nations to make a plea for Canada having another turn on the UN Security Council. Why? After so many instances of the UN’s impotence, corruption and waste, why does the body still retain any residue of prestige. Is a seat on the Security Council worth the public begging?
The UN is a study in moral relativism: It presents the same countenance to the most despotic regime as it does to a genuine democracy. Its so-called Human Rights Council is a byword for farce. In situations where urgent intervention is required, it is either incapable of acting or deliberately temporizes at crisis moments. Who can forget Rwanda?
It inserts itself into the great questions of the day — the planet’s climate, for instance — and then seeks to monopolize or control the arguments and input into that question. It affects impartiality, but is agenda-driven. The United Nations may have begun as a noble dream, but it has become just another bartering house for international politicians, a quick prestige stop for some, a chance for Third World diplomats to sample the gaudy West.
Thursday’s roster at the UN featured two speakers other than our Prime Minister. The always elegant and poised Barack Obama made a speech urging support for his Middle East peace initiative. Then, barely an hour later, grinning like a cheshire cat, the President of Iran took the dais, to articulate the wicked and asinine canard that the Sept. 11 attacks were the work of the United States government — as a pretext to launch wars that benefit “the Zionist regime.”
Of course, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been cursing and excoriating Israel, and threatening it with extinction, for as long as he’s been in power. Indeed, his hatred is obsessional, and dominates his view of the entire world. (“All values, even the freedom of expression, in Europe and the United States are being sacrificed at the altar of Zionism,” he declared.) But to blame America for the slaughter of its own citizens — and to do so in a speech on American soil — this is a step beyond. This is bile at its most rancid.
I can understand overhearing this pathetic junk in some sad coffee shop or bar. Combinations of vitriol and nonsense are, unfortunately, not rare. But this was not some sad coffee shop or bar. This was the general assembly of the United Nations — where, one would think, accusations of this offensiveness and derangement would be out of bounds.
Delegates from some nations, Canada among them, did not stay for the speech. But the mere fact that the UN provided a forum for Ahmadinejad to ventilate his outlandish and hateful speculations tells us something about the worth of the body.
One would like to think this speech will give our Prime Minister pause in seeking to win a seat on the Security Council: Some signals from responsible nations that they are no longer willing to extend automatic respect to the United Nations, to continue playing its games, might work to wake it up.
But I’m not hopeful on this. The thing with long-maintained pretenses is that no one wants to be the first publicly to shatter them. And so we will persist in seeking the “honour” of a Security Council seat. But if we get it, Canada will bring far more honour to the bargain than we are going to receive.
Rex Murphy offers commentary weekly on CBC TV’s The National, and is host of CBC Radio’s Cross Country Checkup.
Rex Murphy: The United Nations, once a noble dream, is now just a joke | Full Comment | National PostIn Canada on September 26, 2010 at 08:30