Women’s groups, particularly in the mainline churches, support the United Nations (U.N). In fact, their involvement is essential to promote it around the world as a force for peace, economic development, humanitarian aid and human rights. Many church women see the United Nations as a major entity by which peace in our world and the Great Commission of Christ will be realized. Regrettably, most of these women have linked their legitimate desire to promote peace, human rights and the spread of the Gospel to this institution without knowing the facts.
Sincere women of faith within the mainline churches are being duped into thinking that by endorsing the U.N. they are helping the Great Commission of Christ to go into all the world, spreading the good news and healing the sick. Instead, their resources and influence are going to an institution that is often ineffective in providing relief to the suffering and oppressed. Even worse, scandal and unethical practices riddle the United Nations, and there is evidence that it is complicit in the spread of terror.
The Real Story
Print and television media tell the real story of the U.N. daily. On July 13, C-SPAN featured Jed Babbin, deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration. In Inside the Asylum, Babbin presents convincing evidence that the U.N. acts as a hindrance to progressive change in the world and has done little to promote its stated goals of world cooperation and peace.
Babbin gives many examples to support this claim. He shows that the U.N. has given billions in aid to Yasser Arafat, which has yet to be used for its intended purpose to aid the Palestinian people; instead, the money has gone to fund terrorist activities. He reports that Kofi Annan’s private negotiations with Saddam Hussein watered down the U.N. sanctions and the inspections rules, which were a contributing factor in the eventual war. He also details the U.N.’s failure to do inspections that had been agreed to after the ’91 Gulf War.
Disturbing as well is Babbin’s summary of the unfolding Oil for Food Scandal. The U.N. Oil for Food program, according to Babbin, “provided Saddam Hussein with the means to bribe politicians, to deprive his people of needed food and medicine and to literally steal billions of dollars. There is even emerging evidence that money from the program might have gone to support Al Qaeda.”
Oil for Food Scandal
The Oil for Food program is currently the subject of at least eight investigations, including those in both houses of Congress and an independent U.N. investigation led by economist Paul Volker. Claudia Rosett, a fellow at the Hudson Institute and a member of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, testified before a House subcommittee on July 8, 2004. In her testimony she told about U.N. officials who allowed billions to be, in her words, “filched from what was supposed to be a relief program for the tyrannized and impoverished people of Iraq.” (Rosett blames the tyranny and poverty of the Iraqi people solidly on Saddam and not on the U.S.-imposed sanctions.)
Testimony before Congress tells of U.N. secrecy and perverse incentives that enabled fraud and theft totaling at least $10 billion and perhaps in excess of $11 billion. In order to get much-needed relief to the Iraqi people, the U.N. was charged with overseeing a program by which Iraqi oil could be sold in exchange for much-needed medicine and food supplies. Benon Sevan headed up the program and the business firm of Kofi Annan’s son eventually received the contract to inspect all Oil for Food shipments into Iraq. Under his company’s supervision, inferior food and medicine gained entrance, as well as goods requested by Saddam that had nothing to do with providing relief to the suffering people in Iraq.
The United Nations allowed Saddam to choose the contractors who bought his oil, and then kept his list confidential. Not surprisingly, France, Germany, Russia and China all of whom opposed going to war with Saddam received major Oil for Food contracts.
In addition, Saddam sold oil below market value and then took kickbacks for himself. This money funded Saddam’s palaces and his weapons programs, and new evidence shows that it made it into the hands of terrorist front organizations. Saddam also used these funds to brutalize the Iraqi people. All this went on under the watch of Benon Sevan and over 800 U.N. monitors on the ground in Iraq. Only the United States and Britain questioned the program and attempted to force the U.N. to do something about the fraud, but the governments on the Security Council – the recipients of Saddam’s oil contracts – blocked them.
Rosett testified that the U.N. “helped shore up the totalitarian government of Saddam Hussein while quite probably corrupting a significant array of political figures and businessmen worldwide.” She said that U.N. confidentiality and lack of accountability gave Saddam the cover he needed to stay in power after the ’91 Gulf War.
The Oil for Food debacle is multifaceted, including a sex scandal in the U.N. office that was charged with investigating Oil for Food program irregularities; the 2.2 percent commission on every barrel of Iraqi oil collected by Kofi Annan; and the car-bomb murder of Ughsan Karim, who headed the Iraqi end of the Oil for Food investigation.
David Wildman, executive secretary for human rights and racial justice for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, claims in the June 2004 Response (the official magazine of United Methodist Women) that in all the U.N.’s “programs and agencies, it seeks to address people’s basic needs and equality.” He further claims that the U.N. places people before profits and human well-being before military might. However, the investigations now taking place flatly refute this. He calls for women in the United Methodist Church to endorse the U.N. as the best instrument to achieve a world of justice and law.
What about justice and law? Let’s look at the facts.
World Food Program
Wildman erroneously claims the World Food Program has been a great success in North Korea where the United Nations has a “no access, no food” policy. Certainly the goals of food-shortage prevention, improved nutrition and food security are commendable, but this policy has simply not delivered on its “no access, no food” policy to the people of North Korea. The U.N. has allowed Pyongyang to withhold aid to millions of starving people all the while indulging in lavish military spending, including a nuclear program. The large influx of North Koreans streaming into China and South Korea witness to this, not to mention well-documented evidence that humanitarian aid has simply not reached the North Korean people, often going instead to Kim Jong Il’s army.
Wildman admits that the food crisis in “The Democratic Republic of Korea” remains dire, but ties this to inadequate funding. This cannot be blamed on “reduced donations,” as Wildman claims. He doesn’t mention that the U.N. could put pressure on the oppressive failed communist regime of Kim Jong Il, one that ignores basic human rights for its people. Instead, Wildman blames the U.S. and Japanese governments who have put the blame squarely where it belongs and seek to address the root cause of the suffering. In addition, Wildman leaves the impression that the United States is more interested in its military might than starving Koreans and that reduced military spending on its part would solve this problem.
It is misleading to extol the World Food Program in light of the real story in Korea, as well as the $11 billion Oil for Food scandal. To address the hungry and starving in the world is commendable and necessary, but the record simply does not support the U.N.’s effectiveness for this worthy cause.
Wildman also extols the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol as a vehicle “of hope and vision for a better world.” Again he blames the United States for emitting 25 percent of all greenhouse gases annually. He doesn’t mention the other 75 percent, a large majority of which comes from countries such as India. The U.S., as well as many other developed nations on the Security Council (including Russia), has wisely refused to sign this treaty for again it does little to address the root problem. Accountability is a huge problem for the protocol. Wildman ignores the fact that scientists have not been able to prove conclusively that reducing emissions and greenhouse gasses will influence global warming or rising sea levels. He makes a huge leap in suggesting a correlation.
The U.N. and Peacekeeping Operations
The United Nations’ peacekeeping operations are often dismissed as a small percentage of its activity. This is convenient, given the U.N.’s dismal failure in this area. The ninth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia took place last July. The U.N. was ineffective, to say the least, and morally complicit by some standards in the Balkan massacres of the early ’90s. The international community sent the U.N. in and charged it with putting a stop to ethnic cleansing. But it was the eventual deployment and presence of American troops that put a stop to the bloodletting-not the United Nations.
The Somalian crisis of 1992-95 demonstrates the same failure. The U.N. sent in approximately 19,000 troops and still failed to bring about peace among feuding clans and re-establish a semblance of government. At the height of the crisis, the U.N. withdrew with the help of U.S. troops, having failed to stabilize a country in civil war. It claimed that Somalia was no longer safe for the U.N. presence. Once again, what began as a program to feed starving people ended in failure.
A look at the U.N. record in Haiti and Rwanda tells a similar story of failure to provide for the dissemination of humanitarian aid and for the rudiments of peacekeeping. In Rwanda, the U.N. did little to stop the murder of innocent people by jeeps full of thugs who went from town to town. Most of us will remember that the U.N. bolted from Iraq after its headquarters was bombed, killing a staffer. The U.N. said that it was too dangerous to remain after the U.S. invasion-as if it were safe under the Saddam regime.
It is difficult to take proponents of the U.N. seriously when they commend the U.N. for its role in the area of human rights. After all, Libya, ruled by the dictator Qadhafi, known to have weapons of mass destruction and to be responsible for the Lockerbie crash, chaired the U.N. Commission on Human Rights last year. This year, the U.N. elected Sudan to the commission despite the Khartoum regime’s bombing, enslaving, starving and slaughter in one of the world’s most egregious and obscene examples of racism.
Scandalously, the United Nations and the international community, not to mention the church, have not held Khartoum accountable. Paul Marshall, senior fellow for Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom, reports that since 1987 there have been more than 2 million deaths in Sudan. This is more loss of life for the same time period than all the wars in Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Chechnya, and the Arab/Israeli conflict combined. Only recently have the mainline denominations raised their voices against the atrocities there.
Marc Leland, a delegate to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva this past April and May, points out in an article for Human Events Online (June 30, 2004) that the commission was unable to take action to criticize Sudan. Further, he reports that, “China, which has been going backwards on what was already a terrible human rights record, could not be criticized in Geneva, although the U.S. tried to do so.” Leland says: “It was only through the Herculean efforts of the senior members of the Bush administration and Ambassadors Moley and Williamson in Geneva that a resolution pointing out Cuba’s human rights violation was possible, and that resolution only passed by one vote.” Leland believes that the commission’s main purpose seems to be to attack the United States and Israel.
The United Nations’ performance in the area of human rights is disappointing. It has been more intent on condemning the United States for going to war and ending real human-rights atrocities than celebrating the advances that have been made for the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Women’s groups in the mainline churches have widely supported UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund). What they may not know is that the Reagan administration withdrew U.S. support in the 1980s due to UNICEF’s radical political leanings and poor performance on behalf of children. In July 2004, the House of Representatives held hearings on UNICEF and the Bush administration’s request for funds. Several representatives expressed concern that UNICEF had undergone no reform since the Reagan years and should not be funded. A Texas representative read from UNICEF’s stated goals for education, which call for the elimination of any educational system that attempts to teach an objective standard of “truth.”
One issue in particular, about which executive director Carol Bellamy has been questioned, is UNICEF’s support for abortion on demand. Some will ask what abortion has to do with basic health, nutrition and survival for children. Joseph Bottum writes for The Wall Street Journal, Atlantic Monthly and The Weekly Standard. He shares in The Weekly Standard (February 16, 2004) in an article titled “On UNFPA, UNESCO, Etc.,” that UNICEF has “given up feeding hungry children in order to agitate for minors’ access to condoms, require that refugee camps provide abortion services and hand out sex-education manuals to Third World children.” He says that it is shocking that UNICEF is giving books to Latin American grade-school children that tell them how to have sex with each other and their dogs, according to a series of articles in The Washington Times.
Bottum reports: “[T]hey [UNICEF] have campaigned for the worldwide legalization of prostitution, driven away the Vatican that Jim Grant found so helpful in his old UNICEF projects, weakened their promotion of breast-feeding because of feminist complaints that it made women look like ‘milk cows’ and, in the name of girl power, nearly abandoned the education of boys even in countries where more girls are in school than boys.” Bellamy defends UNICEF by claiming they spend over half their funds on child survival. According to Bottum, this figure is down from the 85 percent spent on child survival in 1992. With as much as 50 percent of the UNICEF budget going to these radical programs, many inside and outside of Congress have called for the de-funding of UNICEF until its goals for child survival are clearly re-established.
We deserve to know the whole truth about UNICEF and why many of our own lawmakers question its mission and use of our tax dollars–not to mention church funds.
The plight of women in countries and societies where basic freedoms and human rights are not operable is a legitimate concern. The United Nations claims to play a key role in advancing women’s equality and lifestyle. Nesreen Berwari, Iraq’s minister for municipalities and public works, an Iraqi and a Kurd, tells yet a different story. She writes in The Wall Street Journal (June 23, 2004) that she is deeply disappointed in the recent U.N. Security Council resolution that recognizes Iraq’s sovereignty but refuses to endorse Iraq’s Transitional Administrative Law (TAL). For women, as well as ethnic minorities, this lack of endorsement has the potential to undermine newly won guarantees to rights and protections.
In Ms. Berwari’s view, the TAL (Iraq’s interim constitution) contains a strong bill of rights, guarantees equality and a voice to minorities and women. It also lays the foundation for a real democracy-not one in which powerful Shiite clerics and other religious leaders can impose their will.
This is particularly important to the women of Iraq who have been working in the Interim Governing Council to restore women’s rights that were a model to other countries in the area until they were eroded under Saddam’s regime. The TAL provides for the guarantee of civil law to all citizens. This is important because it prevents clerics from having undue power over women, as is the case where Islamic religious law is the law of the land. Under Islamic law, women tend to have an unequal, second-class role inside and outside of their families. Because women are acutely aware of the oppression and inequality that law all too often codifies in that area of the world, their involvement is especially important.
The TAL also guarantees much-needed representation for women in the interim legislature. Six out of 33 ministers in the new interim government are women and, while neither the Bush administration nor Concerned Women for America supports quotas, the TAL mandates that 25 percent of the legislature be women. These opportunities (rather than quotas) are important if women’s rights, and indeed equal rights for all, are to continue to be a priority as the process for a permanent constitution and elected government goes forth.
The U.N. does well to recognize Iraq’s sovereignty, but in not solidly backing the transitional law, it falls short and fails to rally the international community solidly behind the commitment to a free Iraq. Once again goals do not match performance in the United Nations.
There are certainly good reasons for the existence of the United Nations. Some of its programs, or at least portions of them, provide services needed in today’s world. At the very least, it provides for the governments of the world to come together in the hope of promoting world peace. But, as it currently exists, the U.N. is an institution riddled with problems and scandals and, at best, severely limited successes. We should not allow the misleading political agenda of the multilateralists to go unanswered.
The question is: why would we want to promote this worldly, secular institution and the policies it supports, which have little to do with the real cause of peace? What does the mission of the church have to do with the U.N.? The mission of the church is to lift up to a suffering world the “Prince of Peace.” Their mission, in John Wesley’s words, is to “offer them Christ.” Hearts are changed and peace is attainable only though the true Gospel message. This is not merely clothing our efforts in the language of love and peace and calling it Christian.
Even if every U.N. program were a resounding success, there would still be no peace apart from Christ. Again we must ask why women in the mainline churches have allowed the mission of the church to be tied to a secular institution. Why do they rightly address the physical needs of the world’s suffering but offer no more than a political answer to real spiritual need? Christ’s Great Commission should be taken seriously. Women in the church should continue to promote respect for all peoples, cultures and religions. This does not mean they should teach that all religions are equal. It does mean other beliefs should be tolerated and respected as long as they tolerate and respect those different from their own. We can never justify violence as an instrument of enlightenment or retaliation, as in the instance of 9/11 or the all-too-often suicide bombings in the Middle East. That is not to say there is no just war.
There is a legitimate debate over the role of the United Nations in the War on Terror and in the foreign policy of the United States. This debate must take into account the U.N.’s record what are its accomplishments in real terms? Statements of lofty goals cannot and should not be presented as facts. Support of the multilateral position is often based on a bias that sees the success of the United States as causing want in other countries. This results in misguided U.S. bashing and hatred, and should not be tolerated in the church or society. The church should call its country to the highest moral standards, but biased political posturing for any cause is unworthy of it. A leftist political agenda has co-opted the mission program of many mainline churches.
When will the women and the church demand reform and an accurate accounting of the United Nations?
Katy Kiser is a freelance writer from Texas who writes for the Beverly LaHaye Institute, Washington, D.C.