Annan Should Resign

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Annan Should Resign

Kenneth Cain, a former human rights lawyer with the UN, had a lengthy attack on Kofi Annan in The Observer on Sunday. It began thusly
Like its cousin, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Rwanda's stunning new genocide museum, perched on a quiet hillside overlooking Kigali, is at its most arresting when it honours the lost children. One installation invites us to consider David, a cute, shy boy, with big round black eyes: David's favourite sport was soccer; he enjoyed making people laugh; his dream was to be a doctor; he was tortured to death; his last words were: 'The UN will come to get us.'

Next to David's biography is Ariane's, four, stabbed in the eyes and head; Fillette, also four, smashed against a wall; Yves and Yvonne, three and five, hacked to death at their grandmother's house; Aurone, two, burnt alive in a chapel; and 12-year-old Mami, whose last words were: 'Mum, where can I run to?'
Cain then laments the UN's incompetence in general and Anna's specific failures, in Rwanda and elsewhere and makes an important point
The second searing irony for me is that the American neoconservative right has occupied the moral high ground in critique of Annan, outflanking the left, which sits on indefensible territory in his support. But if prevention of genocide and protection of the vulnerable are not core priorities on the left, then what is? If anyone's values have been betrayed, it is those of us on the left who believe most deeply in the organization’s ideals. I am mystified by the reluctance of the left both in the US and the UK (the Guardian 's coverage, for example) to criticise Annan's leadership. The bodies burn today in Darfur - and the women are raped - amid the sound of silence from Annan. How many genocides, the prevention of which is the UN's very raison d'ĂȘtre, will we endure before the left is moved to criticise Annan? Shouldn't we be hearing the left screaming bloody murder about the UN's failure to protect vulnerable Africans? Has it lost its compass so badly that it purports to excuse the rape of Congolese women by UN peacekeepers under Annan's watch? Is stealing money intended for widows and orphans in Iraq merely a forgivable bureaucratic snafu?
Joining the Neocons in their effort to oust Annan will most certainly not end up advancing the Left's agenda for the UN. The Neocons want Annan out because he has been vocal in opposition to their policy goals and replacing him is a key step toward turning the UN into a rubber stamp for US policy.

Ignoring that, I think Cain has a good point buried in there in that prevention of genocide and protection of the vulnerable do not seem to be much of a priority for the Left - at least not to the extent that they are demanding action and accountability from those responsible.

Demanding Annan's head is not going to compel the UN to act on Darfur. But the fact remains, as Cain says, that when it comes to Rwanda and Darfur
The UN cannot have failed more catastrophically when the stakes have been highest. If [Annan] does not lose his job for that, then for what? And if not now, when?
"The Left" has demanded that various Bush administration officials resign for their failures in Iraq and elsewhere. Judging solely by the standard that senior officials are responsible for their organization's failures, Annan's long list of failures and mistakes certainly ought to cost him his job.

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