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Who will keep us safe from the peacekeepers?

ITEM: The United Nations 'official website asks the question, "What is peacekeeping?" then answers in part as follows: "Peacekeeping is a way to help countries torn by conflict create conditions for sustainable peace. U.N. peacekeepers--soldiers and military officers, civilian police officers and civilian personnel from many countries--monitor and observe peace processes that emerge in post-conflict situations and assist ex-combatants to implement the peace agreements they have signed. Such assistance comes in many forms including confidence-building measures, power-sharing arrangements, electoral support, strengthening the rule of law, and economic and social development."

CORRECTION: The activities of UN peacekeepers do come in many forms--unfortunately, these often include rape, forced prostitution, pedophilia, and other sexual abuses, all of which have been recently brought to light among UN troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo, involving girls as young as 11. After media exposes of the lurid practices, the UN was forced to initiate its own investigation--though it took another six months before its results were released.

The United Nations has tolerated such behavior for years, say human-rights groups. According to a Danish film documentary, for example, UN troops had a large hand in spreading the AIDS virus in Cambodia in the early 1990s, with peacekeepers having sex with locals--children and prostitutes. Asked for his reaction, a UN official shown in the film answers, "Boys will be boys."

One UN publication, Africa Renewal, noted in April of 2005: "As recently as 2002 allegations surfaced that UN personnel and humanitarian workers at UN-administered camps in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were forcing refugee women and young children to provide sexual favours in exchange for desperately needed food, medicines and other relief supplies." Those reports are "strikingly similar to those made in the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo]" this past year.

The Congo scandal, it seems certain, is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. At least one senior UN official involved in the Bunia refugee camp in the DRC has been implicated in the sexual abuse, according to published accounts--which also have noted that after the scandal broke, investigators were threatened with retaliation by peacekeepers. The Times of London reported about Russian pilots among the peacekeepers, who "paid young girls with jars of mayonnaise and jam to have sex with them. They filmed the sessions and sent the tapes to Russia. But the men were tipped off and left the area before U.N. investigators arrived."

The Congo outrage is "the latest in a string of scandals that have hit U.N. peacekeeping operations around the world," testified Dr. Nile Gardiner, a fellow in Anglo-American Security Policy at the Heritage Foundation, before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations on March 1. "Indeed, it appears that U.N. peacekeeping missions frequently create a predatory sexual culture, with refugees the victims of U.N. staff who demand sexual favors in exchange for food, and U.N. troops who rape women at gunpoint. Allegations of sexual abuse stretch back at least a decade, to operations in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. Despite previous U.N. investigations--and Kofi Annan's declaration of a policy of 'zero tolerance' toward such conduct--little appears to have changed in the field."

There are some 80,000 peacekeeping troops from about 100 nations in 17 countries, a number that keeps rising. American taxpayers foot the largest portion of the total peacekeeping bill, around 27 percent (the share is higher in the Congo mission). Between 2001 and 2005, U.S. contributions to such peacekeeping operations have amounted to some $3.6 billion.

Astonishingly, UN officials have complained that, because nations want to protect their sovereignty, the world body can do little to discipline such abusive peacekeepers. We are supposed to believe that if we only gave more power to the world army, there would be less abuse of those the peacekeepers are supposed to be protecting. The chief of staff for Secretary-General Kofi Annan told a U.S. congressional panel that, "for me, the United Nations is not over-sized, over-resourced or under-supervised by its member states." He complained of too much supervision, saying the secretary-general is "mired in a web of governmental committees and outdated rules that impede his freedom to manage."

This is not just a matter of a few bad apples abusing their power. A liberal reporter for the Washington Post, Keith Richburg, had his eyes opened when he covered a number of UN operations in Africa; several are described in his compelling book Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa. For example, he says that events in Somalia dashed the hopes of the world, as well as his own, "that Africa might somehow become the testing ground of the New World Order and the idea of benign military intervention."

Richburg describes the horrendous bureaucratic hurdles imposed by the UN in Somalia. He also recalls journalists and international do-gooders partying in formal evening wear, with rock bands blaring, at a benefit banquet--while Somali children and refugees "climbed trees or onto nearby walls just for a glimpse of what must have seemed a very weird foreign tribal ritual." As for the warring parties, the UN just threw money at them, which is rightly called extortion by the author. The UN "was effectively paying the thugs not to shoot the [peacekeeping] soldiers coming in to keep the peace." Moreover, it didn't work.

Elsewhere, he recounts the horrendous brutality in Rwanda, where the UN was complicit in mass murder. In one incident, Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana tried to find refuge at the UN compound but was found by her killers, dragged to the street, and executed. That was about the time, Richburg writes, "when ten Belgian troops arrived to protect her. Following an instruction radioed from the UN headquarters in Kigali, the Belgians laid down their arms, hoping to avoid a confrontation with the crowd; they too were brutally tortured and executed."

Such disgraces took place while the UN was supposedly calling the shots. Do we really want to make the military arm of such a world body more "effective"?

The UN's record when it has the upper hand over vulnerable populations is hardly reassuring. Strangely, it is often those who complain the loudest about the occasional unlawful actions of U.S. troops--who are governed by a system of checks and balances and operate under a bona fide military justice system, unlike UN troops--who would empower foreign troops with more power, even over American citizens and soldiers. Yet, as the Romans asked centuries ago, who will guard us from the guardians? A government big enough to enforce world peace is big enough to impose world tyranny.

Indeed, if the UN had enough power to enforce what it calls global peace--meaning a lack of resistance to its dictates--it surely would tyrannize the world.
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Title Annotation:United Nations
Author:Hoar, William P.
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Jul 11, 2005
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