- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2001

The United Nations, created in 1945 by the governments of the world, is being put to death by the governments of the world. No doubt there will some more years of meetings, press releases and America-baiting on the East River. But year by year, stage by stage, the original motives, ethical purposes and hopes for world brotherhood have been so twisted or shoved aside that already the U.N. its charter created barely exists at all.
The paragraph above is among the most difficult I have written in a lifetime of journalism. I spent the first eight years of the U.N., and of my newspaper life, at the New York Times U.N. bureau. Too long but they gave me an understanding of the U.N. and of the hopes invested in it.
I finally escaped to India, which I was deeply sorry to leave after four years, and then Poland, whose loathsome communist government thought it was hurting my feelings when it kicked me out after less than two. In almost all the 20-odd countries from which I covered stories, there was some diplomat met at the United Nations whom I could call around dinner time to get some good food and a reasonably candid briefing. After my return to New York, I did not hang around the U.N. eight years of listening to diplomats cliches was sufficient.
But just as it is wrenching to escape love for a person it is hard to escape a concept that moves you deeply. From the first days at the first U.N. offices in a dingy West Side hotel, the thought that I was at an international meeting to control nuclear arms seized and enfolded me. Only a few years ago did I accept the fact that the object of my hope was rotting away and soon would be a corpse, but even then could not bring myself to say so plainly until this column.
My stomach turns when American politicians and journalists blame the U.S. for all its problems at the U.N., like being tossed off the commissions on human rights and narcotics, because annually Washington suggests criticizing China on human rights not doing anything, mind you, just some criticism.
The American resolution is always defeated in the commission created to guard human rights. But with the U.S. out, none of the other 53 members would even introduce the resolution.
Countries that would not vote for America knew there would be no American penalty for its worldwide humiliation. Secretary of State Colin Powell says it wouldnt be nice to reveal how the secret votes were cast, if we ever find out.
The attitude of U.N. members toward China lies stinking under the U.N.s terrible illness and is a large part of its cause. It is money uber alles, not human rights, not narcotics, not even the national security of so many of its members, including America, but money. Money for foreign companies and foreign investors, but of course not foreign workers abroad who have to compete with Chinese pay for labor and even Chinese no-cost prison labor.
The American problem at the U.N. is that our own government, chief executive officers, shareholders and hordes of American politicians are out there sniffing and begging in China for contracts, on their knees before the Politburo with the rest of the world. That stifles American criticism of Beijing, except when it downs an American plane or kicks us off a U.N. commission.
It suffocates any American official thought of using its economic power to salve the suffering of Chinese and Tibetans arrested and tortured by the communist police to fulfill at least one of the charters humanitarian motives… . The ethical rot of the bottom-line supremacy in American diplomacy is even stronger than it was when we sold the stuff of war to countries that used it soon after to make war against us scrap steel for Japanese bombs, or "dual use" materials for Iraqi growth in chemical warfare or when our allies invested in the oil of Sudan, the murderously run country that was elected to that human rights commission when America was kicked off. China, not America, is now the real power of the U.N.
Presidents Nixon, Clinton, the first George Bush and their business backers knew that the only political strength the United States has against China is to increase or lessen American trade tariffs as Beijing increases or loosens its human-rights torments and ends threats against its space-age neighbors, one of which happens to be America.
The current Bush administration is pretending the rotting fish under the U.N. smells sweet as a rose. How sad another president losing his chance to make the dying U.N. get off its knees, stand up, and walk.

A.M. Rosenthal, the former executive editor of the New York Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.


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