- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2003

WASHINGTON, April 20 (UPI) — Although my heritage is Anglo-Irish, one of my favorite words comes from Yiddish, the language long spoken by Eastern European Jews.

"Chutzpah" and its many meanings include audacity, boldness, unmitigated effrontery, utter nerve, arrogance, pretentiousness, vanity, brazen gall, and self-importance among others.

Since the fall of Baghdad, Americans have been hearing much from a gaggle of diplomats, academics, editorial writers, and institutional courtiers of the United Nations who possess an amazing surplus of it.

American, British and Australian troops were in harm's way, losing life, blood, and treasure to liberate the people of Iraq. U.N. apologists argue that the same institution that failed so miserably to enforce its own resolutions on disarming Iraq must now direct the reconstruction of that suffering nation.

These apologists now claim that only a U.N. blessing can confer the legitimacy of the world community that is necessary for the rebuilding effort. Wow. If there was ever an example of gold-plated chutzpah, that would be it.

Last September, President George W. Bush challenged the U.N. General Assembly on the need to be relevant in the campaign to disarm Iraq. In this case, the U.N. Security Council flunked the test.

The U.N. failed, not because other Security Council members disagreed with Britain and the Unites States, but because they indulged themselves in an intellectually dishonest pretense that offered no rational alternative to enforcing the resolutions they themselves had previously approved.

Events has proven their lack of resolve to have be foolish.

When coalition forces discovered a suspicious chemical plant and protection suits south of Baghdad, former Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector Hans Blix admitted that his inspection teams could not, as a practical matter, have visited any site not included in the Iraqi declaration of December 2002.

Remember that in the runup to the war, apologists asked that the inspectors be allowed to do their job. How could they if the ground rules under which they labored were so absurd?

If the inspectors could only follow the map laid out by Saddam, then they were destined to fail.

Notwithstanding criticism of the U.N.'s failure to confront Iraq, those who are tempted to bash the U.N. in all cases are in error. For almost 58 years the U.N. and its specialized agencies have accomplished much good work and have enjoyed some notable successes in promoting peace.

Every institution has its operational limits. The U.N. Security Council has, in recent years at least, often failed to confront despotic regimes in an effective way.

Considering its current track record, the U.N. is now the last institution able to confer legitimacy on reconstruction in Iraq precisely because it failed to enforce its own resolutions.

Something good can come from recent U.N. failures if they are acknowledged and lead to an effort at real reform. This may a good time for the United Nations to re-examine its own charter and founding principles.

The criterion for membership set forward in Chapter 2, Article 4, Section 1 of the United Nations Charter reads: "Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations."

The charter was signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945, more than 50 years ago. It may now be time to ask, "Which countries that have been member states of the U.N. in recent years do not live up to the criterion of membership?"

The obligations stated elsewhere in the charter include a commitment to peace and to granting citizens fundamental freedoms. While it often focuses on the need to resolve international disputes peacefully, that is not its only focus. Commitment to human rights and basic freedom is also an obligation of member states.

Over time it has become quite evident that any gang of thugs who can grab some real estate and design a flag gets to be admitted to the U.N. General Assembly as a member state sooner or later — even if they have demonstrated flagrant disregard for the principles of its charter.

The wide-open admission policy waters down the charter principles to such a perverse degree that it confers the appearance of legitimacy on states that have no concept of basic human rights or the rule of law. Under the ideals embodied in the 1945 document, Iraq, along with several other prominent countries, have had no business being member states in the first place.

Worse yet, it is folly to pretend that all U.N. member states adhere to the Charter when they clearly do not. It is not enough to hope that nations behave in a civilized fashion deserving of inclusion in an international body devoted to peace. U.N. membership should be earned by demonstrating adherence to the charter if it is to mean anything beyond a simple ability to dominate a piece of ground.

The U.N. apologists who now have the chutzpah to lecture the U.S. and U.K.-led coalition on how to restore freedom and the rule of law to the Iraqi people should first find a way to recommit the U.N. itself to the same principles. Only then may it claim to confer moral legitimacy on actions of the world community.

(Mark Q. Rhoads is a former Illinois State Senator and a former editorial writer for the Chicago Sun-Times.

— "Outside View" commentaries are written for UPI by outside writers on issues of public interest.)

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