- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2003

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been more than a little obstructionist recently in working to undercut the role of the United States in global affairs — in particular, U.S. leadership in rebuilding Iraq. After his attempts to appease Saddam Hussein failed, Mr. Annan last week demanded a clarification of the United Nations’ role in the Middle East, suggesting that the international body must guarantee “that the process leading to the formation of a provisional government is fully inclusive and transparent.” Earlier in the week, he countered President Bush’s comment about Saddam deserving the “ultimate” punishment. “The U.N. does not support the death penalty,” Mr. Annan said, “and all the courts we’ve set up have not included the death penalty.” Mr. Annan vowed that the United Nations is “not going to now turn around and support a death penalty.”

Of course, the U.N.’s position is not decisive on this matter, though its rhetoric can shape political opinion in various parts of the world. In that role, the institution can do serious damage by spreading wrong ideas — which is what Mr. Annan was doing last week. The secretary-general continues to perpetuate the false proposition that America needs approval from others to act on the world stage — either by use of diplomacy or the exercise of military force. Given that it is helpful to have some international support for major initiatives, it can be a practical option to use the United Nations to build consensus — but the effort is entirely optional on America’s part. The sovereignty of the nation is all that it needs to act in its national interest, particularly regarding self-defense — something the U.N. charter itself explicitly recognizes.

Mr. Annan’s negative view of the Bush administration’s role in the war on terror was illustrated by his recent statement that American forces need to do more “to ensure that such tragic mistakes [civilian casualties] are not repeated.” The statement is offensive — as if U.S. soldiers are negligent or are going out of their way to harm the innocent. It is, after all, these soldiers who are in danger every day as they seek to bring freedom to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.

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