- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 9, 2003

Kofi Annan has sounded a little irritated with us Americans lately, which makes it mutual. As secretary-general and ditherer-in-chief of the United Nations, he was commenting on the latest last chance being given Saddam Hussein to give up his weapons of mass destruction. "We are serious about solving this," the secretary-general said, and he had to say it since all appearances are to the contrary. The one thing the United Nations doesn't seem just now is serious.
Wordy, slow, at cross-purposes, impotent, officious, insufferable… the United Nations may be many things. But serious? If it were serious, if it had been serious for the last 12 years about disarming Iraq, Saddam Hussein wouldn't be a problem today.
Speaking about the demand that Saddam destroy his illegal missiles (among a lot of other scary weapons), the secretary-general said of this latest contretemps, "We hope it will be resolved peacefully, without the interference of others, particularly the Americans."
Without the interference of others, particularly the Americans.
Well, Mr. Annan, you know how interfering we Americans can be. We interfered in 1917 to save France, and you can see where that's got us. We interfered 1941-45 in the European and Pacific theaters, which explains why there is a free world today. (Granted, we didn't have much choice after Pearl Harbor; it rather got our attention.) Americans interfered for half a century afterward around the globe in what came to be known as the Cold War, though it kept turning hot. We've got memorials full of American names to show for it. Plus an endless stream of condescending statements from European statesmen and now from the U.N. secretary-general.
We Americans, together with those allies that rallied to our side, interfered in Bosnia, though terribly late. And then in Kosovo, although the United Nations didn't approve. By then tens of thousands had been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced because we'd waited for Europe to act or the United Nations, or somebody for God's sake. In the meantime, we just looked on. ("They've been fighting each other for 500 years. We need to stay out of there." Bill Clinton, as quoted in "Slaughterhouse" by David Rieff.) At Srebrenica alone, the site of the biggest mass murder on the European Continent since the end of World War II, the Red Cross counted 7,079 dead. Nice going, United Nations.
You did your part, Mr. Secretary-General, by presiding over that slaughter as head of the U.N. "peacekeeping" operations in the Balkans. Or was it the genocide in Rwanda? Didn't that happen on your watch, too? When they give you your inevitable peace prize, it needs to be printed in red.
The United States finally interfered in the Balkans, but tragically late and against the advice of our European friends. ("We do not interfere in American affairs; we trust America will not interfere in European affairs." Jacques DeLors, president of the European Community, 1991.)
It's as if Europe had learned nothing from its own history, nothing at all. Distinguished diplomats keep telling us naive, untutored Americans how much more experience Europeans have. After all, we've had only one republic for the past couple of centuries while the French alone have had several.
But there's a difference between having experience, and having the same experience over and over again. Studying European history can be like watching the same slaughter over and over again; only the victims change.
In 1991, the interfering Americans acted to liberate Kuwait, although clearly we didn't finish the job or Saddam Hussein. Now we're about to, and the U.N. secretary-general complains that we're, yes, interfering. He'd do better to read the latest comment from his own Inspector Clouseau on the scene, Hans Blix: "I don't think there would have been any inspection but for outside pressure, including U.S. forces." Few things have so assured liberty and freedom in this world, and its collective security, as American "interference," even if it's come late and reluctantly.
Mr. Annan needs to lead, follow or get out of the way. So far he's declined all three options. At the moment he's following in the meandering steps of so many other eminently forgettable leaders of the United Nations Kurt Waldheim, U Thant, Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Odd Bull. (No, we didn't make that last one up.)
At this rate, the United Nations will make the late League of Nations look like a bastion of fortitude. But let it be said for the poor old League that, at every critical juncture, it never interfered.

Paul Greenberg is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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