- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 9, 2006

As World War II came to an end, America’s “Greatest Generation” had high hopes thenewly created United Nations would play an effective role in maintaining international peace and security. It did so — for a while.

But long ago, it departed from its founding ideals. It became what the late Sen. (and Ambassador to the U.N.) Pat Moynihan called “A Dangerous Place.” And dangerous it has remained as far as the cause of democracy and human rights is concerned. The serious failure of the U.N.’s internal workings and the great need for reform are well illustrated by the organization’s recent actions on two hotspots: Darfur and Gaza.

The serious hostilities that erupted in Darfur in July 2003 evolved into a campaign of genocide, claiming more than 400,000 lives and leaving 2 million homeless. A peacekeeping force sent by the Organization of African Unity failed. It took more than three years for the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution authorizing a U.N. peacekeeping force — a resolution yet to be enforced by the U.N.

On Nov. 22, the Council discussed a report on Darfur by the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs — one describing a very desperate situation. He made clear immediate action was needed or millions more lives will be lost. Yet the response of government representatives present was appalling: flowery rhetoric flowed about the need to take action, but the meeting adjourned with absolutely no discussion about taking any.

A few days later the U.N. Human Rights Council raised the issue again, passing a toothless resolution calling on all parties to end human-rights violations — without even mentioning the government of Sudan. Unbelievably, even a cautiously worded amendment, suggesting Sudan’s government had a “primary responsibility” to protect its people, was voted down.

Compare this inaction on Sudan over a 42-month period to the U.N.’s quick, heated and multiple actions in a nine-day period last month triggered by a tragic incident in Gaza.

Israel, having withdrawn from Gaza in August 2005, found its civilians repeatedly subjected to Palestinian rocket attacks launched from lands they had just vacated. Last July, a Hamas raid into Israel resulted in the deaths of two Israeli soldiers and abduction of a third. Israel responded with periodic incursions into Gaza to destroy launchers and prevent arms resupply. A Nov. 8 rocket attack from Gaza prompted a barrage of Israeli defensive fire. An Israeli tank gun malfunctioned during the fighting, causing shells to hit residential housing in the town of Beit Hanoun, where 19 civilians were killed.

Recognizing his country’s primary responsibility for the tragedy, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert immediately extended his condolences, promising a prompt investigation. Nevertheless, a flurry of U.N. activity quickly ensued.

On Nov. 9, the Security Council met. Despite Israel’s expression of regret at the meeting’s outset that “a tragic event had occurred during the escalation of the situation in Gaza,” council members let loose a verbal barrage against Israel for killing “men, women and children, who posed no threat… as they slept in their home.” More than 40 speakers expressed outrage against Israel, including human-rights abuser Cuba. The U.S. was the only United Nations member to speak in Israel’s defense, for which it too was criticized by Arab League states and Cuba. The Council voted Nov. 11 on a resolution seeking to severely restrict Israel’s right to defend itself against Gaza rocket attacks and for it “to immediately withdraw its forces.”

In keeping with our commitment to a fair settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the U.S. vetoed the resolution, thus preserving Israel’s right of self-defense.

But the U.N. system kept churning. Four days later, on Nov. 15, the Human Rights Council called its third special session of the year to discuss a topic for which it had called its earlier two sessions: Israel. Unsurprisingly, yet another resolution was passed condemning Israel, with another great champion of human rights — North Korea — jumping on the anti-Israel band wagon.

That, too, was not enough. Two days later, on Nov. 17, the General Assembly met and engaged in further Israel-bashing and the adoption of a nonbinding resolution similar to the one the U.S. had just vetoed. Astonishingly, 156 countries voted “yes,” including the entire European Union, with only seven “no” votes.

More Muslims are dying in Sudan every hour of the day than Palestinians were killed in the tragic event at Beit Hanoun. The U.N. system, used by member nations appropriately, could bring Darfur’s genocide to an end. Yet it is not so used, allowing the daily carnage to toll on in Africa while a majority of U.N. members seek severely limit Israel’s right to defend its citizens against attack.

The failure of a majority of U.N. members to deal with the mounting deaths in Darfur, where most victims are young children, instead using every available opportunity to bash Israel, underscores the urgent need for drastic reform at the United Nations. Until this is done, it will remain a very dangerous place.

James G. Zumwalt, a Marine veteran of the Persian Gulf and Vietnam wars, is a contributor to The Washington Times.

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