- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 12, 2006

Few Americans will probably note today a critically important meeting to the state of the future world, the “Long War” against terrorism, and the fostering of corruption-free, worldwide democracy. Today the president of the United States meets at the White House with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Perhaps for the first time during his presidency, Mr. Bush will have meaningful praise for the secretary-general. On Dec. 14, 2005, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption went into force. The convention, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in October 2003, has been signed by 140 countries and ratified by 38.

The convention is the first legally binding global instrument designed to help member states fight corruption in both the public and private sectors. It includes provisions for freezing, seizing and confiscating stolen funds or property hidden abroad and requires member states to comply upon request with anti-corruption complaints of other members.

The U.N. Convention Against Corruption is the result of great effort, arm-twisting, diplomacy and persuasion by the Bush administration, supported by Great Britain, Australia, Canada, France and Germany. The convention contributes to the “Long War” by starting processes to prevent and deal with the international corruption that allows dictators like Saddam Hussein to feather their nests with U.S. and U.N. money while defying international rules and promoting a decidedly anti-U.S. agenda, including support for Islamic extremists.

But the convention is only a small part of today’s discussion. One would expect the president to talk to Kofi Annan about the U.N.’s own scandals and corruption. These include corruption surrounding the U.N.-administered oil-for-food program for Iraq, accusations of sexual exploitation of minors by some U.N. peacekeepers and staff, and tainted procurement practices.

The United States, largest contributor to the U.N. budget, is among the U.N.’s sternest critics for not addressing these problems earlier — again supported by Great Britain, Australia, Canada, France and Germany.

Critics’ claim the Bush administration avoids close cooperation with the United Nations and only pays lip service to allied coalitions and other accepted parts of the international diplomatic community. The Convention Against Corruption and the insistence of the United States that the U.N. deal with it’s own scandals proves otherwise.

In fact, the Bush administration, in rhetoric and action and in close cooperation with Great Britain, Australia, Canada, France and Germany, is pushing an agenda that fosters openness, accountability and “clean government” in the international arena. This effort toward “clean government” might be considered one front in the war against terror and the president’s stated goal of increasing democracy in the world.

The key pointmen of the president’s “clean government” front are two of the toughest American public servants: John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz.

The day after the Convention Against Corruption went into effect, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told assembled representatives of the United Nations: “With regard to corruption, the United States has and will continue to take a policy of zero tolerance. As Mr. Bush has noted, the stakes are very high. He has noted how corruption ‘hinders sustainable development, erodes confidence in democratic institutions, and facilitates transnational crime and terrorism.’ ”

Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization and its successor governments have long been considered by the U.S. as likely proponents of corruption. Last month, Mr. Bolton sent a strongly worded letter to the U.N. secretary-general after a U.N. event with a decidedly pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli theme. “Given that we now have a world leader pursuing nuclear weapons who is calling for the state of Israel to be wiped off the map,” Mr. Bolton wrote, the U.N. cannot be seen as an enemy of a member state or the proponent of any regime supporting corruption.

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz has also sworn to crack down on corruption by governments and officials in developing nations where the bank operates.

Speaking to employees worldwide on Feb. 7, Mr. Wolfowitz said the bank had to move “more decisively and energetically.” The bank is withholding millions of dollars in loans to Kenya, now embroiled in a high-level government scandal and corruption.

Other U.S. government initiatives and activities linked to the war against terror and the campaign against corruption include the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center in the State Department. Created by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the center works to identify and thwart transnational trafficking in human beings. The center fights alien smuggling, trafficking in persons and the criminal support of clandestine terrorist travel.

Human smuggling has become a huge source of income for corrupt governments and groups and is considered a threat to U.S. national security. The U.S. believes the U.N. Human Rights Commission has looked the other way while grave human rights violations proliferated.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar told the U.N. General Assembly Feb. 7: “One reform that is critically necessary is establishing a respected Human Rights Council to replace the [U.N.’s] Human Rights Commission, which has been discredited because of the membership of repressive and undemocratic regimes. The membership criteria of the new council must ensure that those elected to it observe human rights and abide by the rule of law.”

When Kofi Annan sits down with President Bush today, and when he meets later with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he will likely hear some praise, followed by a diplomatically spoken but unmistakable message on openness, accountability, “clean government” and human rights: critical factors to our democracy and cornerstones of the war against terrorists.

John Carey is a retired U.S. military officer and former president of International Defense Consultants Inc.

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