As President Barack Obama was addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations, just before Libya's dictator Moammar Gadhafi called for the demise of the Security Council and followed later by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's challenge of international law as we know it, my conclusion has become clear: Indeed the United Nations must reform, and significantly, and here is why:
Gadhafi, whom many Arab leaders called the fata alk majnun (the crazy man), ranted for an hour and a half in front of the General Assembly, accusing the organization of being unfair and intervening against some aggressors and not all perpetrators of human rights abuse. The dictator is right in this particular diagnosis but not in the menu he offered.
The man whose regime invaded and occupied northern Chad for years, looting that poor country's resources; who sent terrorists into Tunisia and Egypt; who kidnapped and assassinated Lebanese Shiite leaders, who ordered the blowing up of PanAm 103 over Lockerbie; and has been funding violence from the Philippines to Suriname is not exactly the head of state who should be lecturing the world community in Manhattan, but answering a court investigation in the Hague.
Ahmadinejad, another lecturer on fundamental rights at the U.N. does not stand on higher moral grounds either. His Pasdaran are behind terror in Iraq, train and funds Hezbollah in Lebanon, and were indicted by Argentina for bloody massacres across the globe. Ahmadinejad's own population is savagely oppressed, as evidenced by this summer’s repression of protests.
This surreal Picasso-like roster of dictators turned "U.N.-preachers," democracies leaders, and particularly the U.S. president should have responded with clarity and boldness, not just in style but in substance and demanded even more serious reforms.
The world changed in 2001. Al-Qaida gave evil a face. But al-Qaida is just the tip of the iceberg. It presents us with the ideology of jihadism, an ideology that divides the world. Speeches by Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and other leaders of this jihadist movement convey clearly that either you are in Dar El Islam (as portrayed by al-Qaida, more akin to Dar El Taliban than Dar El Islam), or you are in Dar El Kuffar, the infidels. There is a new worldwide organization threatening to divide humanity and calling for the opposing side to be persecuted and oppressed. For them 9/11 was legitimate. It is an ideology that accepts the principle of genocide. It is permissible to kill children, women, the elderly, and non-combatants. In Algeria 145,000 Arab Muslim Sunnis were massacred by the Salafists, the allies of al-Qaida, throughout the 1990s.
But instead of the U.N. mobilizing to prevent this new jihad and neo-Nazi ideology from taking hold, the U.N. secretary-general said in Davos on Jan. 23 that the United Nations is neutral, equidistant from the war on terror and terrorists. This is a United Nations that has completely abandoned its original principles.
In recent years, Syria, a state-sponsor of terrorism, was a member of the Security Council, while Libya and Sudan were on the U.N. Human Rights Commission and Saudi Arabia and China are on the new Human Rights Council.
The people of the greater Middle East, who have been abused by aggressors on one hand and U.N. inaction on the other, have finally begun to speak. They spoke up for democracy in Afghanistan, rushing to vote. In Iraq, the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people voted. By voting they have responded to terrorism, to jihadism. It was not the United Nations that responded. It was the people of the region.
What happened when the Security Council — thanks to the United States and France — finally adopted Resolution 1559 requiring Syria to leave Lebanon? The U.N. sent its diplomats and envoys to talk not to the Lebanese people, but to negotiate their fate with the dictator in Damascus. Kofi Annan then went to Iran to discuss the fate of Lebanon — a slap in the face of the Lebanese people on the side of democracy.
As the 21st century's first decade comes to a close, the United Nations needs to rise to the defense of democracies. Only then will we have the oppressed people rising to freedom and security.
Dr. Walid Phares is the author of the “Confrontation: Winning the war against Future Jihad” and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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