Scandalous U.N. Hear, See and Speak of No Reforms

Article excerpt


If you have been holding your breath awaiting punishment of U.N. officials involved in the Iraq oil for food scandal, you will exhale upon reading this book. Punishment won't happen any time soon, if ever.

In this lively - though sometimes depressing - memoir of the author's years at the U.N. Secretariat, we quickly learn that corruption is endemic to the place. So are anti-Semitism, plotting by supporters of radical Islamism and lack of cost controls. Many departments seemingly report to no one. Audits are superficial and inconclusive. Whistleblowers are shipped to an internal Siberia.

In the early 1980s, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush urged U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar to install Peter Sanjuan as director of political affairs at the Secretariat. Our then-ambassador, Jeane Kirkpatrick, had recommended this, as there was no high-ranking American official in the U.N. apparatus to keep an eye on Soviet machinations there. As Mr. Sanjuan puts it, "I was the only American spy."

Every "member state" of the United Nations has a quota of appointments to positions in its "international civil service." The United States routinely takes applications from "off the street," whereas the Soviet Union made sure its quota was filled with carefully vetted government officials (mostly KGB) who were "seconded" to the United Nations. The result: The Soviets held most second- and third-level decision-making positions in the Secretariat. They controlled the U.N. Library almost completely, using it as an intelligence-gathering resource.

When Mr. Sanjuan reported his detailed findings of espionage to Secretary-General Perez, the latter reacted with bland passivity. The Department of State wasn't much better. Its response was that they knew all about Soviet espionage on the East River, but did not want to "destabilize" relationships there. The author contends that the root of the U.N. dysfunction was the tacit decision by the United Nations and the Soviet Union early on to let no other nation "meddle in the vital issues of the Cold War." He says, "The road to absurdity was the only route left open for the U.N." - becoming a place for "the neutrals and not-so-neutrals of the Third World to air their petty disputes and pretend to be involved in humanitarian causes. …