An expat's commentary on current events in national security, foreign affairs, the media, culture, technology and assorted trivia.

Friday, April 08, 2005


Women can do it too

It is not only male UN bureaucrats such as the UN Refugee Chief Ruud Lubbers (the rude lover's favourite line was 'I would love to have you sit on my staff') and top UN Auditor Dileep Nair that are pressurising their subordinates for sex. The ladies need some action too! Viz, the top UN elections official:

Adding to the U.N.'s credibility woes, an internal review of its electoral assistance division accuses the director, Carina Perelli, with sexual and workplace harassment, misuse of funds and favoritism.

The confidential management review, which was obtained by The Times, described the electoral unit as an "unhealthy family" and the work environment as abusive. Working for Perelli has been "nothing short of a devastating experience," a subordinate is quoted as saying.
The review, conducted by an outside consultant that has often worked with the U.N., was commissioned in December by the head of political affairs, Kieran Prendergast, to explore staff complaints that came to light during a previous assessment by the firm, the report said.

Its findings were "much more serious" than expected, it said. Besides extensive recommendations for improving organization and practices, the report urged an official investigation of the sexual and professional harassment allegations and reports of unjustified use of electoral funds, often for travel.

Staff members said Perelli had created a work environment in which sexual innuendo was constant, something she considered "conducive to collegiality." Some, however, found it offensive and were led by the situation to leave the division. The report cites unwelcome sexual advances, inquiries into staff members' intimate lives and public derision of their responses, as well as unwelcome information about sexual exploits.

Employees complained that her management style was abusive and derogatory and that her assignments were unreasonably challenging. They said she favored an inner circle of staffers who received preferential treatment and were sent on special trips, while others were exiled on extended missions abroad to keep them out of the office.

Perelli, a 48-year-old Uruguayan political scientist, has headed the electoral division for nine years and directed elections in hot spots around the world, among them Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, East Timor, Colombia, Liberia and Haiti.
"Many aspects of her personal and managerial behavior suggest that she does not, in fact, feel bound by the rules," the report said.

Rules are for the little people.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Lest we forget

The Berlin Wall was built in late 1961. It stood till November 1989.

Over 100 Germans were killed by East German Border Guards (or their automated weapons) at the Berlin Wall.

The last was Chris Gueffroy in June 1989, just six months before the Wall came down.


Remaining walls

Another interesting tidbit from the UK Observer:

... (A) decade into reunification when the Berliner Kurier newspaper reported that of 15,000 marriages in Berlin, only 400 were 'mixed' - one spouse from the west and one from the east.

I can corroborate this myself. After visiting Germany on many occasions, I finally made it to Berlin only just last year, on business. I had time before my flight and requested a 'taxi tour.' He agreeably drove by all the main cultural and historical sites.

The political geography made the earlier division obvious. East Berlin evinced unmistakable communist central planning. Whilst driving through one grey section, on our left was a large park with signs in Cyrillic.

I asked my driver / tour guide what it was. 'A Russian military cemetery, I think.'

Me: 'Oh, right. It's huge. How many are buried there?'

Driver: 'I don't know. I'm not an Ossi.'

The political geography isn't the only remaining evidence of the division.


Kofi's bloody CV

This cri de coeur from the author of Emergency Sex and other Desperate Measures in Britain's Observer (of all places) about UN systemic corruption and abuse and Kofi Annan's role in it is a must-read.

How many more must die before Kofi quits?

Former UN human rights lawyer Kenneth Cain says the secretary-general could finally redeem himself by saving lives - after years of lethal passivity

Like its cousin, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Rwanda's stunning new genocide museum, perched on a quiet hillside overlooking Kigali, is at its most arresting when it honours the lost children. One installation invites us to consider David, a cute, shy boy, with big round black eyes: David's favourite sport was soccer; he enjoyed making people laugh; his dream was to be a doctor; he was tortured to death; his last words were: 'The UN will come to get us.'

Next to these tributes is another installation - a reproduction of the infamous fax by the UN Force Commander, General Romeo Dallaire, imploring the then head of UN peacekeeping, Kofi Annan, for authority to defend Rwandan civilians - many of whom had taken refuge in UN compounds under implicit and sometimes explicit promises of protection.

Here, too, is Annan's faxed response - ordering Dallaire to defend only the UN's image of impartiality, forbidding him to protect desperate civilians waiting to die. Next, it details the withdrawal of UN troops, even while blood flowed and the assassins reigned, leaving 800,000 Rwandans to their fate.


His own legions have raped and pillaged. In two present scandals, over the oil-for-food programme in Iraq, and sex-for-food in Congo, Annan was personally aware of malfeasance among his staff, but again responded with passivity.

...(W)hen I worked in Liberia in the mid-Nineties a new chief administrative officer was dispatched to Monrovia by the UN to replace the previous CAO, who was removed (then reassigned elsewhere) for taking a 15 per cent kickback on UN procurement contracts. In the name of cleaning up the old corruption, the new CAO tapped our phones, paid locals to spy for him and threatened to send home anyone who opposed him, all to facilitate his own quest for a 15 per cent kickback on everything we purchased.

The worst part was watching him try to coerce as many of his young 'local staff' to sleep with him as possible. A UN salary is enough money to support an entire extended family in a country such as Liberia, so these vulnerable women were in a tortuously compromised position by their boss's unwanted advances.

Sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and embezzlement. How times change! Just in the last two months we have seen the the UN's Refugee Commissioner forced to resign over sexual harassment charges and the UN's Chief Auditor accused of it, rampant rape and sex trafficking by UN peacekeepers in Congo and Kosovo, and of course the US$100 billion Oil-for-Food-and-Weapons-and-Palaces corruption/nepotism/embezzlement scandal.

I was the human rights lawyer and these girls would come to my office in tears asking for help. I wrote memo after memo of complaint to my chain of command, but no one did anything. I even confronted the CAO personally. To no effect. When I visited the UN human resources office in New York to complain personally, they laughed at my naive outrage: 'It happens all the time in the field,' they said. 'There's nothing we can do.'

In the meantime, a quarter of a million Liberians died, and warring factions committed war crimes. And the UN did - nothing. Just as it was simultaneously doing nothing, more infamously, in Rwanda and Bosnia.

Before I met him in Liberia, that CAO, Krishna Gowandan, had been knocking around West Africa for years in various UN jobs, always mired in corruption, never disciplined, always promoted and reassigned - a pattern all too familiar at the UN - during which time the head of personnel was Kofi Annan. (Gowandan was eventually indicted by US federal prosecutors in New York for $1.5 million worth of fraudulent kickbacks on UN construction jobs. He has since died.)

What kind of leadership would tolerate this conduct 10 years ago? The answer is: precisely the same leadership that, 10 years later, permitted the oil-for-food scandal and the sex-for-food scandal. Why did it take everyone 10 years to figure this out?

The second searing irony for me is that the American neoconservative right has occupied the moral high ground in critique of Annan, outflanking the left, which sits on indefensible territory in his support. But if prevention of genocide and protection of the vulnerable are not core priorities on the left, then what is? If anyone's values have been betrayed, it is those of us on the left who believe most deeply in the organisation's ideals. I am mystified by the reluctance of the left both in the US and the UK (the Guardian 's coverage, for example) to criticise Annan's leadership. The bodies burn today in Darfur - and the women are raped - amid the sound of silence from Annan. How many genocides, the prevention of which is the UN's very raison d'ĂȘtre, will we endure before the left is moved to criticise Annan? Shouldn't we be hearing the left screaming bloody murder about the UN's failure to protect vulnerable Africans? Has it lost its compass so badly that it purports to excuse the rape of Congolese women by UN peacekeepers under Annan's watch? Is stealing money intended for widows and orphans in Iraq merely a forgivable bureaucratic snafu?

I am co-author of a book critical of Annan's peacekeeping legacy, Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone . My co-author, Dr Andrew Thomson, penned a line that drove the UN leadership to fire him. Lamenting UN negligence in failing Bosnian Muslims whom it had promised to protect in its 'safe area' of Srebrenica - where 8,000 men were slaughtered - Thomson wrote: 'If blue-helmeted UN peacekeepers show up in your town or village and offer to protect you, run. Or else get weapons. Your lives are worth so much less than theirs.'

Annan is not personally corrupt or incompetent. But the UN cannot have failed more catastrophically when the stakes have been highest. If he does not lose his job for that, then for what? And if not now, when?

(Emphasis added.)

Britain's Guardian and its weekend edition, The Observer, are normally a welcoming echo chamber for the transnational progressives / socialists / anti-Americans / NGO disciples / Eurocrats / human rights "advocates" / leftists. It is quite a pleasant surprise to read some harsh truths about UN abuse, and the hundreds of thousands of deaths it has caused, assisted in, and allowed to happen.


Quote for the day

He who befriends and advances friend and foe alike will only arouse distaste for his friendship and contempt for his enmity. He will earn the scorn of his enemy and facilitate his hostile designs; he will lose his friend, who will join the ranks of his enemies.

- Ibn Hazm (994 - 1064)
Islamic historian and theologian

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Impeccable timing

On 22 April 2004, the day after the Security Council passed a resolution authorizing Volcker's inquiry into the Oil-for-Food-and-Weapons-and-Palaces scandal, Kofi Annan's chief of staff Mr Iqbal Riza of Pakistan, ordered three years worth of files on Oil for Food destroyed. The documentation was so voluminous that the shredding took seven months.

The Washington Times provides more damning detail:

As the Volcker panel points out, "The timing of the destruction order is striking because of Mr. Riza's awareness of the Committee's impending investigation." Mr. Riza's order came just one day after the Security Council passed Resolution 1538, welcoming the decision by his boss, Mr. Annan, to appoint an independent panel to investigate the oil-for-food program. Even more troubling is the fact that 10 days earlier, Mr. Riza personally wrote to the heads of the nine U.N.-related agencies that administered the program in northern Iraq to request that they cooperate with the investigation and "take all necessary steps to collect, preserve and secure all files, records and documents...relating to the Oil-for-Food Programme."

In another coincidence of timing, Mr Riza abruptly announced his retirement on 22 December 2004, the very day he admitted to the panel that he shredded the documents.

When first interviewed by the Volcker committee on December 20, Mr. Riza failed to disclose that he had authorized the destruction of three years worth of documents. Two days later, he told the committee that some of the files had been destroyed, and produced a copy of his memorandum authorizing their shredding. That very day, Mr. Riza -- one of the most powerful figures at the United Nations -- suddenly announced his retirement.

(Emphasis added.)

The timing is impeccable. The arrogance is breathtaking.

UPDATE: Reuters offers some more juicy tidbits.

Annan chief of staff Iqbal Riza "acted imprudently and in contravention of his own April 12, 2004, directives regarding the preservation of all documents relating to the program," said a report by the Independent Inquiry Committee led by Paul Volcker.

Riza, a 70-year-old Pakistani, is a long-time confidant of Annan. He was his deputy in the U.N. peacekeeping department before Annan became secretary-general in January 1997.

That would mean that his permanently callous-free hands are stained with rivers of Rwandan blood.

But wait! Don Kofi won't let his man get canned and become a stool pigeon. There is another critical detail getting very little media play...

Riza stepped down as Annan's chief of staff in December but remained on the payroll until the end of February, after which Annan rehired him for $1 a year as an adviser, according to chief U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard. The arrangement enabled Riza to maintain his diplomatic immunity as a U.N. employee.

(Emphasis added.)