Wednesday, September 20, 2006

How seriously should we take the UN?

You may not have seen the wedding announcement in your local papers. But I was tempted to put up something humorous as a result of a speech today by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Chavez had the audacity or the bad taste to refer to the President of the United States as the "devil" and to make numerous "humorous" references to sulphur and other things that remained in the chambers of the General Assembly. He held up a copy of one of Noam Chomsky's books to explain what Americans should be reading. Chomsky is that notoriously left wing scold who has made a career of yapping about how terrible the US is. His most recent affront, at least that I know of, was his support of Hezbollah before the start of hostilities in Lebanon. That Chavez think's Chomsky should be on everyone's reading list is not a surprise. Chavez made those remarks after the Iranian president Ahmadinejad closed his tirade to the General Assembly with a prayer, that at least in my ears suggested that he hoped that the only acceptable future he could see is one of Islamic domination.

The night before Ahmadinejad's speech, NBC news commentator Brian Williams did an abysmal job of interviewing the "world leader" who among other things has denied the holocaust, suggested that Isreal should be wiped off the map and funded terrorists around the world. But Williams, seemingly trying to mirror Mike Wallace's lapdog performance seemed intent on asking softballs to Mr. Ahmadinejad. Wallace's performance could be at least partially excused as a result of his age and because his interview was done in Iran and thus conceivably if the president thought Wallace touched on too sensitive a subject he might be offed. But Williams had no such excuse. Presumably if Williams were a real news guy he might ask some tough questions but he did not. The Council on Foreign Relations seems to have given the Iranian president a tougher time than any journalist.

Chavez and Ahmadinejad's speech were two of the more entertaining rants offered to the assembled delegates. The ritual of giving equal stature to every nutcase from any country to be able to talk to the world is increasingly less useful. Chavez knew he had an audience. And like Idi Amin, who also made outrageous remarks at the UN, his remarks were designed to show how very little Mr. Chavez respects the UN. We know how he feels about the US, but his speech also suggests that he thinks the UN is a place not for diplomacy but for a world wide press conference.

With that kind of two day agenda I wonder whether these kinds of international gatherings have any promise. The evidence is not. But there was one bright spot, I have often criticized Madeline Albright but in this case the former Secretary of State condemned Chavez's remarks. That was the right thing to do.

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