Tag Archives: United Nations

Putin, Troll

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s op-ed in today’s New York Times is … weird. It’s goal seems to be to urge President Obama not to launch a military strike against Syria, but it’s also about poking fun at the sort of American exceptionalism expressed in Obama’s recent speech to the nation. Some of the points are compelling and valid, but the piece as a whole is so totally riddled with boisterous hypocrisy, disingenuous double-standards and baffling untruths that any micro-analysis reveals just how anemic and ridiculous the document really is.

Let’s take a look at some key passages (Putin’s remarks are in bold-italics):

“The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.”

There are two ways to consider this passage, and both are important. First, Putin makes some valid arguments against US intervention — it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that military action will lead to an escalation of violence and extremism in the region. But let’s be real here: Putin’s thuggish regime has played one of the largest roles in enabling the already awful violence and extremism in Syria. Assad kills so wantonly and so freely in large part because he knows Putin’s got his back in the Security Council. Putin is also Assad’s main source of heavy weaponry.

“Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.”

These are strong, good arguments against outside intervention. Essentially, Putin argues that it’s not in the U.S’s interests to be embroiled in what is a sectarian civil war. But again, Putin himself has been one of the primary actors involved in making the conflict what it is.

“We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not.”

Oh, please. Given how hard Putin has fought to block any UN resolution from even verbally condemning Assad’s actions, no thinking person should take seriously this hilariously disingenuous fealty to international law.

“Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.”

Putin’s Russia launched a war against Georgia five years ago, and it wasn’t approved by the UN Security Council.

“No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.”

Thankfully, this is totally untrue. An investigation by Human Rights Watch found the Assad regime responsible for the attack, and minutes after this op-Ed was posted, a story broke that the upcoming UN investigation into the matter amasses an unbelievable amount of evidence implicating the Assad regime as the culprits.

“A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.”

This short segment is really the entire purpose of the op-Ed: convince the American people that the best way forward is embracing the Russian plan for a diplomatic solution. But Sam Stein captures the contradiction of Putin’s previous attempt to lay the blame for the chemical weapons attack on the opposition:

“My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”

Here we finally get to Putin’s criticism of American exceptionalism. You can judge for yourself whether or not you agree that it’s “dangerous” for a nation to believe itself to be exceptional, but just know that the only other country in the world that espouses a similar notion to its own people is — you guessed it — Putin’s Russia.

“There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Go ask a gay or lesbian Russian how they feel about this.

I can understand why readers and commentators find Vlad’s op-Ed interesting, and even “well-written”, but it should stop there. At its core, it’s a piece of disingenuous, hypocritical political propaganda penned by a KGB thug who couldn’t care less about international law, human rights, or the United Nations. Kudos to whoever wrote it.

(Photo: via Wikicommons)

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1.2 billion are stuck in the dark

Brad Plumer has the report:

The U.N. has set a big, ambitious goal of making sure everyone in the world has access to electricity by 2030. And how’s that going? Not so well.

That’s one upshot of a new progress report coordinated by the International Energy Agency and the World Bank, which notes that 1.2 billion people around the world are still stuck in the dark. And it’s unlikely that this number will shrink down to zero in the next two decades, the report notes, without a lot more money and effort.

The Economist has a handy chart showing regional access to energy, to put this in perspective:

Basically, population growth has far outpaced the rate of growth in electrification, leaving the IEA and World Bank to admit that the UN won’t be able to meet its 2030 goal if the current trend continues. Worse still is that the report also finds that, “business as usual would leave 12 percent and 31 percent of the world’s population in 2030 without electricity and modern cooking solutions, respectively.”

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The deadly malfeasance of the United Nations in Haiti and Zimbabwe

“To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small. To establish conditions under which justice and respect for … international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”

Those words make up the preamble to the United Nations charter. In a terrible, negligent and harrowing story, Jonathan Katz thoroughly exposes the UN for gross incompetence during a UN peacekeeping mission to Haiti, where they, the UN, were responsible for spreading a strain of cholera that has infected more than 647,000 people and killed about 8,000. The worst part is certainly the infected and killed Haitians but the morally repugnant aspect of this is that the UN initially tried to cover it up, then when exposed, cited legal immunity in order to escape compensating the victims, or accounting for the crime.

The place was Haiti. The mistake: a killer combination of cholera and gross negligence. The peacekeeping mission, known by its French initials, MINUSTAH, had been in the country since 2004, when it was authorized to protect an interim government installed after a coup. Six years later—thanks to a healthy dose of mission creep—the peacekeepers were still there. While rotating troops into what was now post-quake Haiti, the U.N. neglected to adequately screen a contingent of soldiers coming from an active cholera outbreak in Nepal. Upon arrival, the soldiers were sent to a rural U.N. base, outside the quake zone and long known for leaking sewage into a major river system that millions of Haitians used to drink, bathe, wash, and farm. Within days of their arrival, people downstream began to die. The epidemic then exploded, sickening more than 647,000 people, and killing in its first year more than twice the number of people who died on 9/11.

The justification from the UN for citing legal immunity:

The U.N. claimed total immunity from prosecution, liability, and the law. It based this notion on a U.N. convention, by way of a status-of-forces agreement, or SOFA, signed by Haiti’s interim prime minister (a former U.N. official) in 2004. Such agreements make it possible for foreign militaries to work without fear of harassment by local courts or police.

As it turns out, a UN whistleblower exposed a similar incident in Zimbabwe in 2008-09, that left 4,000 dead. This whistleblower attempted to warm his superiors at the United f’ing Nations about the growing epidemic before it accounted for the loss of thousands of lives, but was fired by his superior, who consequently had close friends in the Mugabe government that would have been negatively affected during the country’s election year. At least the UN tribunal found that the whistleblower had been wrongfully terminated and indeed, they were at fault for the outbreak of Cholera that took so many lives. But just as we applaud that, the UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs intends to appeal the judgement and reinstate those officials relieved of their posts for allowing the epidemic to rage on.

We began this post with the preamble to the UN charter. We can only hope that the organization we’ve all entrusted with ensuring and maintaining our global polity lives up to its founding words, and takes care of those poor Haitians and Zimbabweans they’ve wronged.

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Has Assad finally crossed the Rubicon?

Here’s the HuffPost with a good summary of the developing situation:

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the United States is investigating whether chemical weapons have been deployed in Syria, but he’s “deeply skeptical” of claims by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime that rebel forces were behind such an attack.

Both the Assad regime and Syrian rebels have accused each other of using chemical weapons in an attack on Tuesday that the government says killed 31 and wounded more than 100. But Obama suggested it’s more likely that if the weapons were used, the Syrian government was behind the attack.

“We know the Syrian government has the capacity to carry out chemical weapon attacks,” Obama said. “We know that there are those are in the Syrian government who have expressed a willingness to use chemical weapons if necessary to protect themselves. I am deeply skeptical of any claim that in fact it was the opposition that used chemical weapons. Everybody who knows the facts of the chemical weapons stockpiles inside of Syria as well as the Syrian government capabilities, I think, would question those claims. Once we establish the facts, I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game changer.”.

The President has said on more than one occasion that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime would be the red line, causing him to strongly consider military intervention to stop the gross atrocities carried out by Assad’s thugs daily. Here is the president on his reasoning for not intervening as it is:

Obama said the U.S. policy not to intervene militarily thus far is based on his desire to solve the problem as a global community. “It’s a world problem … when tens of thousands of people are being slaughtered, including innocent women and children,” Obama said.

– Publius

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