WASHINGTON--My son long ago introduced me to the joys of The Onion, the hilarious Web site that features such parodies of the news as ``Clinton Deploys Vowels to Bosnia; Cities of Sjlbvdnzv, Grzny to be First Recipients.'' So, when on the night of the State of the Union address my son handed me an Internet printout headlined ``Iraq to Chair U.N. Disarmament Conference,'' I was sure he'd been dipping again into The Onion.
``It's better than that, Dad,'' he said. ``It's off CNN.''
I should have known. You can't parody the United Nations. It inhabits--no, it has constructed--a universe so Orwellian that, yes, Iraq is going to chair the May 12-June 27 session of the U.N.'s single most important disarmament negotiating forum.
Iran will co-chair.
Defenders of the U.N. will write this off as a simple accident, pointing out that the chairmanship rotates alphabetically under the U.N. absurdity that grants all member states equal moral standing. Fine. How then do U.N. defenders explain the recent elevation of Libya to the chairmanship of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights?
You couldn't make this one up either. It was no alphabetical accident. Libya was (BEG ITAL)elected, by deliberate vote, by overwhelming vote--33-3. The seven commission members from the European Union, ever reliable in their cynicism, abstained. They will now welcome a one-party police state--that specializes in abduction, assassination, torture and detention without trial--to the chair of the U.N.'s highest body charged with defending human rights.
This is the U.N. This is the institution whose support Democrats insist the United States must have to validate the legitimacy of its actions, such as the forcible disarming of Saddam Hussein. This is the institution to which they turn to test the worthiness of decisions taken by the president and Congress of the United States. It is a kind of moral idiocy: the greatest defender of freedom on the planet, enjoying the freest institutions, seeking its moral yardstick in the looking-glass values of a corrupt, perverse institutional relic.
When President Bush finished his stirring State of the Union case for war on Saddam, the last redoubt of his Democratic opponents was this: Well, yes, Saddam does appear to have weapons of mass destruction, but we cannot go it alone, we must have the U.N. behind us. (Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., has already introduced a resolution to that effect. Several House Democrats are planning to follow suit.)
These protestations are ritual, and mindless. How would the vote of Syria, member of both the Security Council and the State Department's list of terrorist states, confer legitimacy on America's actions? Or the vote of China? Or, for that matter, France, whose president called the president of Syria to coordinate Security Council strategy, and whose interest in stopping the war is a matter of finance (to protect its huge contracts with Saddam) and vanity (to be the one European ex-power that tames the American cowboy).
The great lament of the president's critics is that ``Europe'' is against us. This is a fiction. Britain is with us, as are Spain and Italy, as are Portugal and Denmark, as are Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and the other Central Europeans. The opponents are France and Germany, with Belgium and Luxembourg poodling along behind. By my count, that is four. When the United States asked NATO to convene to give military support to (fellow member) Turkey in the event of war with Iraq, 14 members said yes; only the Rhineland 4 objected.
The Rhineland 4 have been undermined, however, by, of all people, the mild-mannered Hans Blix. Blix never really found anything big in his scavenger hunt through Iraq, but he reported to the Security Council that Iraq's regime had failed to cooperate and disarm.
Under Resolution 1441, that is a material breach. It is a (BEG ITAL)casus belli. The French got around this inconvenience by changing the meaning of the very resolution they had negotiated just 90 days ago. Things are going swimmingly, they say, because with Blix in country, Iraq is contained. But the resolution says nothing about containment. It demands disarmament.
After the Blix report, there is really nowhere for France to hide. It is the moment of truth for France, and, in a larger sense, for the U.N.. The U.N. is on the verge of demonstrating finally and fatally both its moral bankruptcy and its strategic irrelevance: moral bankruptcy because it will have made a mockery of the very resolution on whose sanctity it insists; strategic irrelevance because the United States is going to disarm Iraq anyway.
Having proved itself impotent in the Balkan crisis and now again in the Iraq crisis, the U.N. will sink once again into irrelevance. This time it will not recover. And the world will be better off for it.