Kofi Annan must have the world's thickest set of industrial-quality earplugs.
How else can he block out the cries of Congolese girls raped by United Nations "peacekeepers" sent to protect the innocents from harm?
Fifty U.N. peacekeepers and U.N. civilian officers face an estimated 150 allegations of sexual exploitation and rape in the Congo alone. Last Friday, ABC's "20/20" program aired a devastating expose by investigative reporter Brian Ross highlighting some of the worst alleged crimes.
The accused include Didier Bourguet, a U.N. senior official from France charged with running an Internet pedophile ring in the Congo. According to ABC News and others, pictures taken from his personal computer contained thousands of photos of him with hundreds of girls. Police say Bourguet had turned his bedroom, plastered with mirrors and rigged with remote-control cameras, into a stealth porn studio. He was caught in a sting operation while allegedly preparing to rape a 12-year-old girl.
In one of the photos confiscated from Bourguet, a tear can be seen rolling down the cheek of a victim.
Hundreds of babies, fathered by U.N. personnel, have been born to Congolese girls and women -- including the 15-year-old deaf mute daughter of Aimee Tsesi, who told Ross she was turned away at the gates of the U.N. camp when she went for assistance. "The U.N. is not able to give me food or money for my grandson," she told ABC News. "But if the U.N. hadn't brought this soldier here, my daughter would not have become pregnant. And I would not be going through this suffering."
Annan's spinners would have us believe that the problem of U.N. sex predators is confined to a tiny band of rogues and locals beyond the control of headquarters. But according to Bourguet's lawyer, there was an entire network of U.N. personnel who had sex with underage girls in Congo and the Central African Republic. Investigators are now digging into claims of U.N. infiltration by organized pedophiles.
The Times of London reports further that two Russian pilots who served in the U.N.'s peacekeeping contingent based in Mbandaka "paid young girls with jars of mayonnaise and jam to have sex with them. They filmed the sessions and sent the tapes to Russia. But the men were tipped off and left the area before U.N. investigators arrived." The paper also reports that at least two other U.N. officials -- a Ukrainian and a Canadian -- left the Congo after getting local women pregnant.
In July 2002, Congolese military official Jean Pierre Ondekane said that all the U.N. mission in Congo would be remembered for in the village of Kisangani was "for running after little girls." Annan's special adviser from Jordan, Prince Zeid Raad Al Hussein, concluded last year that the "situation appears to be one of 'zero-compliance with zero-tolerance' throughout the mission."
Human rights groups say such monstrosities have been tolerated by U.N. brass for years. Joseph Loconte noted in the Weekly Standard last month that the Congo revelations come three years after another U.N. report found "widespread" evidence of sexual abuse of West African refugees. Girls and women in East Timor, Cambodia and Kosovo have reported sex crimes perpetrated by U.N. peacekeepers.
In 2001, American whistleblower Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska policewoman who worked for U.N. security in Bosnia, uncovered scores of sex crime allegations and prostitution rings in the Balkans involving her fellow U.N. employees. Girls were forced to dance in bars for U.N. personnel and beaten or raped, Bolkovac reported. After being fired from her job for "time sheet irregularities," she told a British tribunal that Mike Stiers, the international police task force's deputy commissioner, flippantly dismissed victims of human trafficking as "just prostitutes."
This mother of all humanitarian abuse scandals at the U.N. is only just beginning to pierce the world's conscience. Annan has trotted out a refurbished zero-tolerance policy and is trumpeting a few arrests in Morocco. But such faint-hearted damage control measures are not enough.
It's time to rethink the nearly half-billion dollars in aid we send to U.N. peacekeeping operations. How much more aid must we squander on holier-than-thou wolves in do-gooders' clothing? For the sake of the innocents raped and pillaged in the name of humanitarianism, let's get stingy.