WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ever since the brutal terrorist attacks of 9-11, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been trying to insinuate himself into the U.S.-led effort to counter the scourge of terrorism. Each of his attempts has been, appropriately enough, rebuffed. But despite the record, the "S.G.," as his adoring fans refer to him, may actually be able to make a positive contribution in the very near future.
Immediately after the kamikaze-style attacks in New York and Washington, and the failed attempt that ended in a farm field in Pennsylvania, Annan tried to make a public case for a lead U.N. role in the war against terrorism. On cue, a steady chorus of nations and global activists backed him up with a common chant -- only the U.N. is in a position to build an international coalition to fight terrorism at all levels -- military, financial, political, intelligence and economic. The idea was floated to have Osama bin Laden turned over to the, as yet non-existent, International Criminal Court for prosecution. And, at the "suggestion" of the secretary-general, a special session of the U.N. General Assembly began to debate the issue.
On Sept. 21, Annan published an opinion piece in The New York Times suggesting that the U.N. was the appropriate "forum necessary for building a universal coalition and ... global legitimacy for the long-term response to terrorism." It was an ill-timed and self-serving proposal that garnered support only from the usual suspects: Fidel Castro's Cuba, Libya, Iraq and, of course, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which isn't even represented at the U.N.
On Sept. 28, 2001, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a wide-ranging anti-terrorism resolution -- the U.N.'s 39th since 1972. The council stated, among other things, that all states shall: take the necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts and deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support or commit terrorist acts. The resolution calls on all member states, among other things, to freeze the financial assets of terrorist groups. As in the case of the previous resolutions -- and the U.N.'s 12 prior "Conventions" on terrorism -- the Security Council vowed to "monitor implementation" by member states.
Unfortunately, this resolution, like all those that preceded it, is unlikely to have any real effect in the current war on terrorism. Since the U.N. passed its first measure aimed at combating terrorism 38 years ago, Islamic radicals and Palestinian terrorists have murdered, maimed or injured over 12,000 innocent American men, women and children. The latest effort, passed with such acclaim, fails to name any terrorist groups or identify the practitioners of this deadly trade. Saudi Arabia, the nation we protected from Saddam Hussein a decade ago, may just be one of several states bound by the resolution that have yet to freeze or even identify the financial assets of Osama bin Laden or his al Qaeda network.
It ought to be clear that these resolutions and conventions are meaningless to the 28 terrorist organizations identified by the Bush administration last week. It also appears that the measures are equally trivial to those who vote for them. Only five of the counter-terror treaties have been ratified by more than 100 countries.
To make matters worse for global government supporters, on Oct. 2n, the General Assembly, in the midst of its debate on how to stem the growing tide of terror around the world, suddenly discovered that the assembled diplomats couldn't even arrive at a consensus definition of what constituted terrorism. Libya's U.N. Ambassador Abuzed Omar Dorda offered a solution: convene an international conference to arrive at a definition. After five days of rhetorical excess, Annan wrapped up the session and told reporters, "The General Assembly meeting is only the beginning." Some beginning.
The U.N. General Assembly wasn't finished, though. After being notified on Oct. 7 that the United States and Great Britain had launched military attacks against bin Laden and the Taliban thugs protecting him in Afghanistan, it quickly went to the next order of business, and the following day voted overwhelmingly to install Syria, a major state sponsor of terrorism, to sit on the U.N. Security Council in 2002.
Annan capped the U.N.'s month-long series of diplomatic debacles on Oct. 10 by expressing "anxiety" over a letter in which U.S. envoy John Negroponte put the U.N. on notice that, "We may find that our self-defense requires further actions with respect to other organizations and other states." In short: Saddam Hussein, you're next. The secretary-general told reporters, "That disturbed some of us."
Rather than being "disturbed," Annan ought to be preparing his colleagues at the U.N. to do something that really would be useful. President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair aren't about to surrender control to the U.N. of the worldwide coalition they have now assembled to defeat radical Islamic terrorism.
The next event in this campaign will be the inevitable collapse of the brutal Taliban regime in Kabul. If Kofi Annan wants to help in this effort, he should sit his fellow striped-pants, tea-and-crumpets colleagues down and start drafting the U.N. resolution that recognizes an interim government for Afghanistan that will allow the people of that tortured land the opportunity for self-determination.