WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In wine, the experts say, vintage is everything. If that's the case, 2004 has turned out to be a very bad year for the United Nations. But the United Nations' vinegar may yet prove to be a very good thing for the rest of us -- particularly if the decision is made to break open the casks, pour out the putrid contents and start over.
For adherents of "internationalism" and "collective security" at the United Nations, 2004 has been a tough year. The "Oil-for-Food" scandal, a story that first broke on Fox News, now has "legs" of its own -- and investigators are honing in on those closest to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
To make matters worse for the egocentric Annan, George W. Bush, the man who challenged the United Nations to live up to its own stated resolutions and responsibilities -- and was castigated for doing so -- got himself re-elected. And now, just as Annan is planning to put the arm on American citizens for a multibillion-dollar makeover for his palace in Turtle Bay, along comes his handpicked "High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Changes" with a report that indicts the United Nations for its ineffectiveness.
It all points to a remarkable opportunity for the world's democracies to clean up the festering mess that the United Nations has become -- and create something more suited to the 21st century's new world disorder.
Though the multibillion-dollar Oil-for-Food scam has yet to rise to the level of importance in the U.S. media as the Scott Peterson trial, the international press corps -- usually sympathetic to the United Nations -- has started snooping around in France, Germany, Russia, China and the half-dozen other countries where officials may be implicated.
In the U.S. Congress, there are calls for Annan's resignation and measures to hold corrupt U.N. officials -- now immune from prosecution -- accountable for crimes they commit "while on duty." In Baghdad, FBI investigators, working with Iraqi and U.S. Justice Department prosecutors preparing the case against Saddam Hussein and other high-level officials of his regime, are weighing how they can learn more about how U.N.-administered funds were siphoned off to buy weapons, enrich Saddam and line the pockets of mendacious foreign officials and U.N. bureaucrats. And at the U.N. headquarters, Paul Volker, perhaps prodded by tenacious investigative journalism by Fox News correspondents Eric Shawn and Jonathan Hunt, is promising a "full and fair" report that will expose who got what, even if it goes "to the top" of the U.N. pyramid.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.