GEORGETOWN, S.C. -- Here in the Carolina Lowcountry, there are few things lower in the esteem of American citizens than the United Nations. While filling the tank of my SUV this morning, I noted the following about the pickup truck at the pump ahead of me: a South Carolina license plate, a U.S. Marine Corps decal, a National Rifle Association decal, a gun rack in the rear window, a sticker reading "Armed Infidel" and another that said "Get US Out of the UN" on it. The owner, it turned out, was a medical doctor on his way to visit a patient. Apparently, down here, doctors still make house calls. Our brief conversation went something like this:
Doctor: "You're Col. North, aren't you?
Me: "I'd better be. I'm using his credit card."
Doctor: "That's a pretty Boykin spaniel you have there. Do you hunt her?"
Me: "Every chance I get."
Doctor: "You're on the NRA board, aren't you?"
Me: "Yes. I see you're a member. Were you in the Marines?"
Doctor: "No, my son is. He just got back from Afghanistan. I'm really proud of him, but I want him to get out and finish college before Obama sells us out to the U.N. They're out to take away our Second Amendment rights. This isn't about 'gun rights.' Guns don't have rights. We do. 'We the People' have rights -- and one of 'em is the right to keep and bear arms. That's why I belong to the NRA and why we ought to get out of the U.N."
We parted so he could get to his patient. In the car, I turned on the radio to hear the mellifluous voice of former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan -- now the U.N.'s "special emissary" -- announcing in Geneva yet another "peace plan" for Syria. He claims to have had "productive discussions" in Damascus with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad on a "transition plan" and says that the U.N. Security Council must now "send a message to all that there will be consequences for noncompliance."
Annan's announcement prompted a scurry of diplomats and "experts" rushing to microphones in New York, Washington, London, Paris and Moscow -- all expounding on this "new initiative." Meanwhile, the killing in Syria continues. Opposition groups and human rights organizations now estimate that more than 17,000 have been killed in the 15-month uprising against the Assad regime.
The continuing catastrophe for the people of Syria isn't likely to end any time soon. At the instigation of Annan's "working group," two separate Syrian opposition delegations went to Moscow this week, seeking concessions from the Kremlin on Russia's backing for Assad. After meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, they left empty-handed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is committed to retaining Russia's naval base at Tartus, Syria. Moscow's toehold in the Mediterranean Sea depends on Assad's remaining in power. That's why Russia will continue to use its veto power as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to block any serious sanctions against the Assad regime.
The Syrian civil war is increasingly deadly -- and a vivid reminder of what happens when the fate of a nation is placed in the hands of dithering diplomats at the United Nations. Everyone ought to know by now that U.N. bluster about serious "consequences for noncompliance" and utopian talk about a "transitional government in Damascus" are futile. And that's in keeping with the U.N. track record on everything from stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them to the disaster in Somalia.
These failures go beyond the intransigence of Beijing and Moscow. They also point to the naivete, incompetence and corruption in the "world body," as the U.N. bills itself.
It was Annan who promised to "clean up" the U.N. after Fox News exposed rampant fraud and bribery in the so-called oil-for-food program, which helped prop up Saddam Hussein's brutal regime in Baghdad. Apparently, he missed some. Two months ago, Fox News reported that the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization shipped sophisticated computer technology to North Korea in violation of U.N.-imposed sanctions. Now it's apparent that more high-tech computers were shipped by WIPO to Iran. Adding insult to injury, the banned shipments were financed by the United Nations Development Programme -- which gets most of its support from U.S. taxpayers.
Last year, the U.S. forked over more than $8 billion to the U.N. -- about 25 percent of the organization's budget. Apparently, that's not enough. This week, the U.N. told its 193 member countries that "donor nations" will have to increase their "contributions," and it has suggested "voluntary taxes" on carbon emissions, billionaires and currency transactions.
No wonder the doctor who admired my dog wants us to get out of the U.N. Maybe we should start by moving the U.N. out of the U.S. How about Mogadishu?