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Letting dictators, oppressors and sponsors of terror address the General Assembly is not the democratic way

U.N. should keep tyrants off the stage


By —— Bio and Archives--October 7, 2007

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In Burma, an ominous silence has fallen. The ruling military junta has been answering the peaceful protests of dissident monks with beatings, arrests and untold killings. Even United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour, too often reticent about criticizing tyrannies, issued a statement Monday deploring the repression and asserting that in the current crackdown, Burma’s protesters “have become invisible.”

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But not all Burmese have been stifled. At the United Nations’ headquarters in New York, all 192 members have just enjoyed their allotted 15 minutes of fame on the General Assembly stage. So it was that on Monday, while troops in Burma were reportedly hunting down dissidents, Burma’s minister for foreign affairs, U Nyan Win, a mouthpiece for the junta, mounted the steps to the main stage. There, before the great golden backdrop, facing the grand annual meeting of the world’s sovereign states, he delivered a speech in which the core message was that normalcy had now returned in Myanmar.

There is plenty to question in that perverse sentiment. But one question to which the free nations of the world - including our own - seem to devote far too little thought is: Why did the U.N. allow Nyan Win that world platform in the first place?

The answer that it is the democratic way to let every sovereign state have its say is just not good enough. There is nothing democratic about this U.N. queue for the spotlight. Some spokespeople who ascend that stage do, indeed, speak as envoys or heads of legitimately elected governments. They fulfill the membership qualifications set out in the U.N. charter, which stresses freedom and the dignity of the individual, and begins “We the peoples of the United Nations . . .”

But others do not remotely speak for the people of their own nations. They represent the machinery of dictatorship, with its secret police, press censorship and Orwellian fictions so amply demonstrated by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These included not only his evasions about his regime’s nuclear bomb program, but his bizarre statement that there are no homosexuals in Iran.

Though Ahmadinejad has lately grabbed the headlines, and the locutions of Burma’s foreign minister stand out as prime hypocrisies of the season, these regimes are far from alone in enlisting the U.N. spotlight to further the highly undemocratic policy of abusing their own people.

Thus have the speakers at this 62d Annual Assembly of the United Nations included North Korea’s vice minister of foreign affairs, Choe Su Hon, lauding the “lifetime teachings of our fatherly leader President Kim Il Sung” - Kim being a nuclear-bomb-building tyrant under whose rule an estimated one million North Koreans have starved to death, and millions more endure lives of deprivation.

Zimbabwe’s longtime despot, President Robert Mugabe, flew in to opine about “dynamism in confronting the global challenges of the 21st century,” while back home his policies have beggared millions. Syria’s foreign minister, Walid Al-Moualem, detailed his government’s interest in bringing “consensus” to “fraternal Lebanon,” where Syria has been abetting the drive by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah to take full control of the Lebanese state.

What may appear to an American audience as irrelevant and even tedious theater is anything but harmless. The speeches on that U.N. stage are not, as a rule, meant for Americans, nor even for the multilateral audience in the chamber. Especially among repressive regimes, they are beamed to home countries and regional neighbors as evidence of the dignity and respect enjoyed by these governments at the world’s leading conclave of nations. They feature as one more blow to the courageous Burmese monks, the hungry North Koreans, the desperate opposition in Zimbabwe, and the democrats who risk prison when they raise their voices in places such as Syria and Iran.

Surely it is not too much to ask that the United Nations, which runs chiefly on the tax money and credibility of the free world, find a way to deprive the worst regimes of those annual 15 minutes of glory on its lofty stage.

Claudia Rosett (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) is a journalist-in-residence at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.



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Claudia Rosett -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Ms. Rosett, a Foreign Policy Fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum, a columnist of Forbes and a blogger for PJMedia, is a contributing editor of The New York Sun.


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