Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Now Then Come and Talk Like That

My fellow Singaporeans will have no difficulty recognizing that the title of this article is written in Singlish, our own peculiar brand of English.

I am referring to the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anan’s recent remarks about Iraq. As his term of office draws to a close, he seems to have found a certain passion about Iraq. For example, last week, he said the situation in Iraq is “almost civil war”. This week, speaking in an interview with BBC, he said,

“I think, given the level of violence, the level of killing and bitterness and the way that forces are arranged against each other. A few years ago, when we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war. This is much worse.”

In fact he admitted that the situation in Iraq is worse than it was before the war;

“If I were an average Iraqi obviously I would make the same comparison, that they had a dictator (Sadam Hussein) who was brutal but they had their streets, they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying, "Am I going to see my child again?" And the Iraqi government has not been able to bring the violence under control.”

BBC: Why didn't you stand up in the UN Security Council and say in 2003: "This war is illegal without a Security Council resolution"?

Kofi Annan: I think, if you go back to the records, you will discover that before the war I said that for the US and its allies to go to war without Security Council approval would not be in conformity with the Charter.

BBC: Which is a very sort of UN bureaucratic thing, rather than saying "it's illegal" which would have much more impact. And your aides say to me: "This was Kofi Annan, the cautious man, not wanting to confront."

Kofi Annan: It's easy to - what do the Americans call it? - "Saturday morning quarter-backing", or "armchair critic". I mean, it was one of those situations where even before a shot had been fired, you had millions in the street and it didn't make a difference.

I find it quite disgraceful that this man, who held one of the most influential positions in the world only found the courage to speak out against what he obviously felt to be wrong towards the end of this tenure; and after thousands of Iraqis and US soldiers have lost their lives.

Why didn’t he speak out strongly against the US invasion of Iraq at the time when it was clear to the whole world that Bush intended to attack Iraq regardless of whether or not she had any weapons of mass destruction? The French and the Germans did. Why didn’t you at least lend your support to their objections instead of cowering in the face of the bullying tactics of George W. Bush? If you felt powerless stop the man, shouldn’t you at least step down in protest.

And if any of you think that the next UN chief will do better, may I suggest that you not raise your hopes too high. In his own words, Mr Ban Ki-moon sees himself as a "harmoniser, balancer, mediator" ….

In other words, another toothless tiger who won’t stand a chance against the man who is worse than a fierce tiger.


Anonymous said...

Annan is a diplomat and in international politics, there is nothing 'illegal' coz rules are made by states and these rules can be changed/modified based on circumstances, especially if the state overruling the rules is the world's most powerful country in the world...

Sleepless in Singapore said...

In other words, bullies.