Annan Smeared For Opposing Iraq Invasion

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Ban Ki Moon has now assumed the office of Secretary-General of the UN after Kofi Annan and as American representative at the UN John Bolton has been succeeded by Zalmay Khalilzad, until now American Ambassador in Baghdad. 

Will there be a difference? Definitely. Perhaps not global warming but thaw. The instinct to push ahead alone and demonstratively ignore others – not least the UN – which has characterized the Bush Administration and in which John Bolton excelled like a pit bull terrier will no doubt be more controlled.

This will probably give better results in the UN -also for the US-  and make life a little easier for Ban Ki Moon than it was for Kofi Annan. Bolton represented a minimalist view on the role of the Secretary-General: to direct the administrative service that the representatives of the states need and not ever tell governments what they might or ought to do.
Annan wisely avoided the role of some kind of secular pope but he was neither silent nor passive.

While he worked for a further development of the UN, Bolton became famous for his statement that he would be happy to see 10 floors disappear from the UN building.

While Kofi Annan argued for an expansion of the rule of law in the world Bolton claimed that following customary rules of international law was chiefly public relations stuff and that the US could ignore international conventions it had entered into.  It was said about a daughter of President Reagan who was sometimes sent to represent the US, that her place in the political spectrum was a few inches to the right of Djengis Khan. Bolton was definitely located at least 30 degrees to the right of Bush.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice must have been keen to export him from the State Department when she took over. That Bolton was not appointed ambassador to one of the Pacific islands which votes as loyally with the US as Byelorussia used to vote with the Soviet Union was regrettable and must be due to the strong support he had in the extreme neoconservative wing.

Condoleezza Rice must draw a sigh of relief at his disappearance from the UN and the rest of the world has good reasons to do the same. Ban Ki Moon is an experienced diplomat of recognized skill and we have now reasons to give him our full support.  We have also reason to feel gratitude to the statesman who leaves the UN: Kofi Annan.

I was present many times when he was in action in negotiations and in the Security Security Council. He was a superb diplomat who continued the quiet diplomacy for which Hammarskjold became famous. He had a keen ear and looked constructively for common denominators. He was intelligent, alert, unassuming, kind, full of humor and warmth.

He was careful in his public statements but did not go by the pattern that diplomats are often said to follow – to think twice before saying nothing. In the last few years Kofi Annan was the subject of a staggering smear campaign. The UN oil for food program was presented as a gigantic corruption within the UN, while the reality was in the main that the UN had been defrauded by corporations around the world acting together with Saddam.

Perhaps the main aim of the campaign was to downgrade the UN, which had had the temerity not to obey Uncle Sam and give the green light to the US invasion of Iraq. It is to the credit of Kofi Annan that he unhesitatingly and frankly declared that in his opinion the invasion was a violation of the UN Charter.  

Kofi Annan – like Secretary-Generals who preceded him – has been criticized for weaknesses in the UN administration. The comment should be made, in the first place, that Kofi Annan is the only Secretary-General who has been recruited from within the UN system and that he tried to push through reforms.

Secondly, it must be understood that the program and organization of the UN must be worked out in such a way that it will be approved by 192 member states with different interests. Without any criticism of Kofi Annan implied it must be said, lastly, that in electing leaders of the UN just as in electing their own leaders states do not ask many questions about the administrative talents of the candidates. There are enough requirements anyway.

God knows if it would be possible to put together any governments in the world if management talent were to be a sine qua non for ministers.  

Dr. Blix is the former Foreign Minister of Sweden and former head of the UN’s weapons inspection team in Iraq.


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