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  • Checking Their Credentials

    Posted by James R. Rummel on March 1st, 2007 (All posts by )

    The United Nations has once again criticized the United States for our treatment of enemy combatants held at Gitmo. They claim that we are violating their “fundamental human rights”.

    The UN’s opinion means so much to me right now.

    Maybe we just don’t agree on what the word “violation” means.

     

    19 Responses to “Checking Their Credentials”

    1. Wes Turner Says:

      Indeed the U.N., much like the U.S. military, has to deal with corruption and abuses by its members.

      But I would never even think of using the cases of rape, sexual abuse, murder and corruption in Iraq by the U.S. military as a reason to dismiss the credibility or credentials of the entire organization. Would James?

    2. James R. Rummel Says:

      But I would never even think of using the cases of rape, sexual abuse, murder and corruption in Iraq by the U.S. military as a reason to dismiss the credibility or credentials of the entire organization. Would James?

      The UN is infested with top down corruption that no reform seems to fix. This is hardly the problem with the US military.

      If corruption, rape, abuse and criminal activity is endemic to an organization, then that organization certainly has no business passing judgement on anyone. Let alone on our military forces, which actively seek out and punish wrongdoers within the ranks.

      James

    3. Wes Turner Says:

      James: The links you cite contradict your claim that rape, abuse and criminal activity are endemic at the UN.

      Two of the links refer to the same BBC report that relies almost exclusively on information from the UN’s own investigations. Reports exposing the biggest rape cases in Iraq by the U.S. military originated with news media investigations, not with internatl U.S. military investigations.

      Moreover, the two links, which detail cases of sex-related abuses, focus exclusively on UN personnel, not on UN management or officials. Almost all the sexual abuses alleged in the report were by peacekeeping personnel. The third link you cite notes that these personnel cannot be punished by the UN under most circumstances. They are soldiers from other countries that have agreed to participate in a UN action, they are not UN soldiers.

      Based on the links you provide, it’s clear that UN responsiblity for rape and abuse by peacekeepers is far less direct than the responsibility of US military commanders for the rape and abuse at Abu Ghraib, Haditha and elsewhere in Iraq.

      As for the oil-for-food scandal, it is indeed wider ranging and longer lived than the scandals associated with Halliburton and other no-bid contracts for work in Iraq. But, again, the scandal is being investigated by UN itself.

      I remain open to the idea that the UN peacekeeping apparatus is incomparably more corrupt than the US military, but at this point, the evidence you’ve provided all points the other way and I remain unconvinced.

    4. outraged Says:

      And even if the UN were more corrupt than the US military in Iraq (which it’s not), the woman who complained, Louise Arbour, a former supreme court Justice in Canada, is highly respected.

      But the larger point is this: can you Bush administration supporters tolerate any criticism? The administration’s game that Guantanamo is “foreign territory,” and thus inmates have no rights, is so absurd, that numerous rights organizations, governments, and many Americans too, have condemned it. Are you going to grapple with this universal condemnation, or just try to undermine the critics one by one? Then when you consider that more than 80% of the “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo were not captured by us, but were handed over to us in sweeps by Pakistan and factions within Afghanistan, they certainly begin to seem like prisoners of war (who have rights).

      People who support extraordinary rendition, holding prisoners for years without trial, spying on Quaker peace groups, and all these other Bush administration innovations, lack the imagination to realize that they too may be a target someday.

    5. Jonathan Says:

      Wes Turner:
      Based on the links you provide, it’s clear that UN responsiblity for rape and abuse by peacekeepers is far less direct than the responsibility of US military commanders for the rape and abuse at Abu Ghraib, Haditha and elsewhere in Iraq.

      People are in prison for Abu Ghraib and on trial for Haditha. They were put there by US military commanders. Have any UN “peacekeepers” been punished for anything?

      As for the oil-for-food scandal, it is indeed wider ranging and longer lived than the scandals associated with Halliburton and other no-bid contracts for work in Iraq. But, again, the scandal is being investigated by UN itself.

      Not just wider ranging and longer lived, the biggest financial scandal in history by a wide margin. And yes, the principled UN leaders are “investigating” — and OJ is looking for the real killers. Renews my faith in humanity, it does!

      ——–

      Outraged:
      But the larger point is this: can you Bush administration supporters tolerate any criticism?

      But the larger point is this: are you still beating your wife? The even larger point is, do you know the difference between an assertion and a question? See, other people can play this game too.

      Are you going to grapple with this universal condemnation, or just try to undermine the critics one by one?

      Good point. An argument stands or falls, not on logic and evidence but on poll results. An important principle, to be sure.

      Then when you consider that more than 80% of the “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo were not captured by us, but were handed over to us in sweeps by Pakistan and factions within Afghanistan, they certainly begin to seem like prisoners of war (who have rights).

      Why the quotes around “enemy combatants”? Are they not enemy combatants? They were fighting us or our allies and were not in uniform when captured. We could summarily shoot them and not break any rules (and if we did so we would be acting far more humanely than they do with captives). The problem that people of your persuasion have is that you ignore the obsolescence of the Geneva Conventions in modern war. You might gain more traction in forums like this one if you proposed an alternative way for us to deal with captured terrorist fanatics.

      People who support extraordinary rendition, holding prisoners for years without trial, spying on Quaker peace groups, and all these other Bush administration innovations, lack the imagination to realize that they too may be a target someday.

      Or maybe they disagree on the merits of your lame arguments.

    6. Wes Turner Says:

      Jonathan writes: “People are in prison for Abu Ghraib and on trial for Haditha. They were put there by US military commanders. Have any UN “peacekeepers” been punished for anything?”

      Yes. UN peacekeepers have been punished, according to the links James provides. Did you even read them? Hundreds have been dismissed, the strongest sanction available to the UN.

      If you did, you know that the reason few, if any, peacekeepers have been jailed in these cases is that the UN doesn’t have that kind of authority over troops borrowed from the military–including those of the U.S. (Are you also familiar with U.S. insistence that its troops used in peacekeeping not be accountable to UN authorities? I suspect you are, but are not letting the facts get in the way of your argument.)

      No one is asserting that UN peacekeepers have a better record than U.S. troops in the worst war zones. The point is that rape and abuse in not “endemic” in the UN itself. And if it isn’t, James is basically applying a double standard to the UN and the U.S. military.

      It’s also worth pointing out that the Haditha case involved murder, and Abu Ghraib involved some astonishingly sadistic sexual abuse and torture. They are clearly of a different order of magnitude from the vast majority of cases turned up by UN investigations cited in James’ links. And in Haditha and Abu Ghraib, the military took no prosecutorial action until U.S. news media investigations raised questions about the military officials’ statements about both matters.

      The kind of abuses at Abu Ghraib and Haditha are in no way “endemic” to the U.S. military. They are the actions of a very, very few misguided individuals and, while the military leadership needs to be held morally accountable, no one should confuse that with a blanket condemnation of the military itself. All I’m asking is that you and James apply the same standard to the UN.

    7. Jonathan Says:

      You haven’t contradicted my points. US military people are far more accountable than UN personnel have been, and have a superior record of both military and personal performance.

      The crimes at Abu Ghraib were minor, humiliations. Haditha may have been murder, maybe not. The soldiers involved are being tried. How many armies would even have investigated?

      The crimes of UN soldiers include rapes, probably murder. Some of the soldiers were later dismissed but not punished. Seems like a systemic problem. The crimes of the UN include ordering its “peacekeepers” to stand aside while massacres were committed in the Balkans. The UN’s crimes include dithering for years while hundreds of thousands were murdered in the Sudan. If the USA had invaded Sudan and deposed its government hundreds of thousands of people might have been saved, but people like you would have complained. You would have been outraged by any Sudanese Abu Ghraibs or Hadithas.

      The USA won’t submit its soldiers to UN command because to do so would be illegal under our Constitution. It would also be extremely stupid, as UN command has an unparalleled record of incompetence.

      And why should I hold the UN to the same standard as my own country’s govt and military? I didn’t vote for the UN. Nobody elected it. It’s not accountable to me or my fellow Americans. It doesn’t serve our interests and we owe it much less consideration than we give it.

    8. Wes Turner Says:

      “And why should I hold the UN to the same standard as my own country’s govt and military?”

      Then we agree, at least, that you exercise a double standard when comparing UN peacekeepers and US soldiers.

      Your entire worldview appears to be based on judgments arrived at via double standards. So it explains a lot that you need to ask why one would apply standards equally to the UN and the U.S. First off, if you don’t apply criteria equally, they aren’t standards, they’re rhetorical devices.

      If you admit that you’re judging the UN by different standards, how do you expect anyone to be persuaded by your assertion that, rape, sex abuse and corruption are more endemic to the UN than to the U.S. military?

      I get a sense, Jonathan, that your rhetoric is aimed only at driving highly partisan conservatives further to the right, rather than at persuading moderates or liberals to your worldview. If that is the case, you are correct, double standards are the way to go, without them, you’re unarmed.

      In other words, if you are basing your criticism of the UN on principles, then you don’t need to even ask whether it’s appropriate to

      You also seem to be unclear on the difference between crimes of omission and commission.

      You assert: “The UN’s crimes include dithering for years while hundreds of thousands were murdered in the Sudan.”

      The U.S. “dithered” as well. Are you suggesting the U.S., and every other country that “dithered” is guilty of a crime? Or, are you applying the double standard again in this case: calling the UN criminal for something the US did as well?

      You ask: “How many armies would even investigate?”

      Are you suggesting that most would not? Where’s your evidence for that? As I’ve already noted, James’ links point to stories about UN investigations. This is origin of the information about abuses. As I also noted, Abu Ghraib and Haditha became known to the public in America largely because of news media investigations

    9. Ginny Says:

      Abu Ghraib was known to the world because of news stories; by the time the story was in the news, however, the army was several months into an investigation. It was not until journalists were given the graphic pictures, that did so much to expand circulation and fix
      Abu Ghraib in readers’ minds that attention was given and extensive exposure began.

      Srbnecia remains a turning point for many of us. Certainly, given man’s nature, no organization can make the entire world safe and secure. But leaving thousands to die because they have been drawn into the phony security of the UN is a sin of commission as much as omission. The UN ignored early pleas that Rwanda would be bathed in blood when at least a public acknowledgement of that potential might have saved lives.

      Also, I realize this may be cultural but it is hard not to see the age & vulnerability of the victims of UN sexual predators as making these acts especially heinous.

    10. Wes Turner Says:

      Ginny writes: “The UN ignored early pleas that Rwanda would be bathed in blood when at least a public acknowledgement of that potential might have saved lives.”

      It’s interesting that you believe the UN is uniquely qualified to prevent bloodshed in places like Rwanda–that only the UN should be held responsible for ignoring the “early pleas” from Rwanda. You might be exaggerating the UN’s potential effectiveness, but I certainly agree that it is the biggest, longest-lived multilateral venue for diplomacy, the UN holds great hope for the future.

    11. Jonathan Says:

      Of course I apply different standards to the UN than I do to my own country. This makes perfect sense and I never claimed otherwise. I apply different standards to a member of my family than I do to a random person I encounter in the street. My country’s govt, like my family, shares my interests to a much higher degree than an unrelated govt or institution would, and is much more accountable to me and my fellow Americans. The only people who claim otherwise are people who still think, sixty years and millions of deaths on, that “the UN holds great hope for the future” despite its abysmal record. You are entitled to believe this if you wish, but I see no reason why Americans (or anyone else) should defer to you.

    12. Wes Turner Says:

      Jonathan, I appreciate your honesty and openness about the role of bias in your worldview.

      If you are not using a single standard to measure corruption in the UN and the US military, why should anyone take your comparison seriously?

      You say you apply “different standards” to strangers and family members. I’m not sure what you mean by that or why you think it’s relevant.

      We are having a discussion here about whether the UN is more corrupt and inured to rape than the U.S. military is. We aren’t deciding whether to let someone help themselves to our refrigerator’s contents.

      I’ve read a few of your posts here, though, and I can say that you are at least consistent in your view that the U.S. should be expected to operate under lower moral standards, since it obtains some kind of moral sanction by virtue of its status in the world community.

      One of the liabilities of taking that view is that objective observers have no reason to take your assessments seriously, since you start from a confessed position of bias. But I guess if what you’re trying to do is further narrow the viewpoint of people who already agree with you, rather than persuade people who do not, it might make some weird kind of sense.

    13. Jonathan Says:

      …you are at least consistent in your view that the U.S. should be expected to operate under lower moral standards, since it obtains some kind of moral sanction by virtue of its status in the world community.

      That’s not my position. The USA operates under generally higher moral standards than do most other countries and the UN, and these higher standards are self-imposed. Nor does the USA obtain “moral sanction by virtue of its status in the world community.” The USA acts in self-defense and the furtherance of its interests, as other nations do. You beg the question by assuming that the USA needs permission to defend itself, and by assuming that the UN has legitimate authority to grant such permission.

    14. nate zuckerman Says:

      Put aside your dislike of the UN. Abuses going on? You bet. Here is a first person report that got first published in Chicago!
      http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/torture/

    15. Ginny Says:

      Wes,

      You must realize (as Jonathan does above) that your response had nothing to do with my comment. As in your earlier arguments – and of course this is something we all tend to do when we are tired & don’t really want to deal with other’s arguments nor give up our own assumptions – you circle, repeat, and ignore counter-arguments as you return to stating generalizations you assumed at the beginning but we aren’t willing to accept.

      My argument was not that the UN was uniquely placed in general but rather because of structural flaws it not only didn’t produce utopia (an impossible & even dangerous goal) but rather that it actually increased death and suffering. When it did so, we as members were disturbed in a way that those who were not members – and not responsible for a large share of the budget – might not be. The actions in Srbenecia were not bad because we expect so much of the great UN but bad because that was in itself precisely the most destructive action possible. The difference between an internal investigation discovered by the press and one prompted by the press is important.

      We can, of course, note other arguments. The attitude expressed as it lumbered slowly to help those hurt by the tsunami and its counterproductive (and incredibly long-term) care of those who become its wards in places like Palestine also indicate a system that can exacerbate rather than solve problems, partially because it makes assumptions about what produces the good life that have not been proven in practice.

    16. Wes Turner Says:

      “The actions in Srbenecia were not bad because we expect so much of the great UN but bad because that was in itself precisely the most destructive action possible.”

      The UN didn’t conduct a massacre, so I don’t see how you can call their actions “precisely” the most constructive.

      If you apply your principles to what’s going on in Iraq, e.g. the U.S. stands by while Iragi Interior Ministry death squads slaughter Sunnis, then you have to hold the U.S. reponsible for those deaths.

      You say the UN isn’t “uniquely placed,” yet you hold it exclusively responsible for not preventing the massacres in Rwanda. Why is that?

      Jonathan writes: “The USA operates under generally higher moral standards than do most other countries and the UN, and these higher standards are self-imposed.”

      But you’ve admitted that you use a different standard for measuring moral standards, so we have to assume that your comparison is a product of bias.

    17. Jonathan Says:

      The UN didn’t conduct a massacre, so I don’t see how you can call their actions “precisely” the most constructive.

      UN troops stood by as a massacre was committed. The UN field commander asked his commanders for permission to intervene to stop the massacre. They denied his request. Israel was vilified for much less in Lebanon in 1982.

      If you apply your principles to what’s going on in Iraq, e.g. the U.S. stands by while Iragi Interior Ministry death squads slaughter Sunnis, then you have to hold the U.S. reponsible for those deaths.

      The USA isn’t standing by. What do you think the “surge” is about?

      Jonathan writes: “The USA operates under generally higher moral standards than do most other countries and the UN, and these higher standards are self-imposed.’’

      But you’ve admitted that you use a different standard for measuring moral standards, so we have to assume that your comparison is a product of bias.

      Yes, ignore what I wrote about Americans holding themselves to higher standards than other countries do. Then make a red-herring accusation about my motives. That should throw the logic police off your trail.

    18. Wes Turner Says:

      Let’s remember that Ginny blames the U.S. for the Khmer Rouge’s slaughter of Cambodia. In her mind, the U.S. is responsible because it could have prevented it from happening, but chose not to.

      How then, does she then assert that the UN is worse?

      Jonathan: You say Americans hold themselves to higher standards. I certainly agree. But my comments are not about the standards Americans apply to themselves. I refer specifically to your claim that double standards are appropriate.

      You appear to be holding the UN accountable for acts of its individual peacekeepers, whereas you don’t hold the US miitary accountable for them. That’s a double standard, and you’ve said you think it’s an appropriate one.

    19. James A Pacella Says:

      The UN’s usefulness is way beyond over. It only serves for the anti-Freedom nations of the world to game the system and restrain the powers that will stand up for Freedom. Time to leave. Invite Israel to join NATO.