by William Norman Grigg
According to Gould, “UN women describe a godfather-like institution” — a network of cronyism and corruption. “This is compounded by the fact that in some UN member countries, women are treated as chattel instead of as equals.”
UN “peacekeepers” torture a Somali child over fire
|“We are not going to achieve a new world order without paying for it in blood as well as in words and money,” warned Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in the July/August 1995 issue of Foreign Affairs. Schlesinger had taken to the pages of the flagship journal of the Council on Foreign Relations to vindicate the dubious proposition that the United Nations military represents the thin blue line dividing peaceful civilization from savagery — in short, our planetary police. But what happens when the planetary police run amok and become the agents of bloodshed? When local police abuse their power, the abused have avenues of redress. From what body can those abused by the planetary police seek justice? The escalating scandal of unpunished atrocities committed by UN “peacekeepers” illustrates that the planetary police are beyond accountability.|
|“Perhaps our leaders should put the question to the people: what do we want the United Nations to be?” Schlesinger wrote. “Do we want it to avert more killing fields around the planet? Or do we want it to dwindle into impotence, leaving the world to the anarchy of nation-states?” Critics of the UN should eagerly embrace such a debate — provided that a copy of the above photograph is made available to all participants. First published in the United States on the cover of the June 24th issue of the left-wing weekly Village Voice, the photograph depicts two Belgian paladins of the new world order giddily holding a Somali child over an open flame. Other series of photographs depict UN soldiers kicking and stabbing a Somali, and another soldier apparently urinating on the Somali’s dead body; yet another shows a Somali child being forced to drink salt water, vomit, and worms. A second group of photos published in the July 15th Village Voice shows the dead bodies of bound Somalis — what appears to be the work of a death squad.One atrocity not caught on camera involved the “punishment” of a Somali child by placing him in a metal container and withholding water from him for two days; predictably, the relentless African heat killed the child. One Belgian UN soldier testified that it was a regular practice to use metal boxes as prison cells, and that other Somalis probably died similarly gruesome deaths.|
One might expect the photographs and first-person accounts of such atrocities to arouse public indignation against the UN’s “planetary police,” just as the endlessly replayed videotape of the Rodney King arrest turned public opinion against the Los Angeles Police Department. Perhaps this is why the photographs have been all but invisible in the United States, and precious little media attention has been devoted to an examination of UN atrocities.
Village Voice reporter Jennifer Gould came across the accounts of the Belgian atrocities while doing an earlier story about sexual harassment of female employees at UN headquarters. “When I spoke with people at the UN, time after time I was told, ‘If you think it’s bad here, you ought to see what happens in peacekeeping operations,’” Gould told The New American. “I started looking into that issue and found that the abuses I reported were well-known and easily documented. They were all over the media abroad, and I was really surprised it hadn’t been written about over here.”
Belgian military authorities launched an investigation into the atrocities following publication of a front-page story by Belgium’s Het Laatste Nieuws. In early July, Privates Claude Baert and Kurt Coelus, the two paratroopers photographed dangling the Somali child over a flame, were acquitted by a military court, which ruled that the incident — described by Baert and Coelus as a punishment for stealing — was “a form of playing without violence,” according to prosecutor Luc Walleyn. And what of discipline from the UN, whose “Code of Personal Conduct for Blue Helmets” requires that peacekeepers “respect and regard the human rights of all”? Gould reports that a UN spokesman dismissed the acquittal of Baert and Coelus by insisting that “the UN is not in the habit of embarrassing governments that contribute peacekeeping troops.”
For its diligence in reporting unwelcome news, Het Laatste Nieuws was rewarded with a bomb threat. Reporter Lieve Van Bastelaere informed The New American that the man arrested for making the threat owned a local bar that is frequented by many people in the military, including veterans of “peacekeeping” missions. “He apparently had been angered by what he had read,” Bastelaere observed dryly. “We’ve enhanced our security here at the paper, and the police took the threat seriously, even though he may have been drunk when he made it. He claimed not to remember phoning in the threat when he was arrested.”
In September, another military tribunal will be held to investigate the actions of Sergeant Dirk Nassel, the soldier photographed forcing a Somali boy to ingest worms and vomit. However, the Belgian military system — which is deeply entwined with the UN “peacekeeping” apparatus — has yet to inflict substantive penalties for abuses committed in the service of the UN. Several years ago, according to Gould, “Belgian soldiers were also accused of holding mock executions for Somali children and forcing them to dig their own graves; though their officer was given a suspended sentence, the soldiers were acquitted.” It is thus firmly established in Belgian military jurisprudence that service in the new world army is a license to commit barbarities with impunity.
Canadian, Italian Atrocities
Nor was the Belgian component of the UN’s “Operation Restore Hope” uniquely barbarous. Three members of a now-disbanded elite Canadian paratroop regiment were tried and convicted of criminal charges in the beating death of a 16-year-old Somali boy named Shidane Arone; the three “peacekeepers” had been photographed smiling beside the bloody corpse of the boy, whose hands had been bound. The incident prompted the creation of a Canadian government commission to review that nation’s military and its involvement in “peacekeeping” missions; however, the inquiry foundered on the obstructionism of political and military bodies and produced what Canadian critics call an incomplete and inadequate report.
On August 8th, Italian military officials admitted that Italian soldiers assigned to UN duty in Somalia had also tortured and otherwise abused Somali civilians. According to the Washington Post, “Two generals who led the Italian forces to Somalia resigned in June following publication of graphic reports of sexual violence against a Somali woman, electric torture of a young man and allegations that an officer had murdered a young boy.” Drugs and prostitutes also were allowed to circulate freely among Italian UN troops.
The Italian government assembled a five-member commission of inquiry, which interviewed 145 people and traveled to Africa to interview Somalis who had been tormented by UN troops or witnessed the bestial acts firsthand. The panel’s 46-page report documented that “the criminal events were not just the result of ‘rotten apples’ that you may find in any structure, but were rather the consequence of a stretched line of command and amused compliance toward such high jinks by some junior officers.”
“Shocking as it is, the UN scandal in Somalia is no anomaly,” wrote Gould in the Village Voice. “[An analysis] of documents and reports relating to recent UN peacekeeping operations has uncovered incidents ranging from murder and torture to sexual exploitation, harassment of and discrimination against local women and children.”
The January 18th New York Times reported that 47 Canadian UN troops who served in Bosnia were accused of “drunkenness, sex, black marketeering and patient abuse at a mental hospital they were guarding.” The soldiers had been assigned the “humanitarian” chore of guarding a mental hospital at Bakovici in order to secure it for the staff’s return. “The hospital instead became the setting for heavy drinking; sex between soldiers, nurses and interpreters that violated regulations; black-market sales; and harassment of the patients….”
During the “frenzy of looting” that broke out in Liberia in the spring of 1996, peacekeepers used UN vehicles to make off with pilfered goods, according to the April 12, 1996 issue of USA Today. UN vehicles — and the troops responsible for them — have also been a boon to Balkan drug smugglers. The August 9, 1996 Washington Times reported that “U.S. and Bosnian officials suspect that high-ranking UN officials from Jordan based in the central Bosnian towns of Bugojno and Travnik have routinely provided UN vehicles to help smugglers get contraband past checkpoints. The officers appear to have received money and the services of prostitutes from the smugglers, led by Islamic foreigners who entered Bosnia with U.S. approval to defend the Muslim government.”
Significantly, the Bosnian narco-ring apparently received critical support from UN police monitors, who were stationed in the Balkans in order to facilitate the creation of a civilian police force dedicated to upholding “world law.” A Pentagon official told the Washington Times that such problems are predictable, given that “the international police task force [in Bosnia] is a compendium of people from diverse countries with different degrees of professionalism and training and different backgrounds in operations and ethics” — a fairly compelling explanation of why UN-style “world law” cannot work.
The UN’s “nation-building” mission in Cambodia — long touted as among the world body’s proudest achievements — added to that unfortunate land’s abundant history of lawlessness. In 1993, 170 residents of Cambodia protested the abusive behavior of blue helmet troops in a letter to Yasushi Akashi, who served as then-Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s representative in Cambodia. Prominent among the complaints was the mistreatment of women, who were treated to abuse and harassment by UN officials “regularly in public restaurants, hotels and bars, banks, markets, and shops.”
New York Times correspondent Barbara Crossette, whose primary beat is the UN, elaborated: “The bad behavior [of UN forces in Cambodia] was not limited to abuse of women. There were bar fights, brawls, and shootouts and a proliferation of brothels, stolen vehicles and general drunken boorishness. Geographical origins were no indicator of what to expect. While some Asian and African troops got out of line, it was the soldiers of a Bulgarian battalion who had the worst reputation. They went down in local legend as ‘the Vulgarians.’” Cambodia has descended again into murderous chaos, and Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, believes that “the mess that Cambodia finds itself in today is in large part a product of the UN’s failure to uphold the rule of law” in the course of its “nation-building” mission.
Nightmare in Rwanda
The same lawlessness infected the UN mission to Rwanda, which suffered a Cambodia-style genocide earlier this decade. Crossette noted that Rwandans accused UN troops “of illicit trading, hit-and-run driving, sexual harassment and criminal abuse of diplomatic immunity they have bestowed on themselves. The disruptive personal behavior of some troops has been a factor in Rwanda’s demand that all peacekeepers be withdrawn from the country….”
Also contributing to that demand is the fact that UN forces in Rwanda actually abetted the worst bloodletting in recent memory — the Rwandan genocide of 1994, in which a half-million Tutsis were annihilated in approximately 100 days. “Many of the mass murderers were employees of the international relief agencies,” testified Peter Hammond of Frontline Fellowship in Holocaust in Rwanda. In one incident recounted by Hammond, Belgian UN troops stationed in a heavily fortified compound in Kigali “deceived the [Tutsi] refugees by assembling them for a meal in the dining hall and then [they] evacuated the base while the refugees were eating. Literally two minutes after the Belgians had driven out of their base, the Presidential Guard poured into the buildings annihilating the defenceless Tutsi refugees.”
When the Tutsi-organized Rwandan Patriotic Front drove many of the worst Hutu murderers from Rwanda into the Congo (then called Zaire), the UN intervened militarily — on the side of the murderers. One year after the genocide, wrote Peter Beinart in the October 30, 1995 issue of The New Republic, “former [Rwandan] government militias, often armed and sometimes in uniform, control many UN refugee camps, terrorizing civilians and plotting to reinvade.” Janet Fleischmann of Human Rights Watch-Africa reported, “The UN clearly took the lead in assisting these refugees who were in uniform and armed … and that helped them establish control over the refugee camps.” This development provoked the renowned French humanitarian group Medecins sans Frontieres and several other charitable organizations to withdraw from militia-controlled UN refugee camps.
When the UN “peacekeeping” mission to Rwanda finally furled its blue banner in March 1996, the reaction on the part of Rwandans was one of unalloyed relief. “Hundreds of genocide survivors protesting outside the UN headquarters in Kigali cheered … as the UN flag was lowered to mark the end of the United Nations’ peacekeeping mandate,” reported a March 3, 1996 Reuters wire service report. Apparently, Rwandans would rather face the prospect of bloody anarchy than submit to the variety of “peace” administered by UN troops.
Follow the Brothels
The market in prostitution — including child prostitution — thrives wherever blue berets decamp. According to Gould, records of UN peacekeeping missions document that “brothels have sprouted nearby — and in one case allegedly inside — UN compounds. In the latter case, prostitutes were allegedly employed by the UN and were reportedly even shipped on UN planes to fornicate with a UN staff member in hotels paid for by the UN.”
Last December a UN study on children in war reported that blue berets had been involved in child prostitution in six of the 12 countries which had been studied. In country after country unfortunate enough to attract the UN’s “humanitarian” intervention, “the arrival of peacekeeping troops has been accompanied with a rapid rise in child prostitution,” the document reported. Following the signing of a peace treaty in Mozambique in 1992, for example, “soldiers of the United Nations operation … recruited girls aged 12 to 18 years into prostitution.”
However, as Jennifer Gould learned, the mistreatment of women is something of a UN tradition — the world body’s enthusiastic support for radical feminism notwithstanding. In a report published in the May 20th Village Voice, Gould described the plight of Catherine Claxon, a UN employee who filed the first-ever sexual harassment complaint against the UN in 1991. After Claxon filed her complaint, “Someone fired a shot through the glass window of a coffee shop by the United Nations” — just above Claxon’s head. “Another bullet shattered Claxon’s windshield as she drove home from her job at the UN one night on the Long Island Expressway.” On three other occasions, Claxon was nearly run off the road — at the same spot where she was nearly killed by the gunshot. According to Gould, “UN women describe a godfather-like institution” — a network of cronyism and corruption. “This is compounded by the fact that in some UN member countries, women are treated as chattel instead of as equals.”
Gould described the UN as “a bizarre universe of intrigue and outrage, where diplomats from 185 countries — stuffed suits simmering with regional, religious, and class-bred hatreds — try to promote world peace.” Such is the character of the institution whose masters crave the power to enforce “world law.” The essence of that abstraction is captured in the photograph of “peacekeepers” Baert and Coelus playfully swinging a Somali child over a fire: Unaccountable power employed mercilessly against the helpless.
More than seven decades ago, while the U.S. Senate was debating ratification of the League of Nations Covenant, Senator William Borah (R-ID) sought to cool the ardor of the League’s supporters by dousing it with a bracing shower of cold reality. Those who believed that a world army would consist of stainless champions of “world peace” were ignoring the unyielding facts about human nature. A world army, Borah declared, would consist of “the gathered scum of the nations organized into a conglomerate international police force ordered hither and thither by the most heterogeneous and irresponsible body or court that ever confused or confounded the natural instincts and noble passions of a people.” Can there be any doubt that the UN has vindicated Borah’s dismal prophecy?
[William Norman Grigg is the author of several books from a constitutionalist perspective. He was formerly a senior editor of The New American magazine, the official publication of the John Birch Society.]