No surprises at the `iU.N. -->
The headline on Fox News encapsulated the essence of the story: “U.N.’s Ballooning $732 Million Haiti Peacekeeping Budget Goes Mostly to Its Own Personnel.” Did anyone really expect otherwise? The amazing thing about the United Nations is that this sinkhole of corruption has managed to retain any public credibility whatsoever. Consider: “The United Nations has quietly upped this year’s peacekeeping budget for earthquake-shattered Haiti to $732.4 million, with two-thirds of that amount going for the salary, perks, and upkeep of its own personnel, not residents of the devastated island.” The official term for this is BAUUN: “business as usual at the U.N.” Fox has the details:
Some $495.8 million goes for salaries, benefits, hazard pay, mandatory R&R allowances and upkeep for the peacekeepers and their international staff support. Only about $33.9 million, or 4.6 percent, of that salary total is going to what the U.N. calls “national staff” attached to the peacekeeping effort.
It gets better:
Presumably, the budget also includes at least part of some $10 million that the U.N. has spent on renting two passenger vessels, the Sea Voyager (known to some U.N. staffers as the “Love Boat”) and the Ola Esmeralda, for a minimum of 90 days each, as highly subsidized housing for some of its peacekeepers and humanitarian staff. The tab for the two vessels, which offer catered food, linen service and comfortable staterooms and lounges, is about $112,500 per day.
The kicker in all of this is the American involvement in this financial fiasco. “Under a cost-sharing formula, the U.S. pays a 27 percent share of the entire $732.4 million peacekeeping tab for Haiti during this 12 month period, or about $197.7 million.” This is in addition to the direct aid the United States provided to Haiti in the aftermath of its latest emergency.
The point to bear in mind about this scandal at the U.N. is that it is absolutely typical. With a budget well in excess of $20 billion (no one has successfully penetrated its byzantine, tardy, and incomplete system of accounting to arrive at an accurate number), the organization has become an increasingly troublesome and money-hungry institution. As the journalist Claudia Rosett wrote recently in Forbes, “Since its founding in 1945, … the U.N. has ballooned into a sort of post-colonial global empire, involving scores of thousands of staff, peacekeepers, agencies and proliferating agendas worldwide. With that has come a voracious hunger for money, in which U.N. planners keep casting an acquisitive eye at global commerce, looking for ways to tap in and open the spigots straight into the U.N.’s coffers.” For example? How about a “global tax” through which, as Rosett puts it, the U.N. would have its hand in your pocket “every time you fly, drink, bank, use the Internet or earn a buck.”
This, alas, is just the tip of the iceberg at the U.N. As Rosett has chronicled in painstaking and scandalizing detail over the last several years, the U.N. is a noxious combination of lofty “progressive” rhetoric and redistributionist schemes fired by mind-boggling incompetence and staggering corruption. The so-called “Oil-for-Food” program in Iraq, for example, was little more than a Soviet-sized congeries of bribes and payoffs masquerading as a humanitarian program. Look anywhere you please at the U.N.: at best you will see a model of waste and incompetence. At worst, you will discover a swamp of corruption deeply saturated with anti-Western, and especially anti-American, sentiment. We’ve always felt that Le Corbusier could have atoned somewhat for his architectural monstrosity on the East River if he had only provided a mechanism for detaching the U.N. building from land and floating it out into the Atlantic. At sea, it could sink or perhaps motor over to Brussels, where its business practices, not to mention its anti-Americanism, would be more welcome.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 28 Number 9, on page 1
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