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Le Mont de Sisyphe
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Location: Zurich, Switzerland

Je suis beau et intelligent. À part cela, je suis juriste helvète, libéral-conservateur, amateur d'armes, passionné d'histoire et de politique. Je suis libéral et capitaliste convaincu car je pense que c'est cela l'état naturel de l'homme. Je parle le "Schwiizerdütsch" avec un accent zurichois, j'adore la bonne musique, la bière et surtout la femme avec qui je vis.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Kofi Annan, very uncool

You know what happens if as a reporter, you ask too many questions to the secretary general of the U.N.? You experience the highest ranked diplomat reacting very undiplomatically. I have just seen it on CNN, maybe there's also some video on the net [edit: the link to the video is at the end of this post]. Via FOXNews (AP):
At Annan's year-end news conference, he honed in on one of his most persistent critics, James Bone of The Times of London, who for months has raised questions at the daily U.N. briefing about the secretary-general and his son's knowledge and possible involvement in the Oil-for-Food scandal.

On Wednesday, Bone mentioned a Mercedes-Benz which Kojo [Annan's son, also being named in Oil-for-food - ed.] imported into Ghana using his father's diplomatic immunity to avoid taxes and customs duty, and said some of the secretary-general's version of oil-for-food related events "don't really make sense."

"I think you're being very cheeky," Annan interrupted. "Listen James Bone, you've been behaving like an overgrown schoolboy in this room for many, many months and years. You are an embarrassment to your colleagues and to your profession. Please stop misbehaving and please let's move on to a serious journalist."
Wow. That was straight-forward. Of course, I wouldn't like it either to be repeatedly reminded of my failures and that I am one of biggest political losers of the last years.

During this press conference, Kofi also explained what would have been his and his organization's ideal for Iraq.
Annan said his greatest regret was failure to prevent the war in Iraq.

"One thing that I would have liked to see done is for us to have done everything that we could have done to avoid a war in Iraq," he said. "That has brought such division within this organization and the international community. That is one thing that I must say still haunts me and bothers me."
It would of course have been preferable to maintain Saddam in power. Then of course, there wouldn't have been any "division" in this organization, but there wouldn't be any democratic first steps in Iraq either. Maybe should Kofi have kindly asked or suggested to Saddam to become a nice and democratic dictator...?

However, did it also "haunt and bother" Kofi when Saddam was threatening both his people and his neighbors? Or does it haunt and bother him having been chief of U.N. peacekeeping operations in 1994 when the Hutus chose to exterminate the Tutsis and when he decided to watch them doing so? A similar thing happened later in Srebrenica, Kofi being responsible for the operation as well. The outcome was the worst massacre in Europe since WW II. Of course, his "official" biography doesn't mention these episodes... Or is it haunting and bothering Kofi that the UN elegantly decided that the massacres in Darfur were not a "genocide"? And was it also haunting and bothering him when he agreed to stand up and to hold a minute of silence for those who "gave their lives for the Palestinian cause" [read: Shahids, you know those psychos who blow off busses and pizzerias] recently? Kofi's carreer is a shame. And he even got the peace nobel prize for all this...

It's really time for Kofi to retire and write his memoirs on how he wanted to "prevent the war". I will of course buy the book and put it in my bookshelf, next to Neville Chamberlain's "How to become a historical failure for Dummies".

UPDATE I (22.12.2005, 20:00): The video is available here.

UPDATE II (22.12.2005, 20:25): Roger L. Simon compares this to Nixon during Watergate and ends with a good one:
"Annan has twelve more months in his term as Secretary General. [That's the good news.-ed. What's the bad news? He has twelve more months.]"

UPDATE III (22.12.2005, 23:05): Claudia Rosset, of the FDD and Pajamas Media, has reacted to Kofi's embarassing outburst. She is one of the journalists Kofi Annan probably doesn't like very much. (Via the National Review):
[T]he U.N. Secretariat, despite all the recent talk of reform, evidently remains a place of secrecy and privilege, run by high officials who don’t mind talking about their global goals and grand legacies, but find it highly irritating to be held to normal standards of good governance or subjected to anything resembling the workings of a free press. And in this particular case, given the ferocity of Annan’s reaction, one has to wonder if there is even more to it. (...)

Bone’s question involved sludge turned up by Paul Volcker’s U.N.-authorized inquiry into the U.N. Oil-for-Food program for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Among other things, Volcker examined the work done by Kofi Annan’s son, Kojo Annan, for a Swiss-based private company, Cotecna Inspection, which in December, 1998 won an important U.N. contract to inspect Oil-for-Food relief goods imported into Iraq. While digging into these matters, Volcker came across evidence that toward the end of that same year, in November, 1998, Kojo Annan allegedly misused his father’s name and U.N diplomatic status to buy a Mercedes-Benz at a discount in Europe and ship it duty-free into Ghana. There, the U.N. resident representative at the time certified to the Ghanaian customs authorities that the Mercedes was for “personal use by Mr. Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary-General” — thus obtaining a customs exemption on the car of more than $14,000.

That discovery raised the question of whether Kofi Annan himself had been complicit in the alleged misuse of his own name and U.N. privileges. According to Volcker, Kofi Annan when asked about the deal claimed ignorance, saying “he did not know that Kojo Annan was buying a Mercedes-Benz in his name.” Volcker reported that he had found no evidence to contradict Annan. And there Volcker’s inquiry abandoned the trail, leaving the fate of the Mercedes itself a mystery.

But unless the Mercedes simply vaporized — lock, stock and documentation — upon arrival in Ghana, there is presumably more to the story — quite possibly involving paperwork with a U.N. stamp. So, for months, Bone and a number of other reporters, myself included, have been asking Annan’s aides what became of the Mercedes — and getting no answer except that Annan’s office does not consider this a U.N. matter.

Indeed, before Bone spoke up at Wednesday’s press conference, CNN had lobbed a softball version of the Mercedes question, to which Annan had replied, at some length, that he felt no obligation to provide any information related either to the car in particular, or the Volcker reports in general. On the Mercedes, he said: “My son and his lawyers are dealing with it. If you want to know more about it, please direct the questions to his lawyers or to him. I am neither his spokesman nor his lawyer.” On Volcker’s findings, Annan delivered what has become the U.N. Secretariat’s refrain: “The report of the Volcker commission is clear, and you have all read the thousands of pages of that report. And I am not going to rehash it here.”

So Bone tried to focus the question, seizing the chance to ask Annan directly: “The Volcker report says that the Mercedes was bought in your name, so as the owner of the car, can you tell us what happened to it and where it is now?” (...)

Indeed, Annan seems to have forgotten that far from giving him the “exoneration” he has claimed, Volcker issued “adverse findings” against Annan on a number of serious counts, including not only his failure to inquire adequately into his own son’s U.N.-related ventures; but also his own inappropriate delegation of Oil-for-Food responsibilities, his “inadequate response to and investigation of reports of Iraqi abuses and corruption of the Programme,” and assorted other failures of attention and oversight. “In sum,” reported Volcker, “the cumulative management performance of the Secretary-General fell short of the standards that the United Nations Organization should strive to maintain.” (...)

Backed up by thousands of pages produced by a $35 million 18-month investigation, that is perhaps a way of diplomatically suggesting that Annan himself is — how to put this? — an embarrassment to his colleagues and his profession?

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