Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The MSM Rule About Non-American Scandals: Ignore the Story. Ignore It. Ignore It and Wait. Wait. Wait Until…

What is the most appropriate way to react when a major scandal hits a country, an organization, or a person who or which is not the United States, not an ally of the United States, not allied or otherwise linked to the United States, and/or not the economic incarnation (capitalism) of the United States?

The answer, for most of the mainstream media (in America as well as aborad), of course, is to ignore it. Ignore it. Ignore it. Ignore it and wait. Wait. Wait until the scandal, or part of the scandal, can be, in even the minutest way and (indeed) even if the charge is totally false, somehow tied to the United States, and … then let loose.

That is what is happening in the food-for-oil scandal.

Needless to say, the way the MSM (New York Times editorials come to mind) has handled (not to write mishandled) Kofi Annan is totally opposite to the way that same have handled, say, Donald Rumsfeld during the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Big words, hand-wringing, exoneration, and reassurance for the former, spitting accusations, castigation, mockery, and calls for dismissal, for the latter.

(Update: Two senior investigators with the U.N. committee probing corruption in the oil-for-food program have resigned in protest, saying they think a report that cleared Kofi Annan of meddling in the $64 billion operation was too soft on the secretary-general.)

And yet, it was/it is the Americans who, as usual, made the most penetrating investigations and took the most far-reaching reforms. As Claudia Rosett explains here:

Yet more scandal at the United Nations? Secret deals, millions in bribes, leading to billions in global kickbacks? What to do?

Have no fear, reform is here. The United Nations has already put in place a sweeping set of improvements, with Secretary-General Kofi Annan reorganizing and streamlining the world body to bring about, according to a U.N. reform dossier, "a culture of greater openness, coherence, innovation and confidence." A blue-ribbon panel has "set more stringent standards for judging the performance of peacekeepers, in the field and at Headquarters." And there is now a system for dealing with U.N. staff, that "gives more precedence to merit and competence and less to tenure and precedent."

All of which sounds terrific. Except that the reforms cited above, heralding the new era of openness, coherence, competence, integrity and improved peacekeeping are all plucked from a U.N. dossier released almost three years ago, in June 2002. These reforms were shepherded through by Mr. Annan starting in the late 1990s …

Since the U.N.'s self-described dawn of integrity three years ago (one of several such sunrises since Mr. Annan became secretary-general in 1997), we have seen the sex-for-food scandal in the Congo, featuring the rape of minors by U.N. peacekeepers, which continued well after press disclosures last year prompted a U.N. internal investigation. We have seen theft at the World Meteorological Association, scandal in the U.N. audit department, the resignation over sexual harassment charges of the refugee high commissioner Ruud Lubbers, turmoil within the Electoral Assistance Division, and allegations of corruption involving the U.N.'s Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization. We have seen rebellion by the U.N. Staff Union against "senior management, and a raft of resignations by senior U.N. officials who nonetheless linger on the premises on official salaries of a dollar a year, plus the various perquisites and connections the place affords.

Biggest of all, we have seen the former Oil for Food relief program for Iraq blow like Krakatoa. …

The UN has found a scapegoat: Now that Uncle Sam has been fingered, you can expect the mainstream media to make a much bigger deal about the scandal than before. The BBC:
"The bulk of the money that Saddam made came out of smuggling outside the oil-for-food programme, and it was on the American and British watch," Mr Annan said.

"Possibly they were the ones who knew exactly what was going on, and that the countries themselves decided to close their eyes to smuggling to Turkey and Jordan because they were allies."

In other words, qups Gregory Schreiber, what Annan said was, "It's Bush's fault that my son is a crook!"

That's a cry that the world, ignoring its inherent irony, will be sure to pick up.

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