Speech delivered by Amb. Frank Ruddy at the conservative political action conference (c-pac), Mayflower Hotel, Washington D.C.,
Febr. 23, 1996
The poet William Blake wrote that "he who would do good to another
must do it in minute particulars. General good is the pies of the
scoundrel, hypocrite and flatterer." We heard all about the good of
mankind during the U.N.'s 50th anniversary celebrations a while back,
heady oratory about noble ideals and aspirations which the U.N. can
turn into reality for the good of all humanity. Let me give you some
idea of how the U.N. works when the speeches have ended, the cameras
and microphones are turned off, and the sculpted ice swans have
melted at the Secretary General's cocktail parties, some of Blake's
In 1994 our State Department nominated me to help run a referendum in a U.N. mission called MINURSO (they all sound like cough medicines) in a no-man's land called Western Sahara, located just where the name suggests. The referendum was to let 100'000 people living there decide whether to be an independent state or part of Morocco. If ever there was a job ready-made for the U.N. this was it, or so it seemed. The referendum was originally scheduled for January, 1992, and even today, 4 years and over a quarter Billion dollars later (that's over $2'500 per voter, too rich even for Steve Forbes), the referendum is dead in the water, or rather in the hot Saharan sand, but the U.N., like the Energizer Bunny, just keep going and going and going, pouring millions of dollars each month into a mission that is doing so little that if all its employees went on strike, no one would notice.
Worse than the extravagant waste of money on this mission over the years is the U.N.'s duplicity in managing it: the U.N. has sold out the nobodies, the 100'000 Saharans for whose right to self-determination the referendum was to be held, to keep favor with a somebody, King Hassan II of Morocco, who invaded Western Sahara years ago, lost his claim to the territory in the World Court and ordered his old chum and fellow North African, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, to provide a U.N. fig leaf to cover Morocco's naked aggression and occupation of Western Sahara.
During my time in Western Sahara, Morocco conducted, without a raised eyebrow from Boutros-Ghali's hand-picked representative who ran the referendum, a campaign of terror against the Saharan people. I had not seen the likes of it since I observed the apartheid government in South Africa in action against blacks when I visited there with Roy Wilkins in the early 70's. Morocco did not simply influence the referendum; they controlled it, down to what days the mission worked. Morocco tapped U.N. phones, intercepted U.N. mail and searched the living quarters of U.N. staff, with impunity. More importantly, the Moroccan authorities disenfranchised Saharan voters right and left and substituted Moroccan ringers in place of bona fide Saharan voters.
These outrages were documented to Boutros-Ghali's representative in MINURSO by outsiders like me, but also by U.N. contract employees and veteran U.N. professionals, but they were never acted on. Boutros-Ghali's man did not have the ... gravitas (that wasn't my first choice) to take on the King's gangster-in-chief in Western Sahara, a charming and ruthless flic, like Captain Segura, Batista's police chief in Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana. When these same outrages finally brought to the attention of the U.N. Headquarters official in charge of the referendum, they were dismissed as "not serious". Not necessarily wrong, just "not serious". The official, by the way, who reacted so cavalierly to these outrages was U.N. Undersecretary Kofi Annan, the current odds-on favorite to succeed Boutros-Ghali.
Just about this time last year I had just testified before Chairman Hal Rogers' U.N. appropriations subcommittee about what was going on at MINURSO. The testimony was picked up by the wire services and went all over the world. It was a cover story in Jeune Afrique, and on the basis of that testimony, N. Y. Times reporter Chris Hedges visited the mission and confirmed in the pages of the N. Y. Times what I had testified to. Once the media picked up the story, the U.N., like Captain Renaud in Casablanca, announced it was shocked, shocked to hear such things and would put their brand new inspector general on the case. His inspection was a whitewash of the mission, as expected, but as unexpected, the inspection report was laughable, literally. One doesn't expect to find much mirth in U.N. documents, but this was an unintended exception. For example, Colonel Dan Magee, who commanded U.S. troops in MINURSO, had complained that a senior mission official was alandering U.S. troops, publicly referring to them all as "a bunch of thieves". Magee thought the U.N. inspector general would be interested to hear about that kind of bigotry. Magee was wrong. The inspector general found that the senior mission official was in the habit of disparaging lots of nationalities, not just Americans, and concluded in his report that since the official was an equal opportunity bigot, Magee didn't have a leg to stand on. Incredible, but as Casey Stengel used to say :"You could look it up".
The Security Council under the leadership of Argentinian Ambassador Emilio Cardenas rejected the inspector general's Inspector Clouseau-like report within days of its appearance. According to the Washington Post, Ambassador Cardenas characterized the inspection report as "tall tales coming out of MINURSO", and the Security Council sent its own team to the mission to find what the inspector general should have found. The reason the original inspection report was done so poorly was because, as he later acknowledged, the U.N.'s inpector general really wasn't allowed to do a lot of inspecting. He was prohibited, for example, from looking into the possibility that Morocco was behaving improperly in the referendum because Morocco was a member of the club, of the U.N., and the U.N. inspector general is not allowed to risk embarrassing a member state by investigating whether they were stealing the U.N.'s referendum. It was rather as if Kenneth Start, as special prosecutor, in carrying out his investigation, were prohibited from investigating possible felonies by his peers, anyone, lets say, who holds a high post in the federal government, because it might offend them. Absurd, but welcome to the U.N. The brand new office of inspector general, by the way, in case you missed the hype is touted as the keystone in Boutros-Ghali's reform of the U.N.
In October, 1995, Human Rights Watch based in New York published its 38 pages Report on MINURSO, and it is devastating, documenting blatant human rights violations and vote fraud carried out right under the figurative nose of the mission. The mission and the U.N., as expected, are in denial.
Perhaps the best "minute particular" of business-as-usual at the U.N. was being invited and then dis-invited to address the 4th Committee of the U.N. General Assembly October 12, 1995. Boutros-Ghali personally intervened to see to it that the 4th Committee did not hear what I had to say about MINURSO. I was, I am told, the first person ever barred from speaking before that committee in the U.N.'s 50 years history, but, at least, I'm in good company. Boutros-Ghali also barred Chinese dissidents from even entering the U.N. I could get in. I just couldn't say anything when I got there. But think about that the next time you hear Boutros-Ghali talk about reforming the U.N.: Boutros-Ghali prevented the 4th Committee, composed entirely of member states of the U.N., from hearing someone who just might have been able to tell them why they were wasting a quarter Billion dollars on a mission and referendum going nowhere.
In 1993, when former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh was serving as Undersecretary for management at the U.N., he submitted to Boutros-Ghali a report for streamlining the U.N., eliminating waste and fraud and saving hundreds of millions of dollars. Boutros-Ghali, as Thornburgh has stated publicly, had the report suppressed and remaining copies shredded.
May be Boutros-Ghali has changed. May be the U.N. really is living up its lofty goals. May be the MINURSO fiasco was an aberration. May be we should give Boutros-Ghali a second term, 5 more years to do good for mankind.