As President Obama was addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations, just before Libya's dictator Moammar Kadhafi called for the demise of the Security Council and followed later by Ahmedinijad's challenge of international law as we know it, my conclusion has become clear: Indeed the United Nations must reform, and significantly, and here is why:
Qaddafi, whom many Arab leaders called the Fata alk Majnun (the crazy man) ranted for one hour and a half in front of the General Assembly accusing the organization of being unfair and intervening against some aggressors and not all perpetrators of human rights abuse. The dictator is right in this particular diagnosis but not in the menu he offered.
The man whose regime invaded and occupied northern Chad for years, looting that poor country's resources, who sent terrorists into Tunisia and Egypt, who kidnapped and assassinated Lebanese Shia leaders, who ordered the blowing up of PanAm 103 over Lockerbie and has been funding violence from the Philippines to Surninam is not exactly the head of state who should be lecturing the world community in Manhattan, but answering a court investigation in the Hague.
Ahmedinijad, another lecturer on fundamental rights at the UN does not stand on higher moral grounds either. His Pasdaran are behind terror in Iraq, train and funds Hezbollah in Lebanon and were indicted by Argentina for bloody massacres across the globe. Ahmedinijad's own population is savagely oppressed and Iran's civil society has provided evidence of its oppression this summer.
In front of this surreal Picasso-esque roster of dictators turned "U.N.-preachers," the leaders of legitimate democracies, especially the president of the United States should have responded with clarity and boldness, not just in their style but in their substance. And they should have demanded even more serious reforms. This UN is not taking enough action against mass murderers and hasn't done so in most of its history. Indeed, the U.N. made distinctions between causes it could deal with and those it would choose to ignore. That injustice was evident even during the Cold War and the height of East-West confrontation.
Think about the genocide that took place in 1966-68 in Biafra, Nigeria. One million black Africans perished. There was no significant attempt by the U.N. to save those people. Then the black African people of southern Sudan were targeted by Khartoum’s regimes Up to a million people were murdered. Where was the U.N.? The organization did not even bother to show up.
In 1976, the Syrian Army invaded Lebanon. The United Nations did not react – neither in the Security Council nor in the General Assembly. Then in 1978, responding to a PLO attack, Israel moved in. Immediately the Security Council met and issued Res. 425. It formed the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), whose role seemed to be to count the shells. In 1982, again because of another series of attacks by the PLO inflaming the southern borders with Israel, Israel entered Lebanon and a battle with Syria occurred. It was only then that the U.N. issued Resolution 520, calling on all foreign forces to withdraw, without naming Syria (although Israel had been named in 1978). Syria also went unnamed in 1982 when the head of the Syrian regime, Hafiz al-Assad, ordered his army and air force to crush a rebellion in the city of Hama, killing 20,000 Muslim Sunnis. There was no Security Council resolution. And, again, nothing happened.
In 1987 Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds in Iraq. Photographs reached the United Nations. There was no resolution. There was not even a meeting. There was no consideration of anything with regard to this crime against humanity. Bottom line: The U.N. system has ignored human rights abuses from Algeria to Afghanistan.
With the end of the Cold War – which was used to justify U.N. inaction for years – genocides and crises of all kinds continued to be ignored. In Southern Sudan again – in 1991, 2001, and 2004 – up to a million more black people, both Christian and Animists, were annihilated. Now in Darfur, Muslims (who are Sunnis) perish in an ethnic cleansing. Around 750,000 Africans are enslaved at a time when an African, Kofi Annan, was the U.N. Secretary-General.
In the post-Cold War era, Saddam Hussein executed up to 350,000 Shi’a. But there was no U.N. investigation of that massacre. There was no Security Council meeting. Nothing happened throughout the 1990s regarding that issue.
Throughout the 1990s, Lebanon was still occupied by the Syrian Army, which not only abused Lebanese at home but even transferred detainees to Syrian jails, reminding us of the train transfers of World War II. Yet nothing happened until 2005, and the adoption of resolution 1559. In the aftermath of 2001, when the eyes of the West opened, there have been increasing demands for the spread of democracy around the world.
The world changed in 2001. Al Qaeda gave evil a face. But Al Qaeda is just the tip of the iceberg. It presents us with the ideology of jihadism, an ideology that divides the world. Speeches by usama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zwahiri, and the other leaders of this jihadist movement, convey clearly that either you are in Dar El Islam (as portrayed by Al Qaeda – more akin to Dar El Taliban than Dar El Islam), or you are in Dar El Kuffar, the infidels. There is a new worldwide organization threatening to divide humanity and calling for the opposing side to be persecuted and oppressed. For these folks 9/11 was legitimate. It is an ideology that accepts the principle of genocide. It is permissible to kill children, women, the elderly and non-combatants. In Algeria during the 1990s, at least 145,000 Arab Muslim Sunnis were massacred by the Salafists, the allies of Al Qaeda.
But instead of the U.N. mobilizing to prevent this new jihad and neo-Nazi ideology from taking hold, the U.N. Secretary General said in Davos on January 23, 2006, that the United Nations is in between, is neutral, is equidistant from the war on terror and the terrorists. This is a United Nations which has completely abandoned its original principles.
In recent years, Syria, a state-sponsor of terrorism, was a member of the Security- Council, while Libya and Sudan were on the U.N. Human Rights Commission, and Saudi Arabia and China are on the new Human Rights Council.
The people of the greater Middle East, who have been abused by aggressors on the one hand, and by U.N. inaction on the other, have finally begun to speak. They spoke up for democracy in Afghanistan, rushing to vote. In Iraq, the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people voted. By voting they have responded to terrorism, to jihadism. It was not the United Nations that responded. It was the people of the region.
What happened when the Security Council – thanks to the United States and France – finally adopted Resolution 1559 requiring Syria to leave Lebanon? The U.N. sent its diplomats and envoys to talk not to the Lebanese people, but to negotiate their fate with the dictator in Damascus. Kofi Annan then went to Iran to discuss the fate of Lebanon – a slap in the face of the Lebanese people on the side of democracy.
What is needed as of the end of this first decade of the 21st century is a United Nations in the defense of democracies. In it we will have the oppressed people rising finally to freedom and security.
Dr. Walid Phares is the author of the new book "Confrontation: Winning the War Against Future Jihad." He is a FOX News contributor and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.