Kofi Annan's Future at the United Nations

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," February 22, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.


KOFI ANNAN, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL: While the United Nations may not be able to take humanity to heaven, it must act to save humanity from hell.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Really? U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan (search) defining the humanitarian role of the U.N. in hot spots around the world like Darfur (search). In today's Wall Street Journal, Kofi Annan was defending his institution and his own reputation in an op ed piece, while acknowledging the need for reform.

Nile Gardiner is a fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

Nile, today's big question, so is Kofi Annan the right man to be reforming the U.N.?

NILE GARDINER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I don't think so. I think that Kofi Annan has done an absolutely appalling job as U.N. secretary general. The U.N.'s reputation is rapidly going downhill under his leadership. Any serious reform of the United Nations will be absolutely impossible until Kofi Annan steps down and does the honorable thing.

GIBSON: You know, I, you wonder what he's talking about, Nile. I mean, sure, we all recognize there are plenty of instances in the world where a world body with, that has no particular sort of political axe to grind is uniquely positioned to do some work that needs to be done.

But this is one where, you know, the thieveries are now, nobody even bothers to refute them. There is the bribery thing that Saddam was trying to bribe the U.N. Security Council. There's now this sex scandal that Steve Harrigan has been reporting on and U.N. operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (search), which is just hair-raising, it's just awful…

I mean, its one thing to say, I guess, the U.N. is needed. But how can [Annan] defend his own stewardship?

GARDINER: Well, Kofi Annan published an amazing op ed piece in The Wall Street Journal today, where he boasted about the U.N.'s achievements in Iraq and with regard to the tsunami relief effort. However, he totally glossed over the huge list of United Nations failings, including its absolute inability to stand up to dictatorships, such as the Saddam Hussein regime, it's appalling mismanagement of the Oil-for-Food (search) program, which barely merits an answer in his own op ed piece today.

This is a man, I think, in an extreme case of self-denial. He simply will not acknowledge the serious trouble in which the United Nations is in today. And certainly, I think that Kofi Annan has demonstrated breathtaking arrogance time and time again with regard to his own record of failure. And I think it is time for Kofi Annan to step aside, to allow for fresh blood to run through the United Nations, and for the U.N. to be thoroughly reformed.

GIBSON: Nile, at one point in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal piece, Kofi Annan said the United Nations, in opposing the United States, has positioned itself uniquely to do things in Iraq, because it is not an agent of the United States. In other words, that whole folderol that went on in the U.N. actually helps the U.N. operate in Iraq today. Is that true?

GARDINER: I think it's an utterly ridiculous argument by Secretary General Kofi Annan. Simply put, the United Nations has not lifted a finger, really, for the Iraqi people, and failed to stand up to the Saddam Hussein regime. In many ways, I think that Kofi Annan and other U.N. officials prolonged the misery of the Iraqi people.

As the Iraqi interim defense minister recently remarked, where was Kofi Annan when Saddam Hussein was slaughtering the Iraqi people like sheep?

GIBSON: So what happens? I mean, there are a lot of people that think that the secretary general of the U.N. sits at the pleasure of the U.S. A… is that true? And is the U.S. about to pressure people to get him out of there?

GARDINER: Well, I think first that the United States is just one of 191 members of the U.N. General Assembly, and certainly the United Nations is not owned by the United States or any other member of the Security Council or the General Assembly.

However, I do feel that the United States must make every effort to ensure accountability and transparency on the part of the United Nations, particularly in relation to the Oil-for-Food scandal, and also the brewing scandal in the Congo.

Unfortunately, Kofi Annan has shown no desire whatsoever to cooperate with congressional investigations into the Oil-for-Food scandal. He has continued to operate, I think, with huge arrogance with regard to the congressional efforts to establish the truth with regard to Oil-for-Food.

This is a man who, I think, has very little credibility on the world stage today, and I think his time is certainly about to expire, really, as U.N. secretary general, in terms of his credibility and how he's viewed across the world at the moment.

GIBSON: So Nile, we've heard a few reports from Steve Harrigan in the Congo about this U.N. sex scandal there. But perhaps you could put it in perspective. This is U.N. adult men allegedly sexually abusing young, underage, well, children, boys and girls evidently. How bad is this? Is this just a little blip, or is this going to turn out to be something really bad for Kofi?

GARDINER: Well, this is a huge scandal of epic proportions, and it's certainly not the first time that U.N. civilian officials and also peacekeepers have been accused of widespread, extremely serious human rights violations in U.N. peacekeeping missions. This is a pattern of abuse that has taken place over the last decade or so. It simply has to be brought to an end.

And certainly, it's about time that Kofi Annan and the U.N. Secretariat, and the leadership of the United Nations, took responsibility for the tremendous failures of U.N. peacekeeping operations.

GIBSON: Nile, thanks very much. Nile Gardiner, appreciate you coming in today.

GARDINER: Thank you.

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