Can We Trust the U.N. to Handle the Tsunami Relief Efforts?
This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Jan. 3, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST:
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where the hard part comes in. We've got Helen in there.— She was barely breathing. She was in a lot of pain because she couldn't get air. Her chest wouldn't move.
And we got her in. And there were people screaming for help, and I had to choose whether I was going to help them or leave them. And so I chose to leave them.
And, you know, as I said this morning, I don't think I will ever forget their faces or voices, but I had to get out of there. It was big debris coming toward us, a couple of large boats being forced over us, and if we didn't get out of there quick, that would be it. So we left the people. And that's what I'm trying to live with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLMES: The sad testimonials in the aftermath of the earthquake and the tsunami continue to come in. Meanwhile, the United Nations says various governments and humanitarian organizations have already pledged more than $2 billion in relief for tsunami victims. But after the oil-for-food (search ) scandal, can the world trust the U.N. to manage such multinational efforts and huge sums of money?
Joining us from Washington, the senior vice president of public affairs for the Center for Individual Freedom (search), Marshall Manson. Here in New York, spokesman for the U.N. development program, Bill Orme.
Marshall, let me begin with you. Just as I think it's unseemly to criticize the president at this point — but I think he's doing the right thing — should this be used as an excuse to bash the U.N. from those who really have an agenda to get rid of the U.N.? Should this tragedy be used for that purpose?
MARSHALL MANSON, CENTER FOR INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM: No. And I don't think anybody is bashing the U.N.
COLMES: Oh, come on.
MANSON: Well, no. I think the priority here is to try to get the help to the victims. And the U.N. has expressed a preference lately to just make sure that they are in charge. Look, we have got U.S. forces and U.S. help on the ground. USAID is doing a great job.
COLMES: So we don't need the U.N.?
MANSON: Right now? No, I don't think we do. I mean, look...
COLMES: The refugee agency is launching a six-month relief effort. They set up 200 relief centers in areas that were hit. The World Health Organization (search) has sent scores of health advisers. — They fed 700,00 in Sri Lanka alone, hundreds of thousands in Indonesia. Is that meaningless?
MANSON: Clearly, it's not meaningless. But I also don't think that that's the extent of the U.N.'s work. Look, the U.N. has been, over the past couple of days, taking credit for a lot of work that's being done by other people, like the Red Cross.
COLMES: Well, the things I just mentioned?
MANSON: I don't mean — I haven't read about those specific things. I don't know whether they are U.N. activities or the U.N. is just taking credit for them.
COLMES: Well, they are. Before you criticize the U.N., shouldn't you be aware of what they are doing, just to say we shouldn't do — we don't need them?
MANSON: I'm not saying we don't need them. I'm just saying right now, that the U.S. and our allies, the Australians, the folks from Singapore, we're getting the job done on the ground there. And everything that the U.N. has touched lately has turned to garbage.
COLMES: All right. The U.N. has had some problems, but clearly to say that it shouldn't be able to do anything or can't get involved in this effort, when I've just listed some of the things that the U.N. is doing.
MANSON: I'm not saying they can't get involved. The question here is...
COLMES: Let me get Bill in here, if I can, for just a second, and let me get a response.
BILL ORME, U.N. DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM: Well, clearly, it's the view of the U.S. government — I mean, don't take our word for it — that the U.N. is essential. I mean, on Thursday, you're going to have a meeting in Jakarta with the secretary of state of the United States, the president's brother, the governor of Florida, who has had tremendous experience in disaster relief, Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations, my own boss, Martin (UNINTELLIGIBLE) United Nations Development Program, and a whole cast of leader, including the prime minister of China, from Asia.
Now, all of these people are working together, so it's not the U.S. versus the U.N. I mean, the U.N. is us and...
COLMES: And for all of these people to say, look, this is an excuse that they are using to politicize this, to say they didn't want the U.N., they never wanted the U.N. They want the U.N. out of the United States. And they want the U.S. out of the U.N. And to use this as an example to me is the same kind of politicization liberals get accused of for criticizing Bush in a time like this?
ORME: This is not a political issue. I mean, let me give you one concrete example. The United States is the most generous food donor in the world, bar none. More than 60 percent of food aid comes from the United States. How does it distribute that aid? Largely through the U.N. World Food Program.
ORME: They work together, hand in glove, USAID (search) and the World Food Program (search), all over the world. And you would find on the ground, the practical fact of the matter is, that the Americans or the Danes or the Germans or the Japanese or the Indonesians or the Chinese that are working this effort, will be working as one coordinated team.
COLMES: But Marshall, who would suggest do all the things that I just enumerated, that Bill enumerated? Who should do all this if you don't want the U.N. involved?
MANSON: Look, wait a minute, Alan. We're not talking about who ought to be doing the work on the ground. Everybody ought to be doing the work on the ground. The trick is that the U.N. parachuted into this situation and immediately said that they should be in charge. And we've seen over and over again, with oil-for-food, and with all these other peacekeeping operations, that when you put the U.N. in charge, bad things happen. And I'm just saying...
HANNITY: Let me follow up on that point. And let me turn to Bill here.
The U.N. has proven themselves incapable, not trustworthy enough, to handle this or any other humanitarian effort considering they were involved in the largest fraud in the history of humanitarian efforts, $21 billion embezzled by Saddam Hussein under Kofi Annan's watch. Kofi said this weekend that the oil-for-food program was a success. His own son was involved in getting payments that he shouldn't have been receiving. I don't think you're capable of running this. You've proven yourselves incapable of running this effectively.
ORME: Sean, two things. First, I think, this is not the time for debate about the oil-for-food program.
HANNITY: Oh, yes, it is. If we're going to run these monies through you, it is so the time.
ORME: This is a time to concentrate on the victims of this troubled disaster and what we can do together to help them out first.
Secondly, if what you're saying was accurate, why would the United States entrust the partnership with the United Nations to develop and deliver aid to these victims?
HANNITY: I would do it independently of the United Nations. I would not have a corrupt organization that has shown itself frequently to be both anti-American and anti-Semitic, that has allowed countries like Libya and Syria and Iraq to head up human rights commissions, as part of your organization. I would not be a part of the organization. You have shown...
HANNITY: ... time and again — go ahead.
MANSON: I was just going to say, that's exactly right. And the real question here is, who is going to manage the money? Who is going to make sure that the money gets where it needs to go? And the U.N. has proven over and over and over again that they can't get the money where it needs to go.
Of course, we ought to take advantage of their infrastructure. But you know what? Right now, USAID and a number of the other agencies and governments themselves have the best organizations on the ground, have the best infrastructures. If we want to help the victims, let's get the money. Let's get the supplies to them. And it's not through the U.N. that that's going to happen.
ORME: If I may, this is not a competition about who has the best team. It varies from place to place, from country to country. You used the phrase that we parachuted into these situations. We didn't parachute in anywhere. We are there on the ground in 160 developing countries around the world including in all of these affected countries. That's our job.
Most of our staff are nationals. They know the terrain. They are able to go to work, and they are going to work. Right now, we are working around the clock on this, and they are working in conjunction with American and Japanese and Indian and other aid officials.
HANNITY: Bill, your undersecretary-general, Mr. Egeland, for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, had the unmitigated gall and audacity to lecture North America and America and the world about being stingy and then lecture us about how we ought to be raising our taxes. Considering in light of all that we have donated in past years, shouldn't he be fired for such a callous, inaccurate remark?
ORME: Well, what's inaccurate, Sean, is your depiction of his remark, which was broadcast live on at least a rival cable network. He did not single out the United States. He did not mention the United States.
HANNITY: He said North America, did he not?
ORME: He did not say North America.
HANNITY: Yes, he did.
ORME: No, he didn't.
HANNITY: Yes, he did. I played it 10 times on my radio show.
ORME: He did not say — he talked about the wealthy nations as a group. He wasn't singling out any...
COLMES: All right, Bill and Marshall, we thank you both very much for being with us tonight.
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