Is This the Worst Year Ever for the United Nations?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Dec. 21, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) held his end of the year news conference this morning and admitted that the oil-for-food (search) scandal has cast a shadow on the United Nations (search ).

Annan said he plans to serve out his term as secretary-general, not resign, as has been called for by some members of Congress. But when all the details about the oil-for-food scandal become public, will Annan have a choice?

And between that scandal and the horrible accusation of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers in the Congo, is this simply the worst year ever for the United Nations?

Joining us now, former ambassador and president of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (search), William Luers.

It's good to have you with us, sir.


COLMES: There are a lot of people who don't like the U.N. I'm wondering if they're just using some of these issues as excuses to get Annan first and ultimately destroy the United Nations.

LUERS: You said it.

COLMES: That's it. We don't need to go further.

LUERS: There's no question that Kofi has, for eight years, really, stood as the face of that body, a distinguished world leader who now is — appears vulnerable. And I think people decided, those who don't want us to be involved with the United Nations, that if you can bring down Kofi, you can bring down U.S. association.

COLMES: But is he vulnerable? I mean, here you have a situation with his son and possible conflict of interest. We'll get into the sexual abuse scandals in just a moment. Where does the buck stop on this stuff?

LUERS: He — he's vulnerable in the sense that his son has a problem, and we don't know how serious the problem was. And he apparently did or did not know how big a problem it was.

In terms of his buck, the buck stopping with him, if a member of his staff is found to have dipped in and taken a lot of money, or several members, they should be tried and sent to jail.

COLMES: Doesn't he have responsibility for knowing about it?

LUERS: In the case of the president of the United States...


LUERS: ... we don't ask for the impeachment of a president if a member of — of the department under a cabinet officer has done something wrong. If we did, we'd have no presidents. We don't ask the boss to leave if somebody down the line has dipped in, because it happens in all big bureaucracies.

I'm not saying it happened here. But it's a problem. He wants to get it resolved. Paul Volcker (search) is going to get as many facts as he can. And nobody questions him.

COLMES: You know, there's a huge contingent who think the U.N. is not...

LUERS: Right.

COLMES: ... is not doing its job. They didn't agree with the United States going into Iraq. That's caused a great deal — a lot of fur to fly.

Isn't that part of the issue, as well? The U.N. had the temerity not to give us the sanction to go in and fight this war?

LUERS: The issue today is that the world has nations that disagree profoundly with each other about how to deal with the threats.

The fact is most of our allies disagree with what we did in Iraq. Many of the members of the Security Council do not feel we should take steps to be firm in Darfur. There are differences of opinion on how you spend money and resources.

The U.N. is where these discussions take place, and the frustration in the world today is that countries don't agree on what collective security is all about. And the U.N. is where it happens.

COLMES: But let's talk about what's happening in the Congo. One hundred and fifty allegations of sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers.

LUERS: Right.

COLMES: Girls as young as 12 and 13, accusations of rape by people wearing the U.N. uniform as peacekeepers. Where does the responsibility go there? Who takes — who takes accountability for that?

LUERS: No question this is bad and Kofi — and the secretary-general said it's bad. He's got to get to the bottom of it. He's got to go to the nations who supplied these troops and say, how can you give us troops to be — they're not in uniforms; they're under blue helmets. They're not U.N. troops; they're troops that are working with the U.N. to try to keep peace in places.

We don't have many Westerners ever wanting to go to Africa. The African Union is supplying the troops, and they're supplying them from very different places.

It's a problem. No question about it. But we know better than anybody that horrible things happen when conflict is around.

GALLAGHER: Ambassador Luers...


GALLAGHER: You know, Kofi Annan may or may not be corrupt, but certainly, he has presided over what many call the biggest scandal the world has ever seen with this — with the food for oil scandal, now these atrocities in the Congo. Little girls being raped by peacekeepers.

And yet there seems to be such an effort to give Kofi Annan a pass. Why do you — do you speak out so vociferously on behalf of this man who seems to be nothing more than just a failed, empty suit who represents the bureaucracy at its worst of the United Nations?

LUERS: First, let me say that on the question of the biggest scandal of all times, the fact is most of the money of these numbers that are quoted, $21 billion...


LUERS: ... was smuggling that the United States, the French, the Russians, the Germans knew all about and let happen.

This was — the oil-for-food program was set up by the permanent members of the Security Council. It was managed by them. The fact is, the program did two things it was supposed to do. It fed the Iraqis during this time of crisis and it stopped them from importing nuclear weapons.

GALLAGHER: But you can see that it's a mess. I mean, this is a mess.

LUERS: It's a mess, but everybody's involved in this mess. No American dollar was stolen. All the money that was stolen by Saddam Hussein (search) and his colleagues, maybe some other people, was stolen — it was Iraqi oil money.

GALLAGHER: You mentioned — you mentioned Paul Volcker and his commission that's investigating, a so-called independent commission. No, there's no — he has no subpoena power. There's no — there's no real external oversight.

Can Volcker's commission really have any impact and possibly make a difference?

LUERS: He has — I think he has a lot of impact in his stature as a person. He's been around a long time. He did the Holocaust work in Europe. He has delivered — every time he's been asked to do something, he's been delivered a square deal.

I believe this man will do a good job. The fact is, the people who are holding out the most are the Russians, the French, and frankly the United States. They're not telling him what they knew and what they knew it.

GALLAGHER: Just seems like Alan's right, the buck stops with Kofi Annan.

COLMES: Ambassador Luers, thank you very much. Appreciate your being with us tonight.

GALLAGHER: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.

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