Dr. Walid Phares
Message to the UN: Defend Democracy Not Dictators
September 24, 2009
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 Ahmadinejad’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 Pan Am 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.
Ahmadinejad, 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. Ahmadinejad’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
"UN-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 UN 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 UN 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 UN? The organization did not even bother to show
In 1976, the Syrian Army invaded Lebanon. The United Nations didn’t
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 UN 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 UN 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 UN system has ignored human rights abuses
from Algeria to Afghanistan.
With the end of the Cold War – which was used to justify UN 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 UN Secretary-General.
In the post-Cold War era, Saddam Hussein executed up to 350,000 Shi’a.
But there was no UN 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 Osama 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 UN mobilizing to prevent this new jihad and neo-Nazi
ideology from taking hold, the UN 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 UN Human Rights
Commission, and Saudi Arabia and China are on the new Human Rights
The people of the greater Middle East, who have been abused by
aggressors on the one hand, and by UN 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 UN 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.
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.