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And they wonder why we dislike the UN

Posted by Lissa on June 16, 2009

Oh, I used to be all about the United Nations.  I really dug the idea — all nations have a voice, humanitarian projects to help the needy, international acclaim and badge of approval, all that jazz.  It sounds wise and just and correct.

The reality?  Yeah, not so much.  Turns out the UN workers in Mogadishu were taking the donated food and selling it instead of distributing it.   The article is here, but I’d rather quote Ed Morrissey:

How difficut is it to put effective guards on the warehouses? The UN personnel sold it right out of their own warehouses and helped them load the trucks. The UN has probably already lost millions of dollars in cash and food donations while its employees enrich themselves at the expense of starving women and children. And the only way Turtle Bay found out about it was to have someone outside the organization videotape the product on the black market, which shows conclusively that the UN doesn’t bother to audit their efforts, even after committing the largest fraud in human history with the Oil-for-Food program.

Who benefits from all of the black-market theft? Certainly the UN employees do, but who gets the cash from the sale of the goods? Usually in situations like Somalia’s, black market profits wind up in the hands of the warlords, revolutionaries, and terrorists — the people who cannot compete in legitimate markets. With the current anarchy in Somalia, it will be hard to pinpoint exactly where the money went, but it’s at least a good bet that the UN has funded the very people who created the need for humanitarian relief in the first place.

Again, I get why people like the idea of the UN.  I certainly did, ten years ago.  As happens not-infrequently, I wish I could go back in time and have a conversation with myself:

Liberal Lissa: Phase 1: We donate food.  Phase 2: It gets distributed.  Phase 3: The starving are fed.  Hooray!

Evil Conservative Lissa:  Gets distributed how?

LL: Huh?

ECL: Who does the distribution?  Who guarantees that the food actually gets donated to the hungry people?  Did the food get to the intended recipients?

LL: People are starving!!

ECL: I know.  It sucks most awfully.  You know what else sucks though?  Taking American taxpayer money to fund local thugs and pretending that it’s a good thing because it makes YOU feel better about the hungry.

LL: You just don’t care about starving people because you’re EVIL and CONSERVATIVE!

ECL: That’s not true, and it’s also not the point.  But I don’t see how Phase 1) taking money from taxpayers to Phase 2) give it away to thugs while Phase 3) NOT ACTUALLY FEEDING HUNGRY PEOPLE is a GOOD thing.  Enlighten me.

LL:  So you’d rather let people starve than risk having things go less-than-perfectly.  See, I told you you don’t care about the poor and hungry.

ECL: Um, people are starving ANYWAY because the program was obviously corrupt and selling the food instead of giving it out.  That’s what started this conversation.  Seeing as how people wouldn’t get fed either way, I’d kind of rather *I* still had the money.  Rather than corrupt folks in Somalia.

LL: So you don’t care about poor hungry people.  Got it.  I bet it’s because they’re black.

ECL: *headdesk*

And this little hypothetical chat doesn’t even go into the Oil-for-Food mess, the sex abuse scandals, or the general harm done by a forum that gives equal respect and legitimacy to democracies, republics and tyrant dictatorships alike.  Oy.

As for the Liberal-Lissa-10-years-ago . . . I exaggerate slightly, perhaps.  But only perhaps – I really thought I knew everything, back then, and I was NOT shy about airing my all-wonderful views. 

Having grown up a little, I realize now that I *don’t* know everything.  </massive understatement>  And living and working where I do, I rather have to keep my views to myself or get ostracized as a mouthbreathing hillbilly bigot.  It’s sometimes irksome, and yet – learning to keep my mouth shut is a Very Useful Skill, and one that was probably long overdue in the learning . . .

P.S.  It might seem like cheating to have strawman debates with myself.  I do it this way because 1) real people I might quote have no desire to be used in such a fashion, 2) they’d probably make their argument a lot more eloquently and logically in person, so it’s unfair to shortchange them, 3) I really truly did argue like this in college.  It comes back to me very easily.  Better and more fair to use myself as the epitome of arguing-from-emotion-not-fact than to ascribe it to someone who didn’t volunteer for a blog-quote.

UPDATE: Tam links and Borepatch links.  Thanks!

UPDATE: Shoothouse Barbie and Firearms & Freedom link.  Thanks!

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7 Responses to “And they wonder why we dislike the UN”

  1. TOTWTYTR said

    A little history that goes back to the early 1990s, when you were but a wee lass. The US sent the USMC to Somalia to protect the local populace and aid workers from thugs who were stealing the food and other supplies from the starving so they could feed themselves. Said thugs were in mortal fear of the USMC because the Marines would shoot said thugs dead if they tried that shit.

    At some point, the UN took over and the Marines left to be replaced by US Army Rangers and Delta Force troopers. Who engaged in activities to capture some of the leaders of the aforementioned thugs.

    Which went drastically wrong, in large part because the UN and the President Feckless Clinton refused to release troops to rescue the Rangers and Delta Force troops who were under attack in Mogadishu.

    18 US troops were killed, the US pulled out of Somalia and the world and a particularly nasty thug named Osama bin Laden learned that the US was a paper tiger that wouldn’t take casualties.

    All of which was documented in a book called “Blackhawk Down”. Which was also made into a movie.

    The take home lesson here is that at it’s best, the UN is useless. At it’s worst, it’s dangerous to the lives of US military personnel.

    Either way there is no way that we should be involved with it, except that President Obama puts huge stock in internationalism.

    Meh.

  2. Borepatch said

    Roses are red
    Violets are blue
    I’m schizophrenic
    and so am I

    I love your debate with your self. I think you won. ;0(

  3. Timmeehh said

    The original “Blackhawk Down” is available here:

    http://inquirer.philly.com/packages/somalia/sitemap.asp

  4. [...] Weblog {June 17, 2009}   Freedom costs a buck-0-5. Lissa and Liberty have some insightful and humorous posts regarding the sucktocity ineffectiveness of the [...]

  5. DirtCrashr said

    When my brother and sister and I were little kids in the mid 60’s our super do-gooder ultra-liberal parents made us trick-or-treat “for UNICEF.”
    We were handed little orange and black boxes with the UN logo on them, to collect money from stupid old adults by shouting, “Trick or Treat – for UNICEF!” when they opened the door on Halloween. Yeh, it was a trick all right.
    I never knew there were so many grumpy, confused, and mean old adults in my neighborhood before – but we got pennies, nickles, the occasional dime and sometimes a whole quarter for our Youth Cadre Development Efforts.
    Now I feel like part of my f*ng childhood was stolen.

  6. [...] Talking to herself Liberal Lissa and Evil Conservative Lissa discuss the U.N. [...]

  7. B Smith said

    Dirtcrashr:
    We got those f*cking boxes from my third-grade teacher, as I recall. I am ashamed to admit that we littered (threw them into the bushes) when we found out how drastically they limited our candy intake :-)
    And, like real UN peacekeepers, we kept the money, little as there was.

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