Tuesday, July 17, 2012

U.N. Me: New Documentary Not to Be Missed

It will come as no surprise to FrontPage readers that the United Nations, an organization which began in 1945 to “ensure global security and protect human rights,” is up to its translation headsets in bureaucratic impotence, corruption, and complicity with evil. Even so, filmmaker Ami Horowitz still manages to surprise, enlighten, and even entertain in his offbeat exposé of the farcical world of the UN.

His new documentary U.N. Me, available now in theaters and via Video-on-Demand services,  is a blistering, ninety-minute indictment of the willfully incompetent world body that not only rarely succeeds in its mission to promote international peace and harmony, it often botches matters completely and exacerbates international tensions, while holding none of its agents accountable.

Co-director, co-producer and star Ami Horowitz (no relation to the Freedom Center’s David Horowitz) takes the dysfunctional UN to task for such ghastly actions (or inaction) as turning a blind eye to genocide, funneling funds to despots, enabling the spread of nuclear weapons to theocratic regimes that have no intention of creating a civil nuclear power program, participating in sexual assaults, rapes, and pedophile rings, and partying in local bars and brothels while doing little or no work – all while raking in the cash.

The filmmaker interviews UN critics, reporters, diplomats, current UN officials, and former officials whose initial idealism soured when they saw how things worked – or didn’t work – behind the scenes. “They’re bureaucrats in the most banal and cowardly sense,” one source says.  “The countries in the Council only care about protecting their power,” says Jody Williams, whose politically inconvenient, no-holds-barred special report on Darfur to the UN was dismissed as “not credible.” “They don’t give a shit about the civilians.”

Horowitz tenaciously pursues his reluctant sources and doesn’t let them off with polite softball questions. U.N. Me doesn’t shy away from disturbing material or serious points, but Horowitz gives the low-budget, Michael Moore-style documentary a pop culture edge with several laugh-out-loud moments in exchanges that are alternately stupefying and hilarious.

For example, as we watch a slideshow of newspaper clippings in which Ahmadinejad openly declares his desire to wipe Israel off the map, a grinning Sergio Duarte of the UN Disarmament Affairs pretends ignorance of Iran’s hostile nuclear aims:

“Are they intending to kill someone, or are they only intending to defend themselves? But how do you know whether they have that intention or not? It’s impossible to say such-and-such a country has that intention. Again, what is the intention?”

“Only God knows…” his interviewer Horowitz offers helpfully.

“Exactly,” Duarte nods. Then Horowitz delivers the kicker:

“… and anyone who reads.” Duarte is not amused.

In another example, after being assured by the smiling Sudanese ambassador to the UN that absolutely no mass rapes or murders were being committed in the devastated Darfur region, Horowitz asked:

“What are the root causes of the conflict in Darfur?”
“Primarily climate change,” the ambassador replies with a straight face. In that case, Horowitz suggests, perhaps driving Priuses is the solution. Then he presses the ambassador about all those dead bodies in Darfur being shown by the media – what’s that all about?

“The region has witnessed, in different times, desertification and drought –”
“Really?” Horowitz interjects. “I never heard of drought causing axe wounds.”

The film opens with Horowitz questioning a UN Human Rights Commissioner why Iranian madman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who violates every principle of human rights the UN stands for, was selected as the keynote speaker at the UN’s second anti-racism conference in 2009. The Commissioner simply doesn’t have an answer.
Horowitz proceeds to relate a number of UN debacles, from allowing Rwandan massacres in the 90s to the UN’s “Oil for Food” scandal, “the biggest scam in the history of humanitarian relief,” as journalist Claudia Rosett says in the film. U.N. Me reserves special condemnation for Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary-General in the early 90s, who enabled or ignored both those atrocities.

When asked what the UN does to stamp out international terrorism, Javier Ruperez, who identifies himself as the Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate of the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the UN Security Council, assures Horowitz that his people collect reports from countries about their anti-terrorism efforts, and if a country refuses to comply, “we go there and we talk to them, and stay in the country quite a long time – around a week.” Asked who the biggest terrorist offenders are, Ruperez replies, “For obvious reasons, I shouldn’t name names. This is not the practice of the United Nations, this is not the practice of the Counter-Terrorism Committee.”
It certainly isn’t. Horowitz points out that the UN has not named a single country as having connections to terrorism. He goes on to challenge Ruperez and Duarte about the UN’s inability to even define terrorism. He shows Duarte the entry for “terrorism” in a Webster’s Dictionary – why not just run with that one? Duarte counters that the problem is to find a definition “that everyone can agree on.” One shouldn’t have to be an Executive Director of an Executive Directorate to see that state sponsors of terrorism have a vested interest in not agreeing with the Webster’s definition. But no matter – for Ruperez, the Counter-Terrorism Committee’s practice is all about “dialogue.”

The UN has an “institutional difficulty with determining that one side is the aggressor and one side isn’t,” says one critic. It also has difficulty actually judging member countries that violate the principles of its own charter. As for the organization’s appointments of the world’s biggest human rights abusers (Syria, North Korea, Iran, etc.) to its Human Rights Council, a UN guide shrugs to Horowitz, “No country is perfect.”
Horowitz closes the film by engaging a member of Ahmadinejad’s staff in a discussion of human rights. The Iranian openly asserts that there shouldn’t be one standard of human rights. Naturally not, since if standards vary according to cultural differences, governments that execute homosexuals, stone women to death, and covertly pursue a nuclear arsenal can’t be held accountable – not that the UN ever holds anyone, itself included, accountable.

If anyone ever needed further evidence that the United Nations has disastrously perverted its original mission, the very compelling U.N. Me is it.

(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 7/3/12)