|Silence of the Lambs (Part I)): Troop
When slandered for allegedly spreading the HIV/AIDS virus in their
host countries, most representatives of countries contributing
troops to UN peacekeeping forces kept quiet, giving the impression
of implicit agreement. Some may have thought it wise to let it
pass, as it was the last meeting of the Council with the participation
of the outgoing U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who had an
impressive tenure and an embarrassing exit. He seemed like a spoiled
man who was upset because he didn't get all his marbles, thus
losing some on the way out. Without giving any supporting evidence,
he was "disappointed" at the contributing countries, "disappointed"
at the UN Secretariat for not preventing the spread of the disease.
Only one representative stood up. Kamalesh Sharma, India's Permanent
Representative, questioned the slander and the official implication
that his country's troops had anything to do with HIV/AIDS. They
were peacekeepers -- neither doctors nor patients. It was important
that they should be medically cleared before being assigned to
the field, which is now being done, particularly because every
peacekeeping resolution since last year calls for avoiding the
spread of AIDS.
With the exception of the articulate Indian, delegates of other
countries, including fairly influential ones, mumbled some vague
statements of agreement in principle and objections in practice,
or something in between. Even the new Under-Secretary-General
for Peacekeeping seemed willing to join the bandwagon without
questioning the obvious slander to the UN image and to troops
of his own country, France. Maybe he knows better. Maybe we should
know? If troops are spreading HIV/AIDS, it is crucial to announce
these cases and take specific firm measures, holding every country
accountable for its culprits. If not, stand up and speak out.