15 November 2004

Why is Ed Mortimer hooked on writing these counter-productive boring letters where he would repeatedly insist that the Secretary General "will leave no stone unturned." It makes it seem like Kofi Annan has nothing else to do but turn stones! Plus, it is such an antiquated jargon, old boy. And it irritates polemists who find it an opening to hit back. The latest example is Nat Hentoff, formerly of the Village Voice in the heydays, now with The Washington Times. His response to Ed's letter was sharper than his original and went straight after Annan in a comment entitled: "Does Annan Care for African Atrocities?" Among the points he makes:

"Having been critical of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's word games as he and the U.N. Security Council avoid action to stop the atrocities in Darfur, I am stermly corrected on Oct. 19 in a letter to The Washington Times by Edward Mortimer, director of communications for the U.N. Secretary General.

"Mr. Annan's spokesman claims the secretary-general "has left no stone unturned in calling for urgent action." For example, he says, Mr. Annan has set up a commission of inquiry "to determine whether acts of genocide have taken place." While this exercise in semantics will be explored for months, the death toll of black Africans in Darfur now is more than 70,000 (according to the U.N. World Health Organization) and may be closer to 300,000, according to a report by Smith College professor Eric Reeves, synthesizing reliable mortality statistics. And Andrew Natsios, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, projects death rates approaching 1 million if massive aid does not arrive in time.

"Ten years ago, members of the United Nations, particularly Mr. Annan (then in charge of peacekeeping operations in New York) not only folder their hands but also closed their eyes as Hutu extremists butchered 800,000 Tutus in Rwanda. The U.N. man in Rwanda, Maj. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, having been tipped off to the imminent massacres, repeatedly and desperately asked Mr. Annan for permission to use U.N. forces to stop the killings. He was ordered to do nothing.

"Mr. Annan has since expressed regret at his legal silence on Rwanda, but will not even call the atrocities in Darfur genocide until his linguistics commission reports back. But he knows what's going on, as shown in the Oct. 4 report by this secretary-general to the Security Council: "Today, still-increasing numbers of the population of Darfur are exposed, without any protection from their government, to hunger, fear and violence. The numbers affected by the conflict are growing and their suffering is being prolonged by inaction." (The inaction is by, among others, Mr. Annan himself, and the Security Council's cynically useless resolutions.) Mr. Dallaire writes in the Oct 4 New York Times that "moral condemnation, trade penalties and military efforts by African countries are simply not going to be enough to stop the killing -- not nearly enough. I know because I've seen it all happen before." Is Mr. Annan waiting until, as in Rwanda, there are 800,000 or more dead before he calls it genocide?"