15 MARCH 2009


What a happy coincidence!

A very anxious Ban Ki-moon was exploring the position of a new U.S. Administration towards him. He had not heard much from President Obama since that joyous photograph in February 2007. He had not received an invitation to the inauguration, so he kept himself very busy visiting the Middle East, Gaza in particular, where upon advice from Mr. Kim, he addressed mainly Korean reporters. Repeated expressions of concern, even stunned anger, produced very little results; the heavy lifting was done by Cairo. While President Obama, upon taking over, telphoned most heads of state and government, Mr. Ban was not on the radar screen. It may have been an oversight, but a very hard driving earnestly keen man was most likely left to cool his heels or perhaps wonder how higher -- or lower -- should he jump.

"Ban Ki-moon pushed hard for a personal meeting with Obama," according to Washington's Foreign Policy Cable, after gaining an invitation from Senator John Kerry to meet some congressman. As it happens, newly-appointed U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visits South Korea end February in her maiden Asian visit. She, very deservedly, gets a hero's welcome. A week or so later, on 3 March, it is announced that former President Bill Clinton was invited by Secretary General Ban to join him in an upcoming trip to Haiti "to raise awareness of efforts to help the Caribbean nation's people and government bolster their economic security." Very convincing indeed, particularly when it was elaborated that the "decision" was spurred by Mr. Clinton's "attention to Haiti while in office." (Remember the bungled threat of a U.S. invasion and the Haitian boat people off the coast of Florida?)

Now, who is conning who; only time will tell. Anyway, a further announcement indicated that the Secretary General will be visiting Washington, D.C. straight from his Haiti visit from 10-11 March and will be holding talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as other officials. It was also highlighted by U.N. officials that a first meeting would take place between Mr. Ban and President Obama to discuss "a host of issues," including the global economic crisis, Sudan, Afghanistan, and the Middle East. "The two leaders," a Secretary General spokesperson statement announced in presidential style, were also "expected to confer" on climate change, non-proliferation, human rights, U.N. reform and U.S.-U.N. relations." (All within less than an hour!) The same 2007 shuttle photo, with the "two leaders" smiling was used to make the point.

While we hope the long-awaited meeting will regain some footing for our distinguished Secretary General, we welcome the possibility that he will have another newly updated photo to replace the old one.

More to the point, we sincerely hope that the ping pong with Haiti will somehow actually help the people of Haiti and enhance, however slightly, the effectiveness of that problem-ridden mission whose one-time Force Commander was found dead in his hotel room and whose reputation among the host people of Haiti is such that the popular name of MINISTAH is TOURISTAH.