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December 10, 2004
Bush Administration Backs Annan, Cuts Coleman Off At Knees

The New York Times reports that UN Ambassador John Danforth has offered an official endorsement of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "clarifying" the American position after numerous calls for Annan's resignation, including one from our own Senator Norm Coleman. The US has joined the chorus of voices cheering Annan on, calling into question whether Annan will ever bear any responsibility for the worst financial corruption in history:

The Bush administration said Thursday that it had faith in Secretary General Kofi Annan and did not want to see him leave office, its first show of support for the United Nations official since calls for his resignation last week.

"We are expressing confidence in the secretary general and in his continuing in office," Ambassador John C. Danforth said to reporters who had been alerted by the United States mission that Mr. Danforth would be delivering an important message.

Saying he was speaking for the White House and the State Department, Mr. Danforth said officials had decided to speak up because they believed their earlier reluctance to express confidence in Mr. Annan had been misread.

The Bush administration felt the need to respond after Annan quickly gained the support of various diplomatic blocs after Coleman and other lawmakers in the US called for Annan's resignation, including the Democratic Leadership Council, until they retracted it a day later. Other endorsements came from US allies such as Vladimir Putin and Tony Blair, which isolated the US in the UN. Those who oppose unilateralism must be proud to see the Bush administration retreat in the face of criticism such as this by Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu:

In an open letter on Thursday, a group of prominent South Africans, including Nelson Mandela, the former president; Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the writer Nadine Gordimer, called the campaign against Mr. Annan "reprehensible and unjust" and said it reflected American arrogance. "Those who call for his resignation," the letter said, "betray the objectivity his position as secretary general demands and regard the United Nations as a mouthpiece to extol and exonerate the policies of the United States of America, right or wrong."

I understand realpolitik, and with the complete nonentity that the UN has become -- which Danforth railed against only last week -- standing alone in our principles regarding Annan's status is probably not worth it. However, it signals a significant retreat on demanding accountability from the Secretary-General for the disastrous incompetence (at the very least) of the management of Oil-For-Food. Why do we need to wait, as Ted Kennedy suggests, a full year or more for the Volcker Investigation to spend another $30 million of the Iraqi's money before holding the boss accountable for the UN's embarrassment? Documents already in hand show that Benon Sevan, Kofi's hand-picked man to run OFF and his direct report, received millions in kickbacks for his complicity in the scandal.

Is the threshold of competence at the UN really that one cannot be indicted for their malfeasance? Is that the expectation for the position? Hell, sign me up!

Another question this generates is that of Coleman's status with the Bush administration. Coleman took a lot of heat from his hometown newspaper by speaking out against Annan and asking for him to accept responsibility for the OFF debacle. Up to now, the GOP has treated Coleman as a comer, a man of the future in the party, and his leadership of the Senate investigation demonstrated their faith in him despite his junior status as a first-termer. Does the White House now want to distance themselves from Coleman? It appears that they have no problem leaving him twisting in the wind here.

Danforth and the White House may have wanted to clear up a dark cloud over Turtle Bay with their statement yesterday, but I think they just fogged up the situation even further.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 10, 2004 5:18 AM

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» Things getting ugly for Kofi Annan from
Now, this is media spin. USA Today ran an article on Thursday entitled "In turnaround, U.S. now supports embattled Annan". That would be a turn around. Just what "support" did the U.S. offer the U.N Secretary General? "We are not suggesting ... [Read More]

Tracked on December 10, 2004 11:57 AM

» Administration Backs Annan from The Desert Tusk
He's right. The U.N. has played a role in Iraq. Let's go back over the history. The U.N. was the reason we didn't take out Saddam in '91... [Read More]

Tracked on December 10, 2004 4:50 PM

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