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March 24, 2005
UN Report Whitewashes Sexual Abuse

The UN has released its recommendations for combatting sexual abuse by its peacekeeping troops, but it transfers responsibility from its own ranks to that of the nations which provide the troops. Normally, I would applaud that concept; I don't want to give the UN power to discipline US troops. However, the problem with the UN's troop composition is the countries from which they come. That is compounded by a mind-boggling attitude of "boys will be boys" that completely ignores the nature of the exploitation of women and young girls in the Congo and elsewhere:

A U.N. report on peacekeeper sex abuse released Tuesday describes the U.N. military arm as deeply flawed and recommends withholding salaries of the guilty and requiring nations to pursue legal action against perpetrators.

Those recommendations and several others come after repeated allegations that peacekeepers exploited the very people they were sent to protect. The report described a troubled system where peacekeepers have often "failed to grasp the dangers confronting them, seduced by day-to-day conditions that can be viewed as benign." ...

[S]ometimes troops and civilians fail to understand the complexities of the countries where they deploy. That must be counteracted, the report said.

"There are at least some people in peacekeeping who perceive it as almost a form of camping," Zeid said. "You can forget how wounded and traumatized the people you're working with are. You can make assumptions that you're entering into a normal consensual relationship if you're a civilian staff member and often those assumptions may be misguided."

Excuse me, but raping prepubescent young girls and tricking them out as dollar-a-throw hookers bears no relationship to the fairy-tale romantic take presented by Prince Zeid here. The UN's peacekeepers haven't entered into consensual relationships; they've exploited the women and young girls in their care, extorting sex for basic human needs such as food and water. The failure of the UN's investigator to understand this basic issue completely underscores the corruption and mismanagement of the UN and its aid and peacekeeping missions.

So why does the effort to press the provider nations to discipline their troops seem bound to fail? First, as shown above, the UN doesn't even begin to comprehend the actual havoc these troops wreak on their victims. Second, the UN itself has been complicit in the same crimes, with their own staff setting the example these troops follow. Third, look at the primary contributors of troops to UN peacekeeping missions, part of the so-called non-aligned movement to assert some control over the UN:

In the last several months, Zeid has discussed his proposals with nations that contribute the most troops such as Pakistan, Morocco, Brazil and Bangladesh and those that fund missions, like the United States.

None of these countries are known for their commitment to due process or military discipline, although Pakistan may be the best of a bad lot. Does anyone truly believe that Morocco sees the exploitation of Congolese women as a high priority in shaking out its military ranks? The truth is that these troops never should have been deployed to these areas at all, and the bifurcated command structure that the UN demands creates management problems even for the best of troops, let alone poorly disciplined third-world units. Wearing a blue helmet always means serving two masters, usually with widely divergent goals.

The real solution for the problem is a complete housecleaning at Turtle Bay. No one can expect any different result from a UN mission as long as the UN remains a center for corruption and mismanagement. Until that housecleaning comes, the solution for the immediate problems will come not from the provider nations but from the payor nations withholding the cash. That's the only reform that will eventually work.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 24, 2005 8:13 AM

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Tracked on March 24, 2005 11:30 AM

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