Home page

Take Your Commission and Shove It!  
Who needs the U.N. anyway, asks our weekly columnist. See U!  

    May 14 —  OK, so now it’s official: The world really does hate us. Implicit in last week’s votes to boot the United States from United Nations commissions on human rights and drug trafficking is the now-undeniable fact that we are the most-reviled country on Earth.  

Advertising on MSNBC  
Audio Book Club The Women's Channel on MSN

  AMERICANS ARE RIGHTFULLY annoyed. I mean, it’s one thing to put slave-owning Sudan on a human-rights commission, but how dare they kick us off that drug panel! We’re the world’s largest consumer of narcotics, for Pete’s sake! Shouldn’t we have the largest say in how they’re distributed?
        Of course, the U.N. does seem to want the U.S. represented on at least one commission, namely the High Commission to Soak Rich Countries. After all, wasn’t that General Secretary Kofi Annan asking our president the other day to cough up $200 million to fight AIDS in Africa?
IMG: Feedback

       Clearly, I am on the brink of a bitter, though entertaining, anti-U.N. tirade. But before launching into it, I am obligated by professional integrity to point out that perhaps the U.N. has a good reason to hate us. After all, we’ve been throwing around our considerable weight in bizarre ways lately.
        At the human rights commission’s recent meetings in Geneva, for instance, we actually voted against a resolution banning torture, claiming (if you can believe this) that we do object to torture, but did not want to limit the “production of torture equipment.” (Who knew that the production of torture equipment is the only thing keeping the U.S. economy afloat right now?)
        And when the commission passed a resolution objecting to the death penalty, we voted “no” along with our “friends” in Algeria, Burundi, China, Kenya, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland, Syria and Vietnam. (Now there’s a list of forward-thinking democracies!)
        But my favorite vote from the last session was on a resolution declaring it “intolerable that 826 million people throughout the world [do] not have enough food to meet their basic nutritional needs.” We were the only country in the world to vote against the declaration (where are our Libyan allies when we need them?!).

       So, OK, they hate us. But let’s now turn our attention to something far more important than them hating us—namely us hating them.
        Here in New York—the epicenter of anti-U.N. sentiment (sorry, Sen. Helms, but you’ve got nothing on us)—we can’t stand the U.N. In fact, we’ve been waging a decade-long war to get the United Nations to pack up its bags and leave. (We’ve done this non-violently, of course, preferring the New York method of simply nudging them to death.)
        You can’t say we aren’t justified. U.N. diplomats possess that magical “Get out of jail free” card called diplomatic immunity, which allows them to flout local and national laws without ever having to answer for it.
        And here in New York, it’s never business, it’s personal. We couldn’t care less about being kicked off those U.N. commissions. We’re much more bothered by the local U.N. missions’ profligate use of our most precious resource: East Side parking spaces.
        In 1994, it came to light that the Russian mission had racked up 6,228 parking tickets in just six months (that’s 34 tickets a day). From that point, it didn’t take much to fuel our rage (which I’m going to list with bullets because I’ve found that people take stories with bullets much more seriously):
* Jan. 1997: Russian diplomat Boris Obnossov (from whose name is derived the American word “obnoxious”) took a few vodka-fueled punches at a cop who was writing him a ticket for parking at a fire hydrant. It was the Russians’s 386 ticket of the year (and it was still January!).
* Jan. 1997: A group of Russian “diplo-brats” were arrested for public urination, graffiti, harassing seniors, breaking car windows and, cops said, wearing unattractive jogging suits. The teens were let go when their status as sons and daughters of diplomats (henceforward known in the tabloids as “diplo-brats”) was confirmed.
Periscope FrontConventional Wisdom

* April 1997: A drunken South Korean diplomat crashed his car but was released after playing the immunity card.
* 1998: Two cheapskate South African diplomats stiffed a cabby of a $3.50 fare and one of them allegedly yelled at the turban-wearing cabby, “Go back to India.” Although bothered by the $3.50 rip-off, New Yorkers seemed most upset that diplomats can hurl racist expletives at cabbies with impunity while the rest of us have to mumble our invectives under our breath.
* Dec. 1999: The missions of Guinea-Bissau and Liberia had their electricity turned off for non-payment of bills (which pissed off their landlord but, no doubt, earned them a seat on the U.N.’s Economic Development panel).
        The ongoing situation made our contentious mayor, Rudy Giuliani, so angry that he said he didn’t even care if the city were to lose the estimated $3 billion that the U.N. pumps into the city economy (he gets that way sometimes).
        “If they’d like to leave New York,” the mayor said, “then we can find another use for that area of town.”
        A lot has calmed down since those days—the Russians only got 372 tickets in 1999 (down from the record-setting 32,350 in 1996)—but now comes this latest U.N. affront.
        Granted, New Yorkers hold grudges like terrorists hold hostages, but this time, most New Yorkers are treating the U.N. like we treat everyone else: By looking down our noses and ignoring them.
        “People in Washington care about the U.N., but New Yorkers see it for what it really is: an elaborate eating club for the world’s over-educated elite,” said New York University urban affairs professor—and every city reporter’s best friend—Mitchell Moss.
        “Let’s face it, the U.N. is a great way for these guys to escape their lousy home countries and get a good meal. For them, New York is as close to heaven as they’ll ever get.”
        So, consider this a threat: Kick us off any more commissions and that’s it, we’re closing Le Cirque.

Gersh Kuntzman is also a columnist for The New York Post and the author of “HAIR! Mankind’s Historic Quest to End Baldness” (Random House, April 2001). Visit him at http://www.gersh.tv/
       © 2002 Newsweek, Inc.
MSNBC News Perspectives
MSNBC News My Turn: Hey, Doc, I Still Have A Lot of Living to Do
MSNBC News Whirl Is King All Around Us
MSNBC News In Praise of Nukes (Gulp)
MSNBC News Joyce Maynard: Then and Now

InfocenterWrite UsNewstoolsHelpSearchMSNBC News

Would you recommend this story to other viewers?
not at all   1    -   2  -   3  -   4  -   5  -   6  -   7   highly

  MSNBC is optimized for
Microsoft Internet Explorer
Windows Media Player
MSNBC Terms,
  Conditions and Privacy © 2002
Cover | News | Business | Sports | Local News | Health | Technology & Science | Living & Travel
TV News | Opinions | Weather | Comics
Information Center | Help | News Tools | Jobs | Write Us | Terms & Conditions | Privacy