Denis Halliday, a former United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq and nominee for the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize, said last night that the United Nations has lost its ability to act as an objective force in international politics.
“As a result of the policies and resolutions, and the neglect of some resolutions I think the United Nations has lost its credibility, its leadership and is even perceived to have lost its independence,” Halliday said.
During a lecture included in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium, Halliday criticized the General Assembly for submitting to American political pressure, and said the U.N. Security Council has begun to look like a G7 meeting.
He expressed concern for the Bush Administration”s foreign policy and the “axis of evil” Bush defined during his State of the Union address last week. He added that there is no evidence that Iraq had any connection to the Sept.11 attacks, and that there is no justification for creating aggression.
“Out of frustration and anger, Mr. Bush feels he needs to take on the world with violence,” Halliday said. “I think (the axis of evil is) counterproductive for the relations between the United States and these three countries … (and) it undermines the advancements made in democracy in Iraq.”
Halliday, a career U.N. diplomat with 34 years of experience, became administrator of the “Oil for Food” program in Iraq in 1997. A year later, he resigned from the position, blasting the United Nations for its lack of attention to humanitarian issues in Iraq.
“In many parts of the world, they look at the U.N. today and regret that it doesn”t seem to stand up for human rights, it doesn”t respect its own charter,” Halliday said.
U.N. sanctions have strongly contributed to maintaining famine throughout Iraq, Halliday said. The sanctions have been strongly supported by the U.S. government, including the administration of former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who made her support clear during a lecture at the University last fall. Halliday said he disagrees with Albright, and said that sanctions are not the only method the United States could employ in the region.
He added that poverty is one of the most significant factors that drives people into terrorist actions.
“We must try to understand that desperation, isolation, alienation of the modern world drives people to take actions which are so appalling in their results,” he said.
Halliday also recognized the role the United States plays within the United Nations, but criticized the U.S. for exercising excessive power.
“There could be no United Nations without the U.S.,” he said. “But we do not need a United States that manipulates or even corrupts the work of the council and uses its great economic, social and military power to frighten other member states into going in its own direction.”
Recent polls, however, have shown that American opinion is in competition with Halliday”s beliefs, with some of the strongest presidential approval polls ever. But Halliday said this is the result of the media”s influence over the American public.
“The American government doesn”t think (its citizens) can handle the truth,” he said.
Halliday credited the United States with great potential to do good throughout the world, but advocated using more non-violent measures to help improve human rights.
“We have a long way to go to protect the interests of individuals,” he said.
State Representative Kris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) introduced Halliday. Kolb was an Ann Arbor City Council member when a resolution was passed supporting an end to the Iraq sanctions.
“It is an honor to be able to introduce someone of Denis” stature, and someone who is willing to stand up for their values and convictions,” Kolb said.