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Showdown at the U.N. corral

By Henry Lamb
web posted May 16, 2005

At one end of the street stands the United Nations; at the other end, stands the United States Congress. At issue: whether the U.N.'s diplomatic immunity trumps the subpoena power of the U.S. Congress.

Paul Volcker -- Kofi Annan's hand-picked investigator of the oil-for-food scandal -- represents the U.N. Henry Hyde -- Chairman of the House International Relations Committee -- represents the U.S. Volcker has persistently blocked Congressional efforts to secure information about the multi-billion-dollar oil-for-food scandal. Hyde issued a subpoena, which produced several boxes of documents that Volcker says are protected by diplomatic immunity. Volcker wants the documents returned.

The documents were given to Hyde's committee by Robert Parton, a former FBI investigator who resigned from Volker's investigation team, in protest over Volcker's kid-gloves treatment of Annan. Parton headed the team that looked into Kofi and Kojo Annan's relationship to Cotecna Inspection SA, a Swiss firm that paid Kojo nearly a half-million dollars.

Letters -- not bullets -- are flying between the combatants. Congress contends that Volcker's refusal to release all information to its investigators amounts to "reflexive secrecy," and "legalisms." Volcker contends that "confidentiality" is essential, to protect the integrity of his investigation and his sources. The battle rages.

Whether the issue will reach the U.S. Supreme Court, or the International Court at the Hague, is a question only time can answer.

It may not matter. The documents delivered to Congress are now being analyzed, and the information will never be stuffed back into the U.N.'s bottle of confidentiality. More important is the question of U.N. accountability. Until Robert Parton resigned in protest, the U.N. was free to dispense only the information it wanted the public -- and Congress -- to know. There is no overseer, or ultimate authority, to which the U.N. must be held accountable.

The genius of the American system of government is the checks and balances built into the government by the U.S. Constitution, and the ultimate authority of the electorate, which can dump the entire government on election day. The U.N. is accountable to no one.

Over the years, the U.N. has quietly expanded its power, ever mindful that it is dependent upon member contributions for its existence. The oil-for-food program is one of the first major projects that produced income over and above the contributions of its members. The U.N. was allowed to charge a two percent administrative fee which produced nearly $2 billion legal dollars to the institution.

The U.N. has now renewed its efforts to get the Convention on the Law of the Sea ratified by the U.S., which will authorize the U.N. to operate an "Enterprise" to exploit seabed mining, and charge fees and royalties to anyone else who wishes to extract minerals from the seabed. This is another way to produce income for the U.N. above and beyond member contributions.

Other U.N. taxes are proposed: a tax on international travel, on petroleum exports, and on currency exchange, are among the most coveted. Once the U.N. is allowed to generate its own revenue stream -- free from the contributions of its members -- it will be the superior power on the planet.

The corruption that permeated the oil-for-food program, and the sex-abuse that has permeated the peacekeeping programs for years, should convince the American people that the U.N. should not be allowed to expand its power. In fact, the U.N. should be stripped of the power it has, because it has demonstrated that power, in the hands of unaccountable appointees, will descend into corruption.

Henry Hyde has promised new legislation on the U.N. Ron Paul has already introduced legislation dealing with the U.N. It is the American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2005 (H.R. 1146). This Act would provide up to two years for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations, and would require the United Nations to move its operations out of the country.

Ultimately, this is the best solution to the U.N. problem. Of course, the United States must be engaged with its international neighbors. There are many other mechanisms for international cooperation that provide mutual benefits to the participants. New mechanisms can be devised as required.

Enactment of Ron Paul's legislation is the only way to be sure that the U.S. will win the showdown at the U.N. Corral.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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