April 2, 2012
By Thierry Meyssan
Although Kofi Annan’s track record at the UN is an indisputable success in terms of management and efficiency, he has been sharply criticized for his political shortcomings. As Secretary General, he aspired to bring the Organization into line with the unipolar world and the globalization of U.S. hegemony. He called into question the ideological foundations of the UN and undermined its ability to prevent conflicts. Notwithstanding, he is today in charge of resolving the Syrian crisis.
Former UN Secretary General and Nobel Peace Prize, Kofi Annan, has been designated by Ban Ki-moon and Nabil El Arabi as joint special envoy to negotiate a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis. With Annan’s extraordinary experience and shiny brand image, his appointment was welcomed by all.
What does this top international official really represent? Who propelled him to the highest-ranking positions? What were his political choices, and what are his current commitments? These questions are met with a discreet silence, as if his previous functions were in themselves a guarantee of neutrality.
His former colleagues praise him for his thoughtfulness, his intelligence and subtlety. A very charismatic personality, Kofi Annan left a strong imprint behind him because he did not behave simply as the “secretary” of the UN, but more like its “general,” by taking initiatives that revivified an organization that was mired in bureaucracy. All that is known and has been repeated ad nauseam. His exceptional professional qualities earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, although this honor in theory should have been bestowed for personal political commitment, not a management career.
Kofi and his twin sister Efua Atta were born on 8 April 1938, into an aristocratic family of the British colony of the Gold Coast. His father was the tribal chief of the Fante people and the elected governor of Asante province. Although he opposed British rule, he was a faithful servant of the Crown. With other notables, he took part in the first decolonization movement, but looked upon the revolutionary fervor of Kwame Nkrumah with suspicion and anxiety.
In any event, Nkrumah’s efforts led to the independence of the country in 1957 under the name of Ghana. Kofi was then 19 years old. Though not involved in the revolution, he became vice-president of the new National Student Association. It was then that he was spotted by a headhunter from the Ford Foundation who incorporated him into a program for “young leaders.” From there, he was invited to follow a summer course at Harvard University. Having noticed his enthusiasm for the United States, the Ford Foundation offered to sponsor his complete studies, first in economics at Macalester College in Minnesota, followed by international relations at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva.
After the Second World War, the Ford Foundation, created by famous industrialist Henry Ford, became an unofficial instrument of U.S. foreign policy, providing a respectable facade for the activities of the CIA.
Kofi Annan’s overseas study period (1959-1961) coincided with the most difficult years of the African-American civil rights movement (the start of Martin Luther King’s Birmingham campaign). He saw it as an extension of the decolonization he had witnessed in Ghana, but once again did not get involved.
Impressed with Annan’s academic achievements and political discretion, his U.S. mentors opened for him the doors of the World Health Organization, where he landed his first job. After three years at WHO headquarters in Geneva, he was appointed to the Economic Commission for Africa based in Addis Ababa. However, not sufficiently qualified to pursue a career at the UN, he returned to the United States to take up management studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (1971-1972). He then attempted a comeback in his home country as director of tourism development, but found himself perpetually at odds with the military government of General Acheampong; he gave up and returned to the United Nations in 1976.
There, he held various positions, initially within UNEF II (the peacekeeping emergency force established to supervise the cease fire between Egypt and Israel at the end of the October 1973 war), then as Director of personnel at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It was at this time that he met and married Nane Lagergren Master, his second wife. The Swedish lawyer is the niece of Raoul Wallenberg, Sweden’s special envoy in Budapest during World War II. Wallenberg is famous for having saved hundreds of persecuted Jews by issuing them protective passports. He also worked for the OSS (forerunner of today’s CIA) as a liaison with the Hungarian resistance. He disappeared at the end of the war, when the Soviets allegedly captured him to stem US influence in the country. In any event, Kofi Annan’s successful marriage opened the doors that he could not have passed through on his own, especially those of Jewish organizations.
Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar chose Kofi Annan as Assistant Secretary-General in charge of human resources management and staff safety and security (1987-90). With the annexation of Kuwait by Iraq, 900 UN employees remained stranded in that country. Kofi Annan was able to negotiate their release with Saddam Hussein, a feat that boosted his prestige within the Organization. He was then successively put in charge of the budget (1990-92) and peacekeeping operations under Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1993-96), with a brief interlude as a special envoy for Yugoslavia.
According to Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda, Kofi Annan failed to respond to his many appeals and carries the primary responsibility for UN inaction during the genocide (800,000 dead, mainly Tutsis, but also Hutu opponents).
A similar scenario was repeated in Bosnia, where 400 peacekeepers were taken hostage by Bosnian Serb forces. Kofi Annan remained deaf to the calls of General Bernard Janvier and allowed the perpetration of predictable massacres.
In late 1996, the United States vetoed the reappointment of the Egyptian Boutros Boutros-Ghali as Secretary General, regarded as dangerously Francophile. They succeeded in imposing their candidate: a senior official from within the international organization itself, Kofi Annan. Far from playing against him, his failures in Rwanda and Bosnia blossomed into assets after he candidly confessed to them and promised to reform the system so that they wouldn’t recur. He was elected on this basis and took office on 1 January 1997.
December 8th, 2010
By: Robert Booth and Haroon Siddique
Shortly before 6.30pm on Sunday night, the first cracks appeared in the dam. The largest ever leak of US government classified documents streamed out online, revealing never publicly seen details about Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and Russia.
Throughout the week the stream became a torrent of information about how US diplomats and foreign governments see the world. According to these classified cables, Saudi Arabia wanted Washington to bomb Iran, the UK harbours “deep concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons”, and Russia is considered a “virtual mafia state” with its president, Vladimir Putin, accused of amassing “illicit proceeds” from his time in office.
But perhaps most embarrassing for Hillary Clinton who, as US secretary of state, is ultimately responsible for the content of most of the cables released so far, was a cable that revealed Washington is running a spying campaign targeted at the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon and the rest of the UN leadership, as well as the permanent security council representatives from China, Russia, France and the UK.
Clinton has spent much of the week trying to justify the operation – which was looking for top UN officials’ passwords and credit card numbers , even DNA samples – to the press and in person to the UN secretary general.
As startling as the exposés were – the Saudi king urging America “to cut off the head of the snake”, to launch a military attack on Iran’s nuclear programme – it was as much the sense of a curtain lifting to reveal the world leaders not as wizards but as all too human, and that the private positions of those in power were often diametrically opposed to what they said in public, that made the cables so gripping – and perhaps so dangerous.
Clinton’s immediate reaction was to strongly condemn the leak and say that “every country, including the US, must be able to have honest, private dialogue with other countries … When someone breaches that trust, we are the worse off for it.”
Former presidential candidate, the Republican Mike Huckabee called for the execution of Bradley Manning, the 23-year-old US army intelligence analyst who is in custody at a military base in Virginia, facing trial for downloading the files while on duty in Iraq.
Fellow Republican Sarah Palin called Julian Assange, the fugitive founder of the WikiLeaks website, “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands” because she said previous leaks had included the identities of “more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban”.
Yesterday Assange described Manning as “an unparalleled hero”.
Several leaders who fared badly from the revelations were unconvinced the leaks were genuine. It was revealed that Russia was using mafia members to carry out operations like arms trafficking and that bribery functions as a parallel tax system for the personal enrichment of the police, officials and the KGB’s successor, the FSB. Even before the revelations, Vladimir Putin said: “Some experts believe that somebody is deceiving WikiLeaks, that its reputation is being undermined in order for it to be used for political purposes. Such an opinion is being expressed here.”
A day later, it emerged that US diplomats had reported suspicions that the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, could be “profiting personally and handsomely” from secret deals with Putin.
President Ahmadinejad of Iran also denied that the Gulf Arab states are antagonistic towards his regime and said: “We don’t think this information was leaked. We think it was organised to be released on a regular basis and they are pursuing political goals.”
Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan was so rattled that he even threatened to sue over allegations of corruption.
Rampant corruption in Afghanistan was revealed, including an incident last year when the then vice-president, Ahmad Zia Massoud, was stopped and questioned in Dubai when he flew into the emirate with $52m in cash.
In the UK, there were calls for Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, to resign after it emerged he had been briefing the US ambassador to London, Louis Susman, about the “lack of experience” of David Cameron and George Osborne, and that they “had a tendency to think about issues only in terms of politics and how they might affect Tory electorability [sic]“.
At least one major revelation gave some hopes for a more peaceful future, not least the suggestion that China is ready to accept Korean unification and is distancing itself from North Korea, which it describes as behaving like a “spoiled child”.
Dispatches on North Korea showed that South Korea’s vice-foreign minister was told by two senior Chinese officials that they believed Korea should be reunified under Seoul’s control and that this view was gaining ground in Beijing.
Throughout the week, the US authorities increased the pressure on WikiLeaks. On Tuesday they announced an investigation into whether it had breached espionage laws, and on Wednesday they successfully pressured Amazon to stop hosting the site.
Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate’s committee on homeland security, called on “any other company or organisation that is hosting WikiLeaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them”.
Yesterday, the WikiLeaks website went offline for the third time this week.