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.
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July 1, 2010
By John Fritze
The federal debt will represent 62% of the nation’s economy by the end of this year, the highest percentage since just after World War II, according to a long-term budget outlook released today by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
Republicans, who have been talking a lot about the debt in recent months, pounced on the report. “The driver of this debt is spending,” said New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. “Our existing debt will be worsened by the president’s new health care entitlement programs…as well as an explosion in existing health care and retirement entitlement spending as the Baby Boomers retire.”
November 16, 2009
PhD economist Marc Faber predicts that the U.S. will launch a war to distract people from the bad economy.
China’s largest media outlet – Sohu.com – wrote in October 2008 that the Rand corporation, a leading U.S. military advisor, lobbied the Pentagon for a war to be started with a major foreign power in an attempt to stimulate the American economy:
According to French media, well-known U.S. think tank RAND Corporation … has submitted [to the Pentagon] an evaluation report assessing the wage a war to shift the feasibility of the current economic crisis…
Continued deepening of the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis and economic downturn, developed to a certain extent, is likely to trigger a war in order to achieve the purpose of the crisis passed.
(Google’s translation services are crude approximations, but Yihan Dai confirmed the translation of the original).
Is Faber right? Is the Sohu.com report accurate?
I don’t know. For example, I won’t take the Sohu.com claim very seriously until someone can point to the French media source, so that I can assess it’s credibility.
However, “military Keynesianism” – using military spending to stimulate the economy – has been U.S. policy for half a century. And the economist who coined that term said that such a policy always and “inexorably” leads to “an actual war” in order to justify all of the military spending.
Therefore, any studies which disprove the efficacy of war as an economic stimulus -see this and this – are important for balance.
In addition, contrary to popular belief, some writers say that the reason that WWII actually stimulated the U.S. economy was not because of America fighting the war. Specifically, they argue that America’s ramped-up production of armaments for the British before the U.S. entered the war was the thing which stimulated our economy.
To try to sort some of this out, I spoke with a PhD professor of economics with a background in international conflict in July 2008 to find out whether war is really good for the economy.
I asked if conventional wisdom that war is good for the economy is true, especially given that all of the spending on the war in Iraq seems to have weakened America’s economy (or at least, greatly increased its debt).
The economist explained the seeming paradox:
“War always causes recession. Well, if it is a very short war, then it may stimulate the economy in the short-run. But if there is not a quick victory and it drags on, then wars always put the nation waging war into a recession and hurt its economy.”
Given that America has been fighting both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars longer than it fought WWII, the exception obviously doesn’t apply.
Can America go beat up some poorly-armed country to get a quick war?
It is more unlikely than many assume. Given that many believe that the U.S. started the Iraq war based on false pretenses, and that the Iraq war was really about oil (see this, this, this, this and this), I am skeptical that many would buy America’s stated justifications for another war.
Indeed, the Sohu.com article – even if wholly untrue – proves my point.
In addition, even a war against a small, poorly-armed and resource-poor country could be considered a proxy war. In other words, other heavily-armed countries might fight the U.S. through local proxies, dragging the war out for years, just as the U.S. did with Russia in Afghanistan. America today is not the empire it was even 10 years ago, and – as Afghanistan and Iraq show – America no longer has the financial resources to project force and impose its will world-wide.
The bottom line is that anyone advocating for war to help our economy is mistaken.