As a reporter for a local television station, reporter Eric Shawn covered city hall and the crime beat in New York City. Now he covers global crime, with a focus on the United Nations, for Fox News. His new book, The U.N. Exposed: How the United Nations Sabotages America’s Security and Fails the World , is full of scandals that never even make it to the back pages of our major newspapers. The book demonstrates there is at least one member of the U.N. press corps who doesn’t think it is his job to climb into bed with U.N. boss Kofi Annan.
Like many of us, he was exposed to the benefits of UNICEF as a child and the Model U.N. program as a student. As a journalist, however, he became shocked by the corruption in the world body. His book calls it “U.N. World,” where reality is turned upside down. It’s the kind of place where Iran, under international scrutiny for lying to the world about its pursuit of nuclear weapons, was elected to the U.N. disarmament committee on one day and the next day announces it has enriched uranium. “If there isn’t a more blatant example of the hypocrisy and meaninglessness of some of the decisions over there, I don’t know what is,” he told me in a recent interview. “You can’t make this stuff up.”
Shawn took the U.N. Charter seriously, examining its commitment to maintaining international peace and security. Here, he finds, the world body has been almost a complete disaster. The story of the U.N.‘s failure to confront Iraq, Shawn says, is a crime story. “Saddam bribed the U.N. Security Council, at least France, Russia and China, through billions of dollars in contracts,” he says.
But there is more. Shawn says the vice-chairman of the U.N. counterterrorism committee, the Ambassador from Algeria, refuses to condemn terrorism. He says less then half of the members of the committee even show up for important terrorism meetings, and less than half file required reports on time about what they’re doing about terrorism. And, of course, the U.N. can’t agree on a new treaty against terrorism because member states can’t agree on how to define it.
The nuclear weapons program of Iran, which key U.N. members are reluctant to deal with, is just the latest example of a trend which affects the security of the U.S. and the entire world. Shawn predicts the U.S. will give up on the U.N. regarding Iran, in the same way it had to assemble a “coalition of the willing” and bypass the world organization on Iraq.
Shawn’s book is much different from some other books written by journalists about the U.N. Linda Fasulo’s An Insider’s Guide to the U.N., reads like the U.N. paid for it. Actually, the pro-U.N. lobby paid for it. In a conflict of interest for a supposed straight news reporter, we exposed the fact that Ted Turner’s U.N. Foundation and Better World Campaign and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund underwrote its publication to the tune of $26,000. “It is hard to find anyone who can mount a serious criticism of [Kofi] Annan’s performance as Secretary General,” wrote Fasulo, who covers the U.N. for National Public Radio (NPR) and NBC News. NPR reprimanded Fasulo over the payments. NBC said it was no big deal.
The U.N., Shawn notes, has been “a sacred political cow” and “icon of political correctness” to the press. One factor, he says, has been that the U.N. beat has consisted of reporting what U.N. officials and diplomats say, rather than what actually happens in the institution. Another factor is that it is not an American press corps. Most are foreigners who do not see their jobs as investigating behind the scenes. It is no surprise, Shawn adds, that Claudia Rosett, who is not a member of the U.N. press corps, did the initial digging into the massive corruption scandal known as the Iraq oil-for-food program. Her April 2006 Commentary article, “How Corrupt is the United Nations?,” is a must-read.
Among other things, Rosett has covered the fate of the controversial expensive Mercedes bought by Annan’s son Kojo, who was implicated in the scandal and used his father’s name in making the purchase. Shawn says he has tried to follow up but that no one at the U.N. knows or at least will say what happened to it. He heard it was involved in an accident. By itself, the car is of no significant consequence. But it became a “very tangible symbol” of what has gone wrong at the world body, he says.
There are some other reporters who want to seriously probe U.N. operations, and Shawn talks about them in his book. They include James Bone of the London Times and Benny Avni of the New York Sun. His book also examines some of the complaints AIM has made about the operations of the U.N. Correspondents Association (UNCA).
Much more follow-up needs to be done in this area. One of our complaints concerned a former UNCA president and current U.N. correspondent who actually takes money from the U.N. to educate its officials on how to deal with the press. This is considered business-as-usual at the world body.
Despite Annan’s role in failing to stop the Rwanda genocide when he was director of peacekeeping at the U.N., Shawn is not prepared to say that Annan is personally corrupt or on the take financially. On the other hand, Shawn says we don’t know the complete story of corruption in the oil-for-food program. He notes that Annan claims he can’t remember a key meeting involving his son, and one of his closest aides was caught shredding documents.
What’s more, there are unanswered questions about a $500,000 cash prize Annan received from the United Arab Emirates supposedly for his work on the environment. Asked if we know how many personal gifts and how much money Annan has received over the years, Shawn says there is no effective way to find the truth. The Freedom of Information Act, of course, doesn’t apply to the world body. “Their freedom of information is whatever they want to tell you,” he says. Conceivably, Annan could have received millions of dollars.
Another mysterious element of U.N. operations is the extent to which billionaires such as George Soros and Ted Turner have let their money do the talking. Turner’s billion-dollar “gift” to the world body has gotten a lot of attention, but I have never been able to determine how an organization that is supposed to be funded by member states takes money from the super rich. Like Kojo’s Mercedes, this is a black hole of information. Soros, a convicted inside-trader and anti-Bush activist, underwrites some of the prizes given out by UNCA and, as first disclosed by Avni of The Sun, rented a house to Annan’s chief of staff, Mark Malloch Brown, who was just appointed U.N. Deputy Secretary-General. In his chapter, “The U.N. Press Corps Cover-up,” Shawn examines these controversies. More follow-up is desperately needed.
Another area which deserves follow-up is the U.N.‘s attempted shake-down of U.S. taxpayers, not only through forced “dues” or contributions, but through a proposed global tax. Shawn, on page 234 of his book, refers to a plan for the U.S. to pay 0.7 percent of GDP to the U.N. and other global agencies in increased foreign aid spending. He notes that the U.N. plan would add $60 billion a year to what the U.S. already pays in foreign aid.
As estimated by Annan adviser Jeffrey Sachs, the figure is actually $65 billion a year, and has to be calculated over a period of 13 years, during which the U.S. is expected to meet the “Millennium Development Goals” set for us by the world body. This brings the figure to a grand total of what the U.S. supposedly “owes” to $845 billion. Sachs himself has spoken of an energy tax on Americans to make up the difference. My own most recent report  on this matter examines how the U.N. is pursuing a global tax that would add the equivalent of 35 cents per gallon to what we are already paying so that we can meet our so-called international financial obligations.
Even with the need for follow-up on some points, this book is a blockbuster. There are some other critical books on the U.N. that have been published, but the difference is that Shawn has been there, as a member of UNCA, covering the world body from the inside. It is a tribute to Roger Ailes and Fox News that Shawn has been able to do this kind of investigative reporting. One of his recent stories was about how UNCA was considering giving a global citizen award to Annan, the official they are supposed to be covering objectively. Shawn, like Claudia Rosett, has also been covering Annan’s mysterious $500,000 “gift” from Dubai.
Shawn, of course, has made himself into a target by writing such a devastating expos?. He’s scheduled to go up against Jon Stewart on the “Daily Show” on Tuesday night. If Stewart wants some funny lines, he should read the book in advance and pull out some of the material about U.N. shenanigans that Shawn has uncovered. The trouble is, it’s all true. The latest one about Iran being on the disarmament committee sounds funny but certainly is not.
While Shawn will be speaking to the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, don’t look for the U.N. boss to throw him a book party.