Critic Watch: Megadeth Smackdown Edition

Last summer, UN Dispatch learned that the heavy metal band Megadeth was recording an album titled “United Abominations,” which featured cover art depicting a 9-11 style attack on the UN building in New York. Naturally, we thought it distasteful in the least. But without hearing the album, we reserved final judgment. Until now.

The album was released in late May. But not being much of a Megadeth fan, I forgot to pencil the release date into my calender. Still, we at UN Dispatch refuse to let Megadeth’s witless screed go unchallenged. Below the jump is a verse-by-verse response to the album’s title track. We listened so you don’t have to.

The track begins with a rambling, Limbaugh-esque monologue. The rant hits all the favorite themes of the fanatical right, and is accompanied by a crescendo of heavy guitar riffs that all but drowns out the last few sentences.

Less than five miles from Ground Zero sits an International hotbed, the United “Abominations” as it were. Created to prevent wars and promote peace, it failed to address the most dangerous threats facing the world.

In a mire of hypocrisy, bribes, kickbacks, and corruption, the UN enables terrorism, and ignores sex crimes by its peacekeepers. The UN is where our so-called allies undermine us, and we pay 22% of their tab to host our enemies here at home. Ambassadors from dirt-poor countries enjoy luxurious, tax-free Manhattan lifestyles, turning children into sex-slaves and enjoy Diplomatic immunity. It’s a complete and utter disgrace, a blot on the face of humanity, and they get away with it.

Blaming the UN for 9-11 is a new trope, even for conspiracy mongers–and rightly so. It goes without saying that nowhere in the authoritative 9-11 Commission Report is the United Nations cited for enabling the terrorist attacks. Frankly, because of aviation treaties negotiated under UN auspices, procedures to ground all international flights to the United States on September 11 were undoubtedly made easier. Further, the 9-11 Report stresses the need for greater cooperation at the United Nations to strengthen security standards for travel documents. And, as Eric Rosand clearly states in the last UNF Insights, the UN, as the world’s platform for international cooperation, is critical to global counterterrorism efforts.

The narrator then accuses the UN of ignoring sex crimes by peacekeepers. You can read the UN’s zero tolerance policy on sex crimes here. Essentially, the UN responds by sending peacekeepers home to face prosecution in domestic courts. The United Nations, I should stress, does not have the ability to conduct criminal prosecutions against peacekeepers, but depends on member states to do so.

Finally, the narrator is correct to point out that the United States pays 22% of the operating expenses of the United Nations General Secretariat. He is incorrect, however, in asserting that this funds ‘hosting our enemies at home.’ Each of the 192 member states pays for its own diplomatic mission to the United Nations. What the United States pays in dues to the United Nations helps funds things like translation services, utility bills, the building’s security, and other mundane day-to-day operating expenses necessary to sustain the UN missions around the globe

The heavy guitar riff softens. The song finally begins:

Poverty in their kitchens
Held hostage by oil-for-food
Yet their own plates are full off the fat of their lands
There’s no blood on their hands, right Kojo?
They promised to tell the truth
Without leaving a fingerprint, but
They will lose the UN one way or another
The victim, I fear will be us, sisters and brothers

Assuming the antecedent to the pronoun “they” refers to the UN Secretariat, lead singer and guitarist Dave Mustaine (whose voice we now hear) seems to be implying that UN staffers are enriching themselves while the poor in their country suffer. His evidence is the alleged corruption in the Oil-for-Food program, which allowed Saddam Hussein’s government to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian items. The rarely stated truth about the Oil-for-Food program is that it did what is was intended to do — prevent a humanitarian crisis in Iraq while exerting economic pressure on Saddam Hussein and keeping weapons of mass destruction out of his hands.

An investigation of alleged corruption in the Oil-for-Food program, led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, found that only one UN staffer, the Cypriot Benan Sevan, had solicited kickbacks from the Iraqi government. He was summarily fired and is now under indictment by a United States federal court. Kofi Annan’s son, Kojo, was dragged into the Oil-for-Food witch hunt following accusations that he used personal connections to steer a UN contract to a company that employed him as a consultant. The Volcker investigation cleared Kofi Annan of any wrong doing, and Kojo has never been accused of committing any crimes. In fact, he won a libel lawsuit against a British tabloid which accused him of smuggling Iraqi oil.

The oft-quoted “$13 billion” of corruption actually refers almost entirely to illegal oil smuggling by the Hussein regime. This was supposed to be regulated by members of Security Council (including the United States, which has a veto), not the UN administrators of the Oil-for-Food program.

Here comes the first part of the chorus. Brace yourself.

The UN is right; you can’t be any more “un”
Than you are right now, the UN is undone
Another mushroom cloud, another smoking gun

Nice turn of phrase: the ‘UN’ to ‘un’ to ‘undone.’ It gets better. Mustaine invokes two phrases inherently linked to selling the Iraq war to the American people: ‘mushroom cloud’ and ‘smoking gun.’ Those lines were the brainchild of Michael Gerson, the president’s former speechwriter who is now a columnist for the Washington Post. By warning of ‘another mushroom cloud, another smoking gun,’ Mustain seems to be implying that the nuclear threat from Iraq was real, or at least as real as the threat from the United Nations.

Actually, he doesn’t imply it — he says it in the very next line:

The threat is real, the Locust King has come
Don’t tell me the truth; I don’t like what they’ve done
It’s payback time for the United Abominations

This is where things get weird. ‘The Locust King’ is drawn from the Book of Revelation, Chapter 9. Mustain’s decision to use apocalyptic literature found in Revelation is quite, uh, revealing. He seems to be sympathetic to a fundamentalist doctrine known as pre-millenialism, in which an anti-Christ is said to rule the world during a period of tribulation before the messiah (Christ) returns. Some modern day pre-millenialist sects believe that the United Nations (or the Secretary General), is either literally the anti-Christ, or is setting the geopolitical conditions in which the anti-Christ will rise. Mustaine seems to believe this lunacy as well.

Next verse:

A grave and gathering danger
The decision to attack
Based on secret intelligence it’ll take years
I fear to undo the failings in Iraq
You may bury the bodies
But you can’t bury the crimes only
Fools stand up and really lay down their arms
No, not me, not when Death lasts forever

Again, Mustaine seems to be ascribing pre-Iraq war intelligence failures to the UN. In fact, United Nations weapons inspectors cautioned against American claims that Saddam Hussein had an active weapons program. Hans Blix, the Chief UN Weapons Inspector in Iraq during the pre-war period, even warned that American officials were misquoting his report on the state of the Iraqi WMD programs. The International Atomic Energy Agency also said that Iraq’s nuclear weapons capabilities were virtually nil.

Back to the Chorus:

The UN is right; you can’t be any more “un”
Than you are right now, the UN is undone
Another mushroom cloud, another smoking gun
The threat is real, the Locust King has come
Don’t tell me the truth; I don’t like what they’ve done
It’s payback time for the United Abominations

At this point, you can hear French spoken in the background. The only thing I could decifer was, “Nous besoin d’ordre mondial,” meaning, “We need global order.” This apparently upsets Mustaine, because he launches into a monster guitar solo! Then, Mustaine returns for three repetitions of the chorus. Following that, a radio-style voice over reminiscent of the opening monologue begins, each line punctuated with “there was no UN.”

NATO invaded Yugoslavia to end ethnic cleansing, there was no UN

While it is true that the United Nations Security Council never sanctioned the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, it strains credulity to assert there was no UN presence there. The day the bombing campaign was suspended — when NATO “invaded” — the Security Council authorized the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Today, the United Nations is responsible for rebuilding the entire region, prosecuting war criminals, and deciding the future status of the tiny province.

The US invaded Afghanistan after 9/11, there was no UN

In fact, the UN has a robust presence in Afghanistan. It convened the so-called Bonn Process that established the Hamid Kharzai government. The UN also organized Afghanistan’s historic 2004 elections and continues to provide humanitarian relief, promote good governance, and improve the rights of women.

Saddam Hussein violated 17 UN resolutions; The UN was asked to join the war in Iraq. The US invaded, there was no UN.

I think history speaks for itself. For the record, the “purple finger” elections were organized by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq.

Libya bombed a discotheque in Berlin killing Americans, there was no UN

In 1986, Libyan agents bombed a nightclub in Berlin, killing two US servicemen. President Regan retaliated by bombing two sites in Libya. It is hard to see how this episode is somehow an indictment against the United Nations.

Iran funds Hamas, and attacked the US in the seventies, there was no stinking UN

I think Mustaine may be confusing Hamas for Hezbollah, the Iranian backed militant group in Lebanon. Agents of Hezbollah bombed US marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, when the United States and other international forces were part of a UN sanctioned mission to end the bloody Lebanese civil war. Mustaine may also be referring to the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979. In this case, obituaries of the recently deceased UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim noted that securing the release of 14 Iranian-held American hostages in 1981 was one of the most significant achievements of his otherwise unremarkable tenure.

Facing War without end, looking into the future, there (grunt) was
(grunt) no (grunt) more (grunt) UNNNNNNNN!

Only in Mustaine’s dystopian fantasies.