Not surprisingly, our previous post about Roger L. Simon's hyper-focus on the Oil-for-Food controversy elicited a strong response from the UN's blog critics. And not unexpectedly, the responses were largely dismissive, derisive, and betrayed a shallow reading of the original post. Michelle Malkin, Captain Ed, Redstate, Glenn Reynolds, Hugh Hewitt, Pejman Yousefzadeh, and a number of others have weighed in. Here are the main lines of argument, with comments: 1. UN Dispatch is the UN's blog, and the post in question represents the UN's displeasure with Roger Simon. False. Here's a brief quote from the 'About' section of this blog: "UN Dispatch is sponsored by the United Nations Foundation, though the views expressed herein do not represent the official views of the United Nations Foundation, or the UN." 2. UN Dispatch does nothing to refute Simon's contentions about Oil-for-Food and simply takes issue with his topic selection. A non-argument. The post is clearly about an examination of why Simon is fixated on the subject, not what he says about it. A March 3rd entry on UN Dispatch quotes Mark Malloch Brown, chief of staff to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on Oil-for-Food: "There was wrongdoing at the UN, an organization which must live by the highest ethical standards, and we've got to correct it and root it out." 3. Simon has the right to blog about anything he pleases, whether or not the UN likes it. Again, this isn't in contention. The point is not to deny Simon the right to post, but to examine his rationale for focusing on a single issue, however significant, to the exclusion of other issues of equal - if not greater - impact. The question seems reasonable considering that most issue-oriented bloggers such as Brad DeLong, Volokh, Juan Cole, etc. have an area of specialization that dovetails naturally with their blogging. In Simon's case, it seemed like a fair question to ask why this particular topic is of signal importance to him. Finally, an unfortunate reaction from some bloggers is their willingness to simply shrug off the examples of UN-related issues listed in the original post. It's clear that many of these bloggers have become accustomed to knee-jerk attacks and are unwilling (or unable) to engage in a reasoned debate. For the record, we'll re-post the issues we think warrant attention and let readers decide: Tackling the threat of transnational organized crime Shipping supplies to millions of Iraqi schoolchildren Controlling the Marburg virus Building thousands of homes for tsunami victims Partnering with the private sector to meet humanitarian needs Reducing child mortality rates Rehabilitating Iraq's marshlands Eradicating polio Rebuilding lives in Afghanistan Fighting the global malaria epidemic Curbing the world's most hazardous pollutants Improving global disaster and emergency response Building a sustainable future
20% of Roger L. Simon's blog entries during the month of April make reference to the Oil-for-Food controversy. 0% of Roger L. Simon's blog entries during April make reference to the following UN-related issues: Tackling the threat of transnational organized crime Shipping supplies to millions of Iraqi schoolchildren Controlling the Marburg virus Building thousands of homes for tsunami victims Partnering with the private sector to meet humanitarian needs Reducing child mortality rates Rehabilitating Iraq's marshlands Eradicating polio Rebuilding lives in Afghanistan Fighting the global malaria epidemic Curbing the world's most hazardous pollutants Improving global disaster and emergency response Building a sustainable future ________ Is Simon's hyper-focus on a single UN-related issue based on deep convictions? Unbending principles? Moral outrage? Maybe. Then again, there's his explanation: "Thanks to the Secretary General of the United Nations for providing this blog with its first 50,000+ visitor day." - Roger L. Simon
"A counterpoint to Sen. Norm Coleman's criticisms of the United Nations' leader will sound today at Macalester College and the University of Minnesota, where two prominent U.N. supporters will lead town hall meetings on the future of the world body. Former Ambassador Thomas Pickering said Monday that the Minnesota Republican's call for Secretary-General Kofi Annan's resignation is unwarranted. A final report is pending from an investigation into corruption in the U.N.'s oil-for-food program for Iraq, he said, and meanwhile "my strong feeling is that no decision should be made about this particular issue." Pickering, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. from 1989 to 1992, also said Coleman is wrong to assert that Annan's position as the U.N.'s effective CEO makes him responsible for any wrongdoing. The oil-for-food program was conceived, Pickering said, under a resolution giving responsibility to a Security Council committee. "Holding the CEO responsible for something the board takes out of his hands is a stretch," he said in a telephone interview.
Media Matters: "Right-wing evangelical radio host Janet Parshall and guest Frank Gaffney, neoconservative Center for Security Policy director and former Reagan administration acting assistant secretary of defense, baselessly accused those who oppose the nomination of undersecretary of state John Bolton to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations of partisanship and bad faith. Opening an April 5 interview of Gaffney on her syndicated radio program, Parshall asserted, "People who think the U.N. should rule the world will have some serious problems with John Bolton."
"Offering the latest in a series of smears by Fox News against United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, correspondent Jonathan Hunt cast Annan as dishonest for claiming that the recent interim report of the independent panel investigating the U.N. oil-for-food program was an "exoneration" and made baseless claims about supposed U.N. staff frustration with Annan." LINK
The following documents detail correspondence between the UN and FOX News with respect to a Breaking Point investigation, "United Nations Blood Money," that aired on FOX News Channel and was posted on FOXNews.com. UN Under-Secretary Shashi Tharoor has written two letters outlining inaccuracies in the FOX report. FOX acknowledges receipt of the first letter but did not correct nor defend the inaccuracies listed in Mr. Tharoor's first letter, prompting him to repeat the information in yet another letter. Letter to FOX News Senior Vice President John Moody from Shashi Tharoor, UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Dear Mr. Moody, I am, once again, compelled to write to you concerning David Asman's Breaking Point story "UN Blood Money," the latest incarnation of which aired on Fox on 9 February 2005. It was with genuine disappointment that we, at the UN, noted this new edition repeated many of the errors we had drawn to Fox's attention in September last year, and even added some new inaccuracies. I am most grateful to Fox for giving me the chance to correct some of these problems on air, during the Geraldo Rivera segment that immediately followed the broadcast. However, in the interest of fair and balanced reporting, I would appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight on matters I simply did not have the time to confront during that three-minute appearance. To that end, I would be grateful if you would post this letter on the Fox News website along with the attached update to the 'The Facts about the Oil for Food Programme' sheet that you originally posted in September last year. As my colleague, UN Chief of Staff Mark Malloch Brown, made clear at a press conference in February, the Volcker Inquiry's interim report demonstrated that some of the problems Fox News and others identified about the Oil for Food Programme were clearly correct. We thank you for helping bring these to light. Secretary-General Annan has already instituted changes to our management practices that will improve accountability and transparency, and should make such failings less likely in the future. That said, highly exaggerated accounts of what went wrong (and why) only do a disservice to everyone, including your viewers. In the short term it is the UN that suffers, but such claims can only ultimately damage the credibility of Fox News itself. I certainly hope that Fox and other media outlets maintain their scrutiny of our efforts, just as I hope that they insist on reporting their findings in an accurate, fair and objective fashion. Yours sincerely, Shashi Tharoor Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information
Nico at Think Progress: "Yesterday, Fox posted a 1,500-word "news article" that purportedly "places responsibility squarely in [U.N. chief Kofi Annan's] office for obscuring mismanagement" of the Oil-for-Food program. The piece was co-authored by Claudia Rosett, who is identified at the end of the article only as "a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies." Sounds harmless enough, right?" Read the rest...
FOX News writes: "The United Nations has sent a letter to FOX News in response to the special Breaking Point investigation, "United Nations Blood Money," that appeared Feb. 13 on FOX News Channel and on FOXNews.com. "U.N. officials charged that FOX News erred in declaring that "high U.N. officials [were] getting oil handouts from Saddam [Hussein]" as part of the Oil-for-Food program.
Media Matters: "A promotion for a FOX News special report titled Breaking Point: U.N. Blood Money: Kofi Annan Under Fire promised that the hour-long special would deliver "shocking new information" on corruption in the United Nations oil-for-food program. Instead, viewers were treated to a host of glaring omissions, dubious sources, falsehoods and distortions, smears, and innuendo. As the title suggests, the report focused on U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. FOX chose to target Annan despite the fact that no specific allegations -- beyond the generic charges of "mismanagement" and "lax oversight" -- have surfaced to connect Annan to corruption in oil-for-food, let alone actual evidence."