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Rogues, despots, terrorists and shattered ideals -- the movie version

November 06, 2005|Ron Silver and David N. Bossie | Ron Silver is an actor who lives in New York City. David N. Bossie is the president of the Citizens United Foundation. They are the executive producers of "Broken Promises, The United Nations at 60."

WHEN the United Nations Charter was signed in 1945, it promised to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war."

Sixty years later, the United Nations is at a crossroads. Never have the organization's ideals and institutions been under greater strain and scrutiny.

What follows is an abridged version of the arguments made in our new documentary film, "Broken Promises, The United Nations at 60." It is a call for the United Nations to live up to the goals and objectives of its charter.

Origins

Silver, the film's narrator: The United Nations was created in a moment of extraordinary moral clarity after World War II. Its founding members had distinguished between good and evil, between the aggression of the Axis powers and their own roles as liberators.

Jed Babbin, former deputy undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush: The promise of the U.N. Charter is wonderful. It says that only nations which abide by international law, which respect each other's borders, which renounce aggression and respect human rights, only those nations could possibly be members of the U.N.

Dore Gold, Israel's former U.N. ambassador: Franklin Roosevelt's idea, as stated in his speeches, was that the U.N. is supposed to nip aggression in the bud. To do that, you have to be able to discern who is the aggressor and who is the victim of aggression. But what you find is that the U.N. is completely unable to do that.

Natan Sharansky, former Soviet political prisoner who immigrated to Israel: Something is deeply wrong with this organization -- it's refusal to recognize the difference between free societies and fear societies.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), whose family fled Cuba when she was a child: The United Nations sees no distinction. Every country is as equal as any other, even if they enslave their people, even if they prosecute people who speak their minds, even if they allow no political dissent -- you have an equal place at the table because we're all sovereign countries.

Human rights

Silver: When created in 1946, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and its universal declaration were historic pronouncements of the expected rights and freedoms for men and women in all member countries. Today, however, the commission includes some of the world's worst human rights abusers.

Babbin: When you see the commission having such stalwarts of human rights as Cuba, Sudan, Libya, Communist China dominating the Human Rights Commission, it is both outrageous and it is literally a fraud on the world.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, the largest U.S.-based human rights organization: We have been very outspoken about the commission's limitations. Today, roughly half of the state members of the commission are there not to promote human rights but to undermine the work of the commission, to try to defend themselves and others of their ilk.

Ros-Lehtinen: So you have the worst human rights violators actively lobbying their colleagues so that their country could be chosen as a member of the Human Rights Commission, so that their country could then not be sanctioned for their human rights abuses.

Silver: Cuba has long been criticized for political repression by human rights activists. Despite this, it was reelected to the commission in 2003. Shortly afterward, Castro jailed 75 pro-democracy activists. Some were sentenced to up to 28 years in prison. Their only crime was speaking out against the government.

Israel

Silver: In Sudan, executions, detentions without trial and slavery are daily occurrences. Yet the Human Rights Commission has targeted one country with one out of every four resolutions -- Israel.

Roth: I think it's to the great shame of the commission that it has not devoted anywhere near as serious attention to either the suicide bombers launched by Palestinians or to the severe repression that takes place in many Arab states surrounding Israel.

Silver: In 1974, the U.N. invited Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat to speak to the General Assembly. It marked a turning point for the U.N.--and for its relationship with Israel. Arafat's organization had been recently involved in international terrorism -- most notably at the Munich Olympics, where the PLO faction Black September slaughtered 11 Israeli athletes.

Gold: Arafat is not asked to renounce terrorism as a precondition. He walked in with his kaffiyeh, with his sidearm underneath his coat, and addressed the General Assembly. The most interesting thing Arafat says in that speech is, "If this was the original U.N. of 1945, I would not have been invited here. But obviously this is 1974. It's a different U.N."

Silver: Nearly 60 years after it first suggested a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, the U.N. remains on the sidelines in the peace process. It has, however, condemned Israel's security fence without mentioning the Palestinian suicide bombings that led to its construction.

Rwanda

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