The administration of US President George W. Bush was right to declare on Dec. 9 that it's not pushing for the resignation of United Nations Sec. Gen. Kofi Annan.
Annan shouldn't resign because the US wants him to. He should resign, however. As was argued here last week, doing so would be best for the UN (OGJ Online, Dec. 3, 2004).
The issue flared after US Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), chairman of a committee investigating corruption of the UN's Oil-for-Food Program in Iraq, said Annan should quit. Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is believed by some investigators, including Coleman, to have manipulated the program for illicit uses worth as much as $21 billion.
Annan is under extra fire because his son and the official he assigned to administer the program are suspected of having profited from Oil-for-Food activities.
At first the Bush administration properly pointed to the need to learn everything possible about the matter. When that position was interpreted as falling short of support for Annan, John C. Danforth, the US ambassador to the UN, offered this clarification: "We are not suggesting or pushing for the resignation of the secretary general."
Good. Now nobody can say the US pressured Annan to resign.
He has all the pressure he needs. The UN faces a crisis of legitimacy. That Saddam probably enriched himself and peddled influence with Oil-for-Food proceeds is a scandal of historic dimension. That the graft may have financed weapons now killing supporters of democracy in Iraq makes appalling any effort to sweep it aside.
The mess discredits other UN activities. Poignant among them in the context of this scandal, and of special interest to the oil and gas industry and anyone concerned about economic development as a remedy for poverty, is the UN Convention against Corruption.
The corrupt can't fight corruption. The corrupt, therefore, can't fight global hunger or international hostility. The UN looks corrupt. It can't start looking otherwise until all questions about the Oil for Food Program have believable answers. And it can't achieve that step toward restoration of legitimacy with current leadership in place.
(Author's e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)