Friday, October 22, 2004
Terrorism's Silent Partner at the United Nations (Hat tip: LGF)
This month, the United Nations Security Council voted to condemn terrorism. The resolution was introduced by Russia, still grieving over the terrorist attack on a school in Beslan, and perhaps the unanimous vote will give it a measure of solace. But the convoluted text and the dealings behind the scenes that were necessary to secure agreement on it offer cold comfort to anyone who cares about winning the war against terrorism. For what they reveal is that even after Beslan and after Madrid and after 9/11, the UN still cannot bring itself to oppose terrorism unequivocally.
Terrorism As a Right
The reason for this failure is that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which comprises fifty-six of the UN's 191 members, defends terrorism as a right.
After the Security Council vote, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John C. Danforth tried to put the best face on the resolution. He said it "states very simply that the deliberate massacre of innocents is never justifiable in any cause. Never."
But in fact it does not state this. Nor has any UN resolution ever stated it. The U.S. delegation tried to get such language into the resolution, but it was rebuffed by Algeria and Pakistan, the two OIC members currently sitting on the Security Council. (They have no veto, but the resolution's sponsors were willing to water down the text in return for a unanimous vote.)
True, the final resolution condemns "all acts of terrorism irrespective of their motivation." This sounds clear, but in the Alice-in-Wonderland lexicon of the UN, the term "acts of terrorism" does not mean what it seems.
For eight years now, a UN committee has labored to draft a "comprehensive convention on international terrorism." It has been stalled since day one on the issue of "defining" terrorism. But what is the mystery? At bottom everyone understands what terrorism is: the deliberate targeting of civilians. The Islamic Conference, however, has insisted that terrorism must be defined not by the nature of the act but by its purpose. In this view, any act done in the cause of "national liberation," no matter how bestial or how random or defenseless the victims, cannot be considered terrorism.