Norm Coleman and the U.N.


A September 8 Star Tribune story reports that Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman has been appointed by the White House (on the recommendation of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist) to represent Congress as a delegate to the United Nations when it meets this month. Oh, my. The local paper in Minnesota reported this in a tiny story on the bottom of page 12, with the simple headline “Sen. Coleman Named Delegate to United Nations.” The Associated Press story had a more informative headline: “Bush Administration Will Appoint Fierce Senate Critic of United Nations to U.S. Delegation.” Fierce critic, indeed.

Each of the major parties recommend a lawmaker as its representative in the official delegation to the UN. The president’s staff makes the nominations official, and the Senate approves them. The Democrats appointed Barbara Boxer. Ms. Boxer is not a “fierce critic” of the UN, which is what one might hope for an official delegate.

But this is, after all, the Bush administration, well-known for their dislike of any rules or institutions that might possibly limit their freedom to… well, to do whatever they want. And at or near the top of their “We Don’t Like This” list is the United Nations. (Evidence: John Bolton is the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. “Click here”: for a few reasons why I say this.)

Meanwhile, it is the U.S. Congress that approves the considerable share of U.N. funding that is provided by our very rich and very powerful nation. And that is where our own Senator Norm Coleman comes into the picture. In fact, I had written a piece a couple of months ago about Norm Coleman and the United Nations, then ran out of room to put it in the Notes. So, in honor of Mr. Coleman being named one-half of the official U.S. Congressional delegation to the United Nations, here is that article:

“Leverage for Reform” = Extortion

Consider this definition of the word “extortion,” from the Oxford English Dictionary:

“The act of obtaining something from a reluctant person by threat, force, importunity, etc.”

Now consider that the United States, by virtue of the size of its economy, currently pays 22 percent of the assessed budget for the United Nations.

Next, consider that the United States has been using its power to try to force a range of changes in the way the United Nations is run. Last December a cap on spending at the U.N. “was adopted under pressure” from the United States as a part of this effort to reform the U.N.

Now, here are the first two paragraphs of a story on this issue in the June 29th New York Times:

“The General Assembly budget committee lifted a cap on United Nations spending Wednesday night, thus averting a showdown that once threatened to shut down the organization’s activities by the end of June.

“The measure passed by consensus, without a vote, in the 191-nation committee, but the United States, Australia and Japan declared that they were officially ‘disassociating’ themselves from the decision.”

And, finally, here are the final two paragraphs of this short article, which I highlight because I live in Minnesota and this threat of extortion by the junior Senator from our state has not been reported in either of the local newspapers.

“In Washington, Senator Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican who has been a harsh critic of the way the United Nations is run and has called for the resignation of Secretary General Kofi Annan, said, ‘It appears that the reform of the United Nations has been left in the dust. I intend to urge my colleagues in the Senate to use our funding to the U.N. as leverage for reform, including withholding funds if reform fails to move forward.”

This sounds a lot like Mr. Coleman wants the U.N. to live by the Golden Rule. As in, “Those who have the Gold get to make the Rules.” Such use of one’s power—in this case, financial power—to threaten people with retaliation if they don’t do as you want is called extortion. It should be reported in the home-town newspapers. And they should call it what it is.