Shock of the day: UN hypocritical

Posted: April 23, 2009 by Jonathan Boyko in United Nations

Somalian child drinking dirty water. Result of UN's war crimes in Somalia.

Somalian child drinking dirty water. Result of UN's war crimes in Somalia.

Backspin blog discovered this NYT op-ed, by Wayne Long, former UN chief security officer in Somalia (1993-2003). In the article, Long describes worst thing possible: collective punishment of civilians. You know – the thing UN constantly blamed Israel form, in latter’s quest to release its kidnapped soldier from Hamas’ captivity and in order to stop rocket fire from Gaza. Well, here comes the shock of the day: The United Nations used tactics of collective punishment against Somali civilians, just because a small group of pirates kidnapped some civilians. Take a look (emphasis mine):

Figuring out how to be of help wasn’t easy. Eventually, after long and heated internal discussion, the United Nations security team persuaded the United Nations country team that the most effective approach would be to use humanitarian aid and assistance as a lever to gain release of hostages.

Somalia is pretty much a stateless state. Humanitarian aid and clan association are major centers of gravity. In fact, clan leaders stay in power in part by controlling the distribution of aid. Our strategy was therefore simple: United Nations assistance was withheld from the Somali clan or region by which or in which hostages were being held until those hostages were released. In every case there was a release, and in no case were hostages harmed or ransom paid. (On the downside, no pirates were brought to trial or punished in any way.)

In 1995, for example, the water supply for Mogadishu, the capital, was shut off by the United Nations humanitarian agencies until a hostage who worked for another aid organization was released. On the first day of the shutoff, the women who collected water from public distribution points yelled at the kidnappers; on the second day they stoned them; on the third day they shot at them; on the fourth day, the hostage was released.

On another occasion, in 2000, two French yachtsmen were taken by pirates in their 40-foot sloop off Somalia as they made passage from Djibouti to Zanzibar. The French Embassy in Nairobi asked the United Nations team to help, and I entered into face-to-face negotiations in the remote port of Bossaso.

After demonstrating that the hostages were alive, the pirates demanded $1 million in ransom. I responded that the United Nations would suspend all civic improvement in the region — education, animal husbandry, vaccination, water projects. The aid would resume when the hostages were released.

This drove a wedge between the pirates and their home clan, the Darod. Clan elders put pressure on the pirates. After several weeks, the Frenchmen were released to me in return for resumption of all United Nations humanitarian aid. (I was unable to negotiate the release of the yacht.)

Where is the outrage?! Where are the calls for prosecution of Long and others like him for war crimes?! I guess it is okay when the UN does it.


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