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The U.N.'s Whining Ways
August 22, 2001

Article 2 of the United Nations Charter claims the organization "is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members." Mission not accomplished. The U.N.'s notion of sovereignty involves walling off our national parks and outfitting our troops in blue bonnets. Its similarly suspect understanding of equality says we write the checks other countries cash.

Though we're one of 188 members, the U.S. shoulders 25% of the United Nations' operating costs - more than the combined assessments of 177 other members. By contrast, China, whose standing on the Security Council and single vote in the General Assembly equals our own, pays under 1%. Bottom line, we spend $1.5 billion each year, not including $3-$9 billion for military support of peacekeeping activities. And what do the big checks buy?

Certainly not the gratitude of our well-funded "friends." In 1999, 108 nations voted against the U.S. on six out of every ten votes. On average, 58% of all votes went against our position. And don't expect Secretary General Kofi Annan to understand; his home country of Ghana pays just .007% of the U.N. budget and votes against the U.S. some 70% of the time.

So in return for our billions, the U.S. gets to buy into debacles like Somalia, attend anti-American conferences, and listen to third-world ministers moan that we're not paying our fair share. But wait, there's more. Of the U.N.'s 56,000 jobs, Americans hold only 7.2%. The remaining posts belong to bureaucrats well paid to insult their greatest benefactor - and invoice us for their trouble. They, along with what one ex-UNICEF official called their "pampered and cosseted staffs" consume 80% of the UN budget with their tax-free salaries, all-expenses paid field trips, and subsidized penthouses.

No wonder the United Nations admitted over the weekend that it's run out of cash in its regular budget and expects to be $75 million in the red by month's end. No wonder either that the U.S. is getting stuck with the bill. Turtle Bay's bookkeepers figure we currently "owe" $464 million in dues and $582 million for peacekeeping. In addition, we're on the hook for another $826 million in back dues and $726 million for peacekeeping.

For once, the House isn't buying. Last May, after the U.N. bounced us from the Human Rights Commission, House members voted to tie dues payment to an amendment that would exempt Americans from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. The Senate bill contained no such caveat, so a compromise must be pounded out. Enter White House dealmakers, eager to settle up with the U.N. before President Bush addresses the General Assembly next month. If they have their way, the amendment will be history and a check will be in the mail.

Before they sign your tax dollars over to King Kofi, your representatives could do with a bit of cost-benefit analysis. Billions later, the U.S.-funded superstate has succeeded only in draining our coffers, belittling our values, and diminishing our international standing. Rather than continuing to fund this racket or its skin-deep reforms, we should merely ask the United Nations it to be true to its Charter. Skip that troublesome "sovereign equality" section and read down to Article 19. There, the U.N. promises that any nation "in arrears in the payment of its financial contribution (a word that ironically connotes voluntary giving).shall have no vote in the General Assembly." No vote? No ongoing ransom? No reason to remain? Perhaps that Charter isn't so bad after all.

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