Saturday, May 08, 2004

Giving them the benefit of the doubt 

Ramesh Thakur, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Australia's most senior official at the UN, in today's "Age":

"Note the alacrity with which George Bush sought full and immediate action... and appointed people of impeccable integrity to investigate the... scandal. He is committed to full co-operation with the panel in providing all necessary documents and records, requiring [other]... officials to co-operate with it, and making its report public... How many national governments respond so quickly, with the promise of being as thorough and transparent, when... scandals erupt?

"We surely must remain more sceptical of these charges in the meantime... I will be deeply distressed if any official is proven to have been [implicated]. But if any are, they will be punished, and Bush will most likely give permission for them to be prosecuted in courts.

"Judge [the United States], by all means: but on the basis of facts established by and action taken after the investigation, not on the basis of wild charges."

Surprised by this staunch defence? You should be - I substituted Bush and the United States for all the references to Kofi Annan and the United Nations. Thakur was after all writing about the UN's response to the Food for Oil scandal.

In the past, Thakur wasn't as ready to wait and see and maintain the same sort of "let's give them benefit of the doubt" attitude. Consider his take on the liberation of Iraq:

"Say I have a rat in my kitchen. I call in the exterminators. When they are finished, my crockery and glassware are shattered, my kitchen shelves and cupboards are broken, the food in my pantry is poisoned, and even my house is wrecked. If I complain about the cost being too high in relation to the removal of one rat, does that mean I like having a rat in the kitchen?

"Was the war worth it? For Hussein's tribal supporters in the Tikrit region, no. For the minority Kurds and majority Shiites, yes. For the world as a whole? You be the judge."

The world 0, oppressed Iraqis 1.


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