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09.22.09

A Video History of U.N. Outbursts

There may be some friction over climate change at the United Nations, but it’s nothing compared to controversies from even the recent past.

Khrushchev Bangs His Shoe

Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the recently freed journalist who threw his shoes at George W. Bush, was by no means the first to express his opinion via footwear. In 1960, Nikita Khrushchev pounded his shoe on his desk in outrage over comments by a Filipino diplomat regarding Soviet foreign policy. Khrushchev's granddaughter later wrote in an article that the event remains a point of embarrassment for the family, and that the sequence of events surrounding "t he case of Khrushchev's shoe" remain in question. Still, one thing is for certain: Khrushchev had a flair for theatrics. Here is a video of him and other Soviet delegates interrupting a speech by England's Prime Minister Harold Macmillan by banging their fists furiously on a table.

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Israeli Ambassador Tears Resolution in Half

The United Nations is no stranger to the Israel-Palestine conflict. In 1975, after numerous resolutions condemning Israeli forays into Palestine, the U.N. passed Resolution 3379, which unequivocally stated that "Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination." Chaim Herzog, serving as the Israeli ambassador to the U.N., (and who would later serve as president), stepped to the podium and delivered a powerful speech against the measure that culminated with him tearing the document into pieces. The resolution was revoked in 1991, yet the discord between Israel and the U.N. continues: Just last week, the U.N. released a report alleging war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed by both Israel and Palestinian groups during the most recent three-week clash.

John Bolton’s Uneasy Ambassadorship

Many viewed George W. Bush's appointment of John Bolton as ambassador to the U.N. as a slap in the face to the organization. Here was a man who in 1994 openly criticized the U.N., saying "the United States makes the U.N. work when it wants it to work," and that if 10 stories of the U.N. building disappeared "it wouldn't make a bit of difference." Needless to say, the Bolton era was not the greatest moment for U.S. international relations.

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Colin Powell Sullies His Reputation

Critics of the Bush administration's controversial march to war in Iraq cite Colin Powell's WMD speech as Exhibit A. Powell, then serving as Secretary of State, delivered a high-profile speech in 2003 that presented faulty intelligence of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. The speech did irreparable damage to Powell's reputation, and he has since called it "a blot on his record."

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Chavez Talks Trash

Some people just have a knack for the spotlight. During the height of the war in Iraq, Hugo Chavez delivered a scathing speech to the U.N. General Assembly in 2006, criticizing then-President George Bush, as well as America's "imperialist" policies. After giving a plug to one of Noam Chomsky's books, (which rocketed up the Amazon bestseller list), Chavez took some legendary shots at Bush, calling him "the devil" who "talked as if he owned the world." Chavez also said, "The devil spoke in this very place yesterday. And it smells of sulfur still today." John Bolton, who was the U.S. ambassador to U.N., called it a "comic-strip approach to international affairs."

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Ahmadinejad Faces a Tough Crowd

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has never been known for being much of a speaker, and his paranoid, predjudiced ramblings were on full display during a U.N. conference on racism. But before Ahmadinejad could get his anti-Semetic stream of consciousness really revved up, diplomats began walking out in droves. And it looks as if a similar occurrence may be on the horizon: British diplomats have promised to walk out again should Ahmadinejad mention the Holocaust when he speaks this week.

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