If ever, in the dark recesses of the night, you start to doubt the essential decency of the West, or the foul, amoral, hypocritical viciousness of its totalitarian foes, then I have a foolproof remedy for you: attend a session of the United Nations General Assembly. As a happy by-product, it will cure you of any lingering doubts you might have had over the portentous, pusillanimous, utter uselessness of “the international community” into the bargain.
Last Friday’s session—they’re not called “debates,” as that might imply democracy, the interplay of ideas, and the possibility of votes being swayed through reasoned argument—was on the “prevention of Armed Conflict: Draft Resolution A/66/L57,” which sought to put the Assad regime squarely in the dock for the murder of 17,000 of its citizenry. It further condemns “the increasing use by the Syrian authorities of heavy weapons, including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and helicopters, in population centers and the failure to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons to their barracks.”
The session started with the General Assembly’s president, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, saying that the “credibility of the United Nations is at stake,” as though it hadn’t been already shot through by Kofi Annan’s complete inability to affect events in Syria, with his six-point plan or in any other way. The secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, nonetheless expressed his “tremendous admiration for all [Annan] did,” without mentioning what that in fact amounted to.
After a tough and impressive speech from the Saudi ambassador, who pointed out that Assad has responded to the six-point plan with six separate massacres, the latest still taking place in Aleppo, the Syrian ambassador denounced Saudi Arabia for supporting “armed groups” in his country, as though that was not standard Syrian policy in Lebanon from the ’70s onward. Saudi Arabia and Qatar were described as “despotic oligarchies who kill peaceful protesters,” as though Bashar al-Assad won and kept the presidency through his ophthalmic skills.
But at least the Syrian was defending his country’s irredeemably foul reputation as his job demands. Thereafter came the rogue’s gallery of countries—Venezuela, North Korea, Iran—which each supported the Assad regime in their speeches, each adopting a tone of righteous indignation against the West. Thus the representative of Hugo Chávez, a man who has ridden roughshod over his own country’s Constitution, sought to commend the Assad regime for its “political and constitutional reforms.” The ambassador of North Korea, where two thirds of the population face serious malnourishment, spoke of “the happiness of the people” as a reason for voting against the resolution. Meanwhile, Iran denounced “acts of terrorism” and “any violation of Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity,” as though it hadn’t supported Hamas and Hizbullah in their decades-long terrorist violations of Israel’s territorial integrity.
Again, no more than one might expect from rogue states that clearly feel the need to hang together in order to avoid hanging separately. Yet in the two-hour debate before the vote was taken, we also had to endure the pomposity and ludicrous lack of self-awareness of places like St. Vincent and the Grenadines, whose ambassador warned the world that his country was “closely watching developments,” that their prime minister had spoken on the Syrian issue to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Parliament, and that it supported Annan’s six-point peace plan, but had decided to abstain on the resolution. It was bad enough that the representative of a chain of microscopic islands numbering 109,000 people, 50 percent of the exports of which are bananas, should try to lecture the world on how its government had “agonized long and hard on this resolution,” without finally being told that it had decided to abstain. Similarly, Ecuador also abstained, because it felt the resolution “only politicizes the situation.” Quite how a full-scale civil war can avoid being “politicized,” His Excellency failed to enlighten the chamber.
Virtually the only person to make any sense in the entire session was the Israeli ambassador, Ron Prosor, who did not speak until after the vote had been taken. (In the Through the Looking Glass world of the U.N., they take the vote before having listened to half the speakers.) “The Syrian representative has managed to take the art of fabrication in this hall to new heights,” he said, in an unusual ad hominem attack. “If lying were an Olympic event, I’ve no doubt the Syrian regime and its representative could easily win a gold medal.” Here at last was some red meat, and even more unusual at the U.N., some raw truth. “The outside forces that have been instrumental in the slaughter in Syria speak in a Persian accent,” concluded Prosor. “Unfortunately, many in the international community do not yet acknowledge this fact.” One could sense the genuine fury in Prosor’s tone, that of a man who could take the despicable lies and self-serving of foul regimes like Iran, North Korea and Syria no longer. Prosor was the only person the entire day who had the guts to say explicitly what every single person of the several hundred present in that chamber knew to be true: that until Assad goes there can be no peace, freedom or human rights in Syria.
The vote was passed 133–12 with 31 abstentions, though of course it is nonbinding, so the whole exercise was academic. Among the countries voting no or abstaining were some of the most repulsive regimes on the planet, including Zimbabwe, Cuba, Belarus, Burundi, Burma, and China. So if ever you want confirmation that Civilization is in a constant state of stasis with Barbarism, and that we’re on the right side, just head to the East River in New York City between 42nd and 48th streets.