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December 26, 2004
Local expert backs U.N. chief
GOP scapegoating Annan, scholar says

Virginia Swain

Virginia Swain believes Annan has been a "good and strong leader." (T&G Staff/JIM COLLINS)

WORCESTER— A local expert on United Nations reform and a longtime U.N. volunteer staunchly defended Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan, saying that Republican-led efforts to oust him threaten the future of the international body already shaky because it did not sanction the war in Iraq.

Mr. Annan has been under fire for responding slowly to allegations of massive fraud in the U.N.’s oil-and-aid program that allowed Saddam Hussein to sell oil for food and medicine during economic sanctions after the Gulf War. Investigators have charged that Saddam pocketed billions of dollars from the program by bribing officials from the United Nations and several countries.

"Kofi Annan has been a measured and wise secretary-general who has bent over backward to accommodate the United States while sitting atop a volcano," said Joseph P. Baratta, an associate history professor at Worcester State College who has written extensively on reforming the United Nations."The Republicans want to make him a scapegoat for the purpose of weakening the United Nations," Mr. Baratta said. "There is no cause for removal of the secretary-general."

The isolationist element of the Republicans — including the fringe religious right that believes the United Nations a satanic body — appears to hold sway over the party, Mr. Baratta said. "These actions are destroying the U.N. just like the withdrawal of Germany and Japan destroyed the League of Nations in 1935," he said.
Virginia Swain, Mr. Baratta’s wife and a U.N. volunteer for much of the 1990s in the Philippines, at the Earth Summit in Brazil and elsewhere, said Mr. Annan has been "a good and strong leader" since taking over the secretary-general post in 1997.


"I believe in his integrity," said Ms. Swain, a delegate to global conferences on women, children, environmental and conflict-resolution issues who helped found the Boston-based Coalition for a Strong United Nations with Mr. Baratta. "He has been such a calm presence in the world," said Ms. Swain, who coordinates a peer mediation program at Burncoat High School.

The secretary-general was drawn more closely into the burgeoning scandal when it was revealed that his son, Kojo, remained on the payroll years after leaving a company in Africa that had a contract in the Iraq oil-for-aid program.

"We must remember that his son has only been accused, not convicted," Ms Swain said.

The oil-for-aid scandal is the subject of several investigations, including one in the U.S. Senate, and Mr. Annan has named former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker to head the U.N. investigation.

He promised "the most far-reaching investigation" in the U.N.’s history. The investigation should be allowed to run its course without pressure from American politicians, Mr. Baratta said. "In fact, it’s the secretary-general’s responsibility to the organization to fill out his term, not to collapse at the first Republican article that’s critical of him," he said.

Ms. Swain said the United States, as one of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, must bear some responsibility for corruption in the oil-for-aid program

Mr. Baratta, author most recently of the book "The Politics of World Federation," supports recommendations to increase the Security Council members to 23 and permanent members to 11, including Germany, Japan, India, Egypt, Brazil and an African country, most likely Nigeria or South Africa.

Joseph Baratta teaches International Relations at Worcester State College Germany and Japan likely would have to amend their own constitutions, which prohibit military activities beyond defending their own borders in order to join the Security Council on a permanent basis, Mr. Baratta said.

"This would make the Security Council more realistic by bringing in the states that have grown to power and influence in the last 50 years, including two powerful democracies in Germany and Japan," he said. "By bringing in Egypt and India, those countries would feel a responsibility to guide and maintain peace in two dangerous regions — South Asia and the Islamic world."

© 2012