During a press conference yesterday in New York, a reporter asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to “look philosophically” at the state of diplomacy after eight years of the Bush administration and to think of “lessons we can draw out.” Rice then took the opportunity to polish up her boss’s record with the United Nations:
RICE: I think that the United States, under President Bush, has actually used the mechanisms and the councils of the United Nations more than they’ve been used maybe ever, whether it is insisting that Security Council resolutions that have been passed be respected, [or] whether it is seeking to deal with human rights and tyranny cases like Zimbabwe or Burma.
Indeed, the Bush White House has been spending a lot of time lately trying to rewrite the history of the last eight years, mainly due to the fact that President Bush’s failed policies have made him one of the most unpopular outgoing U.S. presidents in modern history.
But Rice has been playing along as well and this latest attempt at legacy building has no basis in reality. The Bush administration’s complete disregard of the U.N.’s will during the run-up to the Iraq war is the obvious example. The administration completely ignored the work of the U.N.’s weapons inspectors (UNMOVIC) at that time and instead attacked Iraq on false WMD pretenses before they could finish the job. Moreover, in 2004, then U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called the U.S.-led invasion illegal and “not in conformity with the U.N. charter.”
In 2004, the Bush administration also tried (and failed) to remove Mohamed El-Baradei as head of the IAEA — the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog — for being too soft on Iran. But to top it all off, in 2005, President Bush installed U.N. hater and fervent war hawk John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the world body. Bush wanted Bolton so badly, he “resorted to the 17-month recess appointment to circumvent” opposition to Bolton in the Senate. Bolton famously said “there is no such thing as the United Nations” and if the U.N. building in New York “lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”
Bush even found space to criticize the U.N. in his final address to the general assembly, saying the organization “only pass[es] resolutions decrying terrorist attacks after they occur” instead of doing something to prevent them “in the first place.”
In 2006, Annan’s deputy, Mark Malloch Brown noted that “[i]n recent years the enormously divisive issue of Iraq and the big stick of financial withholding have come to define an unhappy marriage” between the U.S. and the U.N. Indeed, new U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he looks forward to “a new era of partnership” with Obama.