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Is Annan an accomplice to murder in Syria?
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
07/10/2012
The appointment of Annan sent a clear message to Assad that a representative was being sent who would provide cover for increased repression.
 
On July 9, after catching some rest in a Damascus hotel, Kofi Annan said he had held “candid and constructive” talks with Syrian dictator Bashir Assad. Annan claimed Assad accepted the idea of “moving ahead with political dialogue.... President Assad reassured me of the government’s commitment to the six-point peace plan which, of course, we should move ahead to implement in a much better fashion than has been the situation so far.” Yet at the same time, Syrian forces were shelling more than five major cities and towns throughout the country.

Annan’s peace plan, which was developed after his initial appointment as UN-Arab League envoy to Syria in February 2012, has provisions for a cease-fire and for the Syrian government to respect freedom of association and movement. This is the third time Annan has visited Damascus as part of his mission. As part of the plan some 300 UN monitors were sent to monitor a non-existent cease-fire in April. They have since ceased their work, although they are apparently still being paid, and are residing in hotels throughout Damascus, helping to prop up the dictator’s economy.

ANNAN’S DO-NOTHING plan and endless talks are mainly portrayed as a well meaning, sincere effort that simply cannot get the job done, sort of like the endless negotiations with Iran about its development of nuclear weapons.

Annan himself always expresses an “aw shucks” attitude regarding his work. In comments to Le Monde, for example, he claimed: “Evidently we have not succeeded.

And maybe there is no guarantee we will succeed.”

But some of the comments he has made should have made commentators jaws drop at their inanity. For example, in June he warned Syria was “drifting” toward civil war in comments to the UN security council, saying, “Clearly, the time has come to determine what more can be done to secure implementation of the plan.”

This is utter nonsense; Syria has been in a civil war for a year, it didn’t “drift” into one in June. The time to determine what more could be done was June 2011, not June 2012.

Annan’s statement is equivalent to asserting that the American civil war commenced with the Battle of Gettysburg.

Nevertheless, news organizations and foreign policy analysts tend to accept all this at face value. They report on the “constructive” talks without ever asking whether they’re actually constructive or not. They report on “failed” cease-fires without wondering if anyone ever even attempted to implement a cease-fire.

There is broad acceptance that the Annan mission is a failure because a) it is a tough job, b) Annan is simply incompetent or c) Assad is too wily and outwits the international community.

However, given Annan’s long list of monumental failures, as UN director of peacekeeping operations and then as secretary general, and the gravity of his current mission, none of these explanations are satisfactory.

We would be remiss if we did not at least consider the fact that the longer he remains as envoy to Syria, the more he becomes a passive accomplice to the crimes the Syrian regime is committing, by whitewashing the leadership’s supposedly “constructive” commitments to peace and allowing the charade of diplomatic delaying tactics to continue.

ANNAN WAS born in Ghana in 1938 and attended college in the United States. Since 1962 he has been a professional “international,” working at the World Health Organization and the UN. From 1993 to 1995 he was the UN’s director of peacekeeping operations (DPKO).

The Rwandan genocide took place in the summer of 1994.

Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, commander of the UN assistance mission in Rwanda during the genocide, claimed in his book Shake Hands with the Devil that Annan was aloof when it came to saving the 800,000 people who were murdered on his watch. After one important discussion, “Annan offered words of encouragement and promised to support me,” he wrote.

Dallaire’s memoirs are replete with other instances of his superiors “listen[ing] attentively” and being “sympathetic and concerned.” What Dallaire describes is a bureaucracy of death which had the ability to do much more to stop the genocide and yet did the bare minimum.

However, Annan’s incompetent handling of the Rwandan genocide didn’t prevent him from moving on to oversee carnage in the former Yugoslavia. Many commentators have remarked on the Ghanian’s responsibility for not preventing the killings at Srebrenica in 1995. Afterwards, Annan claimed that the UN should have carried out “more decisive and forceful action to prevent the unfolding horror.”

When the Darfur genocide broke out in 2003, Annan was Secretary General of the UN. By 2006 he was talking about the “risk” of a genocide and claimed, “The tragedy in Darfur has reached a critical moment.”

In a Washington Post article in January of that year he claimed that “much stronger pressure must be brought on all parties – the rebels as well as the government – to observe the cease-fire and commit themselves to the Abuja peace talks with a sense of urgency.”

Sound familiar? On-paper cease-fires, fruitless international pressure, talks and more talks. And genocide.

IN SYRIA, of course, we are not talking about genocide.

But is it a coincidence that since Annan has taken over as envoy the death toll has risen? The appointment of Annan sent a clear message to Assad that a representative was being sent who would provide cover for increased repression.

Too much credit is given Assad for “playing” or “fooling” the UN and Mr. Annan. An article in Al-Arabiya in April claimed that Annan was “haunted by Bosnia war and Rwandan genocide.” But “third time’s a charm” doesn’t apply to mass murder.

This is Annan’s fourth major failure to act in the face of mass state-sponsored killing. When one fails so often in the course of their duties it cannot be described as a failure but rather a modus operandi. Annan’s goal is failure, his work ethic is failure, his double-talk about “cease-fires” and “constructive” dialogue are failure.

An accomplice by way of dereliction of duty, Kofi Annan has demonstrated his total unfitness for a mission like this. This is not to say Annan actually conspires to slow down international action because he hates the people of Syria, any more than he hated the Tutsi in Rwanda. But on the other hand, his failures are also not attributable merely to the structural-bureaucratic inability of the UN to prevent state-sponsored murder.

Annan’s failures are his own, and it is time to close the curtain on the ridiculous do-nothing play he keeps acting out on the world stage.
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