Facing an increasingly hostile group of law students in an Oxford seminar that had somehow gone dreadfully wrong, beads of sweat began to pop out on [US Ambassador at the UN] John Bolton's furrowed brow. Amidst a rising chorus of taunts, jeers, hisses and outright denunciations, Bolton was swiftly surrounded by his entourage of three American security agents and whisked out the door of the seminar room at Oriel College on Friday, the 9th of June.
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Bolton began his broadside with an examination of the principle of 'sovereign equality,' whereby every nation has exactly the same voting rights as every other member of the General Assembly. He adopted an unsophisticated book-keeper's perspective, stating that the contributions made by the USA dwarfed those of many other nations. He argued unconvincingly that even those forty-seven members who paid the bare minimum had the same voting power in the General Assembly as America. This observation failed to impress the audience who were more than well aware of America's financial and economic superiority to the debt-ridden nations in the third world a superiority accumulated through trade negotiations designed to extract capital from the poorest nations and transfer it to the wealthiest.
Bolton's panacea for the bureaucratic inefficiency was simple a tax cut for the wealthiest nations. At its core, he implied that a group of sharp-eyed book-keepers backed by accountants, auditors and a hardened core of dues-collectors should run the United Nations along strict financial guidelines as if it were a private club with a dining room and golf course rather than the world's premiere organization mandated to prevent armed conflict between sovereign nations, foster economic development, enhance social equality and cultivate international law. If Bolton is aware of the principles defining the mission of the United Nations, he made no mention of them whatsoever. His sole focus was a totally transparent harangue on the disparity of dues, a tissue of an argument that would not have convinced a fifteen year old much less Oxford law students.
Turning to his case for corruption, Bolton launched into a literal diatribe about the Oil for Food programme that he described as a substantial scandal. The background to this is important: led by Bolton, neoconservative critics of the UN attempted unsuccessfully to make a criminal case against Kofi Annan and members of his family through the Oil for Food investigation, but their efforts largely were wasted. The investigation did discover some relatively minor official corruption involving a paltry $150,000 paid to one individual. The largest amount of corruption appears to have come in the form of kickbacks and bribes to the government of Iraq by oil companies seeking cheap oil. Of the kickbacks paid to the government of Iraq, 52% came from the US in the form of bribes for cheap oil, a figure that is more than the rest of the planet of 190 nations combined. While a partisan Republican Senator, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, made allegations against one high profile figure, George Galloway a British MP, they have been refuted. The investigation is ongoing, but of 54 internal audits only one has been made public.
Bolton did not mention any of these details, nor did he provide any substantive evidence for his charge of serious levels of official corruption at the UN
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In what was rapidly becoming his interrogation, a woman from America questioned Bolton about the need for a balanced approach where America would represent the best interests of the world at large rather than its own particular regional self-interest. At that point, Bolton fumbled. In a clumsy and misguided attempt to turn the tables on his adroit and incisive challengers, Bolton threw out a question of his own. He called for a show of hands of those in the audience who were British. Bolton then asked how many of them wanted the British Ambassador at the UN to represent the interests of Britain. Only one or two hands were raised. Then he asked to see a show of hands of those British subjects who wanted the British Ambassador at the UN to represent not only the interests of Britain but also the collective interests of the other members as well. At least a dozen hands went up into the air. Stunned, Bolton was dumbfounded and said rather witlessly, "I would have gotten a different result in America."