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Opinion - Senator Helms Shows Arrogance

One of the United Nations most outspoken critics, Senator Jesse Helms Chairman of the US Foreign Relations Committee, addressed the UN Security Council yesterday. He found many faults with the UN but John Howard writes "don't find faults - find a remedy."

In an historic first arch-conservative, US Sen. Jesse Helms, warned the UN Security Council not to overstep its authority, to trim its bureaucracy, to show more gratitude to the US and not to encroach on US sovereignty.

It was a hard hitting, almost rude and arrogant speech, which was not received well by the 15 Security Council membership who were all in attendance. Ambassadors representing many other UN countries were in the public gallery.

Helms was the first US lawmaker to ever address the UN and he has probably done the US a considerable amount of damage in the International community.

UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, escorted Helms into the chamber but did not stay for his speech.

Helms said, "The American People have grown increasingly frustrated with what they feel is a lack of gratitude."

"I have received literally thousands of letters from Americans all across the country expressing their deep frustration with this institution," he said.

He showed his arrogance by saying he "hoped you have a translator here who can speak Southern." Helms is a Senator from North Carolina, a southern US state.

In the past Helms has ridiculed UN leaders as "dysfunctional" and "cry babies" and in this speech he accused the 188-member UN General Assembly of an anti-American bias in many of its activities.

He reserved some of his harshest criticism for the International Criminal Court established by the treaty of Rome in 1998 but yet to take form. Helms led efforts to exempt US soldiers from the jurisdiction of the court.

He told the Security Council that it had a "mixed record" in countering aggression. "International law did not defeat Hitler, nor did it win the Cold War," he said

"The American people see the UN aspiring to establish itself as the central authority of a new international order of global laws and global governance. This is an international order the American people will not accept," he said.

"A UN that seeks to impose its presumed authority on the American people without their consent begs for confrontation - and I want to be candid - eventual US withdrawal," Helms said.

Sometimes banging his hand on the table to emphasise a point, Helms said, " It is not my intention to offend you, and I hope I will not, it is my intention to extend to you my hand of friendship and convey the hope that in the days to come we can join in mutual respect."

But offend he did.

" The money we (US) spend on the UN is not charity. To the contrary, it is an investment - an investment from which the American people rightly expect a return."

In late 1999, the US Congress voted to pay $926 million in arrears but the payment has two dozen conditions which must be met before all the money can be released.

Helms' remarks drew sharp responses from the closest US allies.

French Ambassador, Alain Dejammet said "Your warm accent from the South was entirely understood by our interpreters. We did hear you. But the idea in this house is that others must be heard as well." He denounced the US delinquency in paying dues.

Peter van Walsum, envoy from the Netherlands, said that while the UN makes a "supreme effort to accomodate the United States," under the UN Charter it cannot attach conditions to its payments.

Robert Fowler, Canada's representative, said it was the slowness of US payments that has "seriously impaired our cooperative efforts to protect and promote international peace and security."

What Helms did not do was offer any meaningful solutions or remedies for his criticism of the UN. He simply took the easy way out - finding fault, but not offering a reasonable and acceptable alternative or remedy. In that respect he did the US people of whom he presumes to speak, a great disservice.

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