21 JUNE 1975, Page 15

United they fall

Alan Clark MP

United Nations Journal William Buckley (Michael Joseph £5.50) The United Nations Organisation is the big "So What?" of our time. Indeed, so low has it fallen in public esteem that I f, It quite embarrassed reading William Buckley's book in a railway carriage until I had removed the flamboyant dust jacket.

Governments pay tribute to LINO with both wealth and verbiage, as medieval Barons and margraf endowed the Church and suffered the tedium of its catechisms — but having thus salved their conscience and stated their case for 'posterity' they proceed with their selfish designs. And, of course, by Article 27 of the Charter they have protected in perpetuity the licence to abuse their own subjects, and to violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at will, for this Article prohibits the United Nations from "intervening" in matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of Member States.

It is also true that just as in ancient times secular rulers exploited the doctrinal controversies and schisms of the Church to advance their claims and power so, today, do the great nations participate in and occasionally attempt to galvanise the whole creaking structure of the United Nations into justifying the morality of some action on which they have already decided. But one gets the impression that even these efforts are diminishing — and it is hard not to relate this, at least partially, to the sheer boredom, inertia, and jaded morale of the delegates' and their staff.

William Buckley could hardly have been a worse choice for the appointment he held — unless, that is to say, someone was trying to get their own back on him. But in this book he has the last laugh. Let us hope that among his readers he picks up enough friends and admirers to compensate for the many enmities Which his casual irreverence and off-hand wit must have aroused. For example, he tells of a party". . . I guess a couple of hundred people there, half of them delegates, half a mixture of members, friends of Mrs Loeb and general United Nation types . . ." at which he had to make a speech. Buckley gave them a re-run of some text he had used at his campaign for Mayor of New York some eight years Previously. A well meaning black liberal asked him a penetrating question but was gently corrected by Mrs Loeb; "You see, Mr Ambassador, in America we do not vote Where we work, we vote where we sleep". Buckley could not leave well alone and added Even that is not exactly correct. If I voted Where I slept I would vote in the United Nations". An archetypal Buckley 'brick' — those who did not understand it were unappreciative, those who did understand it were offended.

I remember Thomas Galbraith, in one of those rare flashes of weary truth that occasionally redeem his liberal conformism, saying that "no one can ever realise the excruciating boredom, and the sheer waste of time, involved in diplomacy". But at least there Should be some sense of ultimate purpose in direct negotiations. The proxy puffings of UNO are utterly without substance, a timeless ego-trip for the 'third world' offering them the illusions of conspiracy and influence.

The movements, gestures and noises are as Predictable and as ridiculous as a Morris Dance. There is hardly ever any reaction to a delegate's statement in Committee. Occasion

ally the Chairman will thank the previous speaker for his "eloquent statement". More often he simply thanks him and introduces the next speaker. Although it is nice to record that a certain ripple of apprehension did pass through the State Department when a coded telegram arrived from their Ambassador in Kampala with the news that General Amin would shortly be arriving with the intention of addressing the Assembly for two hours on the text of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. They managed to put this off, and then discussed the effectiveness of instructing the American Ambassador to 'walk out' on the General's forthcoming UN day speech which he was to give in his own capital. Ambassador Keeley however, rightly pointed out that (a) as a gesture of protest it would not be understood, there being no such tradition in Uganda and (b) the exit would therefore probably be interpreted as having been prompted by, as the cable put it, a 'call of nature', so no further action was taken.

There are a few people around who still tout the United Nations as a nucleus for, and something offering experience in, the possibility of World Government. They should read William Buckley on the fate of the 'Resolution on Terrorism'. The Secretary General, no less, proposed as an item "Measures to prevent terrorism and other forms of violence which endanger or take innocent lives, or jeopardise fundamental freedoms". Other than the fairly basic flaw that "measures" are not UNO's strongest suit, this seems worthy enough. But after going to the Steering Committee, where Yemen, Cuba, Ethiopia, Libya and Mauritius (among others) had their say, it went to the General Assembly where it was weighted down with the suffix "... and Study of the Underlying Causes of Those Forms of Terrorism and Acts of Violence Which Lie in Misery, Frustration, Grievance, and Despair and Which Cause Some People to Sacrifice Human Lives, Including Their Own, in an Attempt to Effect Radical Changes." Hardly surprisingly this was passed, and was assigned to the Sixth Committee which argued for some three or four months chiefly about the "Causes of Terrorism and Despair". The Sixth Committee concluded by establishing an Ad Hoc Committee of International Terrorism "to make further recommendations". The Ad Hoc Committee reargued all summer long about the wording, finally coming up with a qualifying sentence that "When people engage• in violent action against colonialist, racist and alien regimes as part of a struggle to retain its legitimate rights or to redress an injustice of

which it is the victim, the international community, when it has recognized the validity of these objectives, cannot take repressive measures against any action which it ought on the contrary to encourage support,

and defend". Passage of time — fourteen months; expenditure in cash — some hundreds of thousands of dollars; net result — nil.

It is worth recalling that the 1963 Tokyo Convention deals with offences committed on board aircraft. The 1970 Hague Convention . deals with unlawful seizure of aircraft. These are in force. In 1971, a convention was negotiated in Montreal, and another negotiated in Washington involving terrorism generally, but confined to members of the Organisation of American States.

As Buckley says, "These were done without any reliance whatsoever upon the United Nations. It would appear fair to say, based on the current experience, that they wouldn't have got through the United Nations". And that is probably the best thing you can say about the United Nations — that there is no danger that anything, in the slightest bit significant, will ever "get through" it again.

Alan Clark is Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton