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Title: The UN Gang
Sub-title: A Memoir of Incompetence, Corruption, Espionage, Anti-Semitism and Islamic Extremism at the UN Secretariat
Author: Pedro Sanjuan
Copyright: © 2005
Publisher: Doubleday, a division of Random House
Relevance: An interesting polemic for any reporter or journalist covering the UN or international politics.
Keywords: United Nations, corruption, espionage, anti-Semitism
Review: Author Pedro Sanjuan was by his own admission appointed to the United Nations as an undersecretary-general, but his real job was to spy on spies. In case any reporter harbors any naïve, religious or other convictions that the United Nations is the largest international corrupt organization rife with lazy staff, overt sexual harassment, drug dealing and weapons trading, this former Bush appointee lays it all to rest.
Each page of this hard-to-put-down read is more incredible than its predecessor. If this was positioned as a fiction, The UN Gang would have likely shot directly to the top of the best sellers list. It has everything that drives a good fiction novel: drug dealing officials working under the cloud of diplomatic immunity, planted evidence of whistle blowers, light and heavy arms trading in the UN parking lot, and hundreds of staff members who do nothing except spy on America.
Alas, at least according to Sanjuan, it is not fiction, in fact, it is all too true. We found ourselves laughing at many places throughout the book with incredulous rage at the alleged conduct of this seemingly humanitarian organization. Of course, those reporters, photogs and journalists who have spent any time in-country covering the various wars, disasters and other humanitarian catastrophes that often attract United Nations peacekeepers have seen corruption, criminal waste, and scandal. One only has to look at examples such as Rwanda, Darfur, Sudan, Congo and other friendly tourist destinations around the world to see what Sanjuan is talking about at the local level.
Still, however, the book manages to package nicely one man's insider view of how this dysfunctional, yet thriving, organization operates. It would be easy to dismiss Sanjuan's account of Russian spying as more Bush alarm ringing. We know, however, that Putin era Russia is alive and well in the United States and it would be hard not to believe they would use the cover of diplomatic immunity to accomplish their goals.
Yes, Sanjuan comes across as a mini John Bolton (one of America's more recent ambassadors to the UN). This said, it is difficult to understand how someone who finds cocaine planted in his office phone on his first day at work or the Russian or the UN "librarians" recording every phone call he makes as not influencing his judgment.
The book will likely do very little to influence the public's perception of the "Blue Berets" during their peacekeeping missions; Sanjuan makes little mention of these seconded soldiers risking their lives to prevent more bloodshed. This is beyond the scope of the book. Instead, Sanjuan concentrates on the UN headquarters in New York as an example of the many organizational problems that affect the Head Office. Extortion rings operating out of the UN HQ, examples of systemic corruption in many African nations, services for aid airlines not being tendered for bid, and nepotism and cronyism on a massive, perhaps even institutional, scale. Allegedly.
It's also interesting to remember in all this crime and corruption that the UN considers itself above US law despite the fact its headquarters buildings are on US soil and the US contributes many millions of dollars every year to the UN's operating budget. It's also interesting to note that the view the UN is above US law is echoed by the FBI whom Sanjuan claims he contacted on more than one occasion alleging weapons transactions only to be told that the UN is not in the FBI's jurisdiction.
Overall:The UN Gang makes for a fascinating read and is highly recommended for all journalists covering political or world events. As well, social scientists and historians, as well as forensic accountants would enjoy the book's many examples of the inner workings of this monolithic organization. Recommended.
End of Review
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