The Corruption of the United Nations

The Corruption of the United Nations

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The oil-for-food scandal was an international embarrassment—but it’s just one example in an organization rife with corruption.

Rape. Murder. Billions of dollars in fraud and embezzlement on a global scale. The United Nations, formed to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” has instead become more like a movie that is too graphic to show your children.

In the last year, the reputation of the UN has been shredded by allegations of kickbacks, billions of dollars in graft in the oil-for-food scandal, the rape of minors in the Congo sex scandal, and a total lack of accountability. United Nations officials know it’s time for serious reform.

The independent report on the oil-for-food scandal, produced by a committee led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Paul Volcker, was finally released in September. Criticizing the UN from top to bottom, the language of the report was crystal clear: “The inescapable conclusion from the committee’s work” is that the UN “needs thorough reform—and it needs it urgently.” We will see exactly how serious the lapses in judgment were at every level.

But with a goal as noble as saving our children from war, how did things go so terribly askew? What’s wrong with the United Nations?

Oil for Food

After the 1991 Gulf War, sanctions against Iraq restricted international trade. Although these sanctions did not prevent the import of food and medicine, the Iraqi people did not have the money to purchase what they needed under Saddam Hussein’s rule.

The oil-for-food program began in 1996 as a humanitarian effort to feed the Iraqi people. It was entirely unique, being the first UN humanitarian program ever to be financed by the resources of those it was serving; it was funded entirely by the sale of Iraqi oil. This was a laudable idea loaded with potential. The Iraqi people were in genuine need of humanitarian aid, and oil-for-food was a way of providing that aid without drawing on the resources of other countries.

It also, however, tightened Hussein’s grip on the Iraqi people. The UN said that 60 percent of the Iraqi population was receiving rations through this program; in other words, 60 percent of the population was now dependent on Hussein just to have enough to eat. Other than food and medicine, the only commodity that could be exported or imported legally was oil, which was solely controlled by Hussein. This also meant that the UN itself was on Saddam Hussein’s payroll to the tune of billions of dollars, because the UN collected a commission on every barrel of oil sold. Many countries were receiving Iraqi oil at discount prices through this program—not surprisingly, some of the same countries that opposed the war on Iraq so vehemently.

So the result of oil-for-food was that the Iraqi people became even more dependent on Saddam, a tyrant whom the UN was helping to fund; meanwhile, the world community received oil at bargain prices while indebting themselves to Saddam. As humanitarian programs go, this one was questionable at best, even if the program had been run properly. But the structural setup, unfortunately, left the door wide open for corruption on a massive scale.

While oil-for-food did accomplish its goals for the Iraqi people to some degree, the program also resulted in billions of dollars of graft, and was subject to corruption in businesses, governments and at every level of the UN.

Thus, the most vaunted international institution in history enacted the largest financial scandal in history.

At the beginning of oil-for-food, Volcker’s report shows some slight overpricing, but by 2003, humanitarian goods were selling for nearly three times the expected price.

The report stated, “[T]he total illicit income the Iraqi regime extracted under the program from oil buyers and humanitarian suppliers was $1.8 billion. This figure reflects $229 million in oil surcharges, $1.06 billion in after-sales-service fees, and $527 million in inland transportation fees paid to the Iraqi regime” (“The Management of the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program,” September 7). This was just the money gained directly through manipulation of the program.

In addition, during the period of sanctions on Iraq (1991-2003), investigation shows that about 12 percent of Iraqi oil was available for smuggling, which produced nearly $11 billion in additional income. This oil was sold at below-market rates—outside the oil-for-food program—to Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Egypt, as well as private entities.

In total, the report identified $12.8 billion termed “illicit income,” not including interest. And that is just what Iraq managed to skim off in this scandal.

Perhaps most disturbing of all is that it may not be possible to trace where some of the kickbacks from the scheme went. The UN, for instance, authorized Hussein to sell oil to at least 70 companies in the United Arab Emirates. “One authorized oil buyer … was a remnant of the defunct global criminal bank, bcci. Another was close to the Taliban while Osama bin Laden was on the rise in Afghanistan; a third was linked to a bank in the Bahamas involved in “al Qaeda’s” financial network; a fourth had a close connection to one of Saddam’s would-be nuclear-bomb makers” (Wall Street Journal,April 28, 2004). In other words, this didn’t just finance Saddam; it financed other terrorists as well.

The idea that a humanitarian program has ties to a global network of terror financially administered by Saddam Hussein with the complicity of UN officials should have been a top news story! But when the evidence began surfacing in April last year, it was quickly overshadowed by the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

After all, no one can really express shock that Saddam Hussein would steal from a humanitarian program. The story is that the UN not only let it happen, but actually had its officials actively participating in the graft.

This program was run by a UN official: Benon Sevan, who the Volcker report identifies repeatedly as having failed to fulfill his duty regarding oil-for-food. In fact, as the head of the program, he “compromised his position by secretly soliciting and financially benefitting from Iraqi oil allocations during the course of the program” (Volcker, op. cit.).

As problems were reported to the UN deputy secretary general and Secretary General Kofi Annan himself, these individuals failed to address them—or even to acknowledge that real problems existed. The Iraqi official in charge of auditing the scandal was killed, courtesy of a bomb strapped to his car. Iraqi theft continued.

The Procurement Scandal

As the Volcker commission investigated oil-for-food, it uncovered another, related scandal.

A former UN procurement official, Alexander Yakovlev, was taken into custody in August; he has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering charges.

Then, in September, federal prosecutors in Manhattan indicted the head of the UN budget oversight committee, Vladimir Kuznetsov, on money laundering charges. Now authorities believe at least some of Yakovlev’s theft—much of which may have nothing to do with oil-for-food—was done with Kuznetsov’s help. The biggest problem with this scandal is its scope: The procurement department touches every program at the UN (it is through procurement contracts that the UN spends the billions of dollars its members contribute). These two men specifically wielded a lot of influence. Line items in the UN budget were judged by Kuznetsov. Yakovlev worked in the UN for over 20 years and dealt with contractors in Africa, Asia and the Middle East—all over the world; the architectural contract for the new proposed $1.2 billion renovation of UN headquarters in Manhattan was managed by Yakovlev.

The Volcker report detailed Yakovlev’s failed attempt to solicit a bribe from an oil-for-food contact in 1996. What’s more, even though it didn’t directly relate to oil-for-food, Volcker also said that Yakovlev had received in excess of $950,000 in bribes from companies that were responsible for more than $79 million in UN contracts and purchase orders.

The Volcker Report

In the independent report, which was based on more than 12 million documents, the committee spoke about the UN’s reputation and the connection with its ability to function effectively: “At stake is the United Nations’ ability to respond promptly and effectively to the responsibilities thrust upon it by the realities of a turbulent, and often violent, world. In the last analysis, that ability rests upon the organization’s credibility—on maintaining a widely held perception among member states and their populations of its competence, honesty and accountability.

“It is precisely those qualities that too often were absent in the administration of the oil-for-food program.”

That report was released as the UN was about to meet on the subject of reform September 14-16. The results of that summit? The Age reported that “it is easier to say what the summit did not achieve than what it did” ( September 20). Despite a resolution calling on states to ban the incitement to terrorism, UN members did not agree on a definition of terrorism itself. They reached no agreement on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Clearly, despite the Volcker report, UN reform is not really progressing. The Volcker report itself shows us why.

Secretary General Annan was at the top of the list of those subject to criticism. “The report is critical of me personally, and I accept the criticism,” Annan said. He accepted that criticism, however, in typical UN fashion: “I don’t anticipate anyone to resign. We are carrying on with our work.” In the middle of what needs to be sweeping UN reform, that is the wrong response.

This scandal happened under Secretary General Annan’s watch. At one point, his own son—Kojo Annan—was implicated and the report specifically states that Annan “was not diligent and effective in pursuing an investigation ….”

As Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman said, “If the guy leading the charge is stained with a record of incompetence, of mismanagement, of fraud, it’s going to make it very hard for him to do the very heavy lifting required.”

The interesting thing is, Annan has “reformed” the UN before, and the institution we see today is the result. The reforms currently under proposal—“a culture of greater openness, coherence, innovation and confidence … more stringent standards for judging the performance of peacekeepers, in the field and at headquarters”—were taken straight from a UN dossier released in June 2002 (Opinion Journal, April 20). Anyone can see how much good those reforms did the first time around.

Since the last time reform revolutionized UN headquarters, the oil-for-food scandal has cost billions of dollars—some of which likely ended up in the hands of terrorist organizations. In terms of dollars, this was quite possibly the biggest con job in human history.

Even more sickening, the Congo sex scandal, first uncovered in February 2004, continued for over a year even after UN officials had knowledge of allegations that their peacekeepers had raped children as young as 12 and committed numerous other sex crimes. There were over 150 accusations of rape, child abuse, solicitation and other sexual crimes—70 in Bunia alone. Hundreds of images of child pornography involving Congolese children were found on the laptop of a French UN civilian working in Goma (Independent, London, January 11).

“It was clear that the investigation did not act as a deterrent for some of the troops, perhaps because they had not been made aware of the severe penalties for engaging in such conduct, nor had they seen any evidence of a negative impact on individual peacekeepers for such behavior,” the UN oversight agency report said (ibid.). More specifically, not one UN soldier was charged, although the allegations in at least six cases were fully substantiated. Rather, the report recommended that the countries that sent the peacekeepers take action.

Yes, it is time for reform. Perhaps the ineptitude of the UN in solving such problems would be less glaring if this vaunted institution had actually proved itself capable of preventing war. Instead, its 60-year history stands as a testament of failure.

A Pattern of Failure

The scandals discussed here are the UN at its worst; but any honest analysis shows that the United Nations was a failure even without the “oil-for food” scandal, the newest procurement scandal, or the Congo sex scandal.

While there has not been another world war since its founding, there has been war all over the world—more than 250 armed conflicts since 1945! By that one simple criterion, we can see that the United Nations has failed in its mandate.

The UN failed to act in Liberia, when Charles Taylor (who became president in 1997) launched a seven‑year civil war in 1989 in which 200,000 people were butchered. In 1994, the 270 UN peacekeepers sent to Rwanda failed to prevent the murder of 800,000 Rwandans. The UN failed to condemn slavery in Sudan, failed miserably in Sierra Leone, failed to uphold the rights of white farmers in Zimbabwe (which has resulted in a massive famine). The UN failed in Angola, in Kashmir, and in Colombia. The UN failed to act against Saddam Hussein, claiming that diplomacy and inspections would provide the answer. The UN has refused to discuss North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship and ignored human rights violations throughout the Near and Far East.

The United Nations’ role as a human rights agency is an international joke. At a meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission in April this year, Secretary Annan expressed concerned that “the commission’s declining credibility has cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole.”

A shadow might actually brighten the UN reputation at this point, but let’s take a specific look at the Human Rights Commission. Sudan—perpetrator of the world’s most recent genocide—is a member; Zimbabwe—home to land grabs, internationally condemned elections, and a state-controlled press—is a member. China and Russia are members, both also accused of rights abuses.

Why the UN Fails

But again, the idea of an international body to keep peace seems to be a noble one. What went wrong?

Men acted according to their own human nature. Saddam Hussein acted according to his interests; the United Nations officials acted according to their interests; businesses were looking for profit. Rather than following God’s way of love—of outflowing concern—these men were looking out for number one—themselves!

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Greed affects every level of society. Even when we see an organization that should embody ethics, morality, and the highest standard of human virtue as an example to the entire world, we see instead a perfect depiction of human nature at its worst. Instead of a godly, righteous institution, we see a carnal one.

Rather than effective management at the top, the UN has no true leadership. Secretary General Annan has proven both that he is not up to the task and that he is unwilling to step down—or even to replace those beneath him when they fail.

That’s what happens when you leave God out of your plans. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Psalms 127:1). God certainly had no part in this failed attempt at world government.

If God had built the United Nations, every nation would follow a common law—God’s law. Every nation would follow the principle of love, showing outflowing concern for other countries. Everyone would work for the benefit of all concerned. Rather than human nature, we would see godly nature at work. That would produce peace and abundance all over the Earth!

The UN will never bring world peace—no human organization will. That will require intervention from God Himself.

Soon, we will see a world government with Jesus Christ at the head. And instead of a deceitful, desperately wicked heart, God will give man a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26) and pour out His Spirit on all flesh (Acts 2:17). Then the nations will be truly united, and corruption will cease.

Will a New American Welfare State Work?

Will a New American Welfare State Work?

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I always liked government cheese. Government housing was another matter though; there was a definite roach problem and only the one bedroom for two people.

The other kids at school made fun of me endlessly when I wore dark blue government-supplied shoes with three distinctive stripes going down the sides; of course, the other kids only knew what they were deriding because so many of them had received government assistance themselves. We were all, literally, walking in the same shoes.

But as welfare recipients went, we were doing pretty well. My mom and I never really went hungry. I imagine a lot of the people we all saw on television in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina had experienced a lot worse even before the disaster than we ever did.

Some, like the Washington Times, have said the welfare state in New Orleans helped create the anarchy and chaos we saw after the storm. If that’s true, we should really sit up and take notice. New Orleans isn’t all that unique among U.S. cities.

Louisiana’s pre-disaster unemployment rate was 5.8 percent, up from 5.3 percent at the beginning of the year. The national average is 5.5 percent, so we can see that Louisiana is a fair representation of the entire country. Even worse than the unemployment rate, 12 percent of the national population lives below the poverty line. If we are a compassionate, caring nation, shouldn’t we get to the root cause of poverty and eliminate it?

And yet, how? Many would say the answer is to enlarge the welfare state. But is this a viable solution to the problems of the poor?

Others, perhaps equally compassionate, would say the welfare state should be dismantled altogether so people can learn to take care of themselves.

One thing is for sure: The United States welfare system doesn’t work; thousands of impoverished people huddled on bridges after Katrina struck showed us that.

The Creation of Soft America

A hundred years ago, the United States had no welfare program. The origins of the types of social programs that led to its modern welfare programs lie in the Great Depression. In reaction to the greatest economic disaster in U.S. history, President Franklin Roosevelt sought to stabilize the country, largely by initiating social programs. By 1964, when Lyndon Johnson declared his War on Poverty, social programs in the U.S. were greatly expanding. This had a definite side effect though: what author Michael Barone, in his book Hard America, Soft America, calls the softening of America.

Some parts of our society are what he dubs “Hard”—those that involve competition and accountability. The military by necessity remains firm. Large portions of the economy are and have become more adamantine in the last 20 years, with increased market competition and the success of entrepreneurs leading to the growth of companies like Microsoft, Wal-Mart and General Motors.

But as Barone points out, “Soft America lives off the productivity, creativity, and competence of Hard America, and we have the luxury of keeping parts of our society Soft only if we keep enough of it Hard.”

Clearly, U.S. welfare programs are part of Soft America—and not one of the more successful parts. When President Roosevelt created welfare programs, the recipient worked for the check. But as the welfare state grew, welfare receipt required no work and provided more remuneration than some jobs. Thus, incentive to work dropped and dependency on welfare skyrocketed. By 1970 it was financially better to go on welfare than to take a minimum-wage job. Welfare dependency approximately tripled between 1965 and 1975, and remained high into the 1990s. Welfare, rather than helping people out of a bad situation, created a culture of government dependency.

This was especially true in the African-American community. “The problem blacks faced was not that American society was too Hard for them, that they suffered from too much competition and were being held too accountable. The problem was that they were shut out of Hard America altogether, unable to reap the rewards available in a Hard system for those who achieve. The Softening of American society that started in the mid-1960s—the Softening of criminal justice, welfare, racial quotas and preferences, and education—had the effect of confining most blacks to Soft America. They were left unprotected against crime, deterred from forming stable families, deincentivized to achieve” (ibid.).

Human nature—everyone’s human nature—is happy to take a free lunch. Taking personal responsibility is as difficult as it is important. How much easier is it to allow the government to prop you up—whether you need it or not? It is clear to see how the welfare system becomes a trap for many people.

The Problem With Dependency

When the government in London passed laws to keep prices low for the poor, Benjamin Franklin reacted strongly. “I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer. … In short, you offered a premium for the encouragement of idleness, and you should not now wonder that it has had its effect in the increase of poverty” (The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Volume 3).

Similarly, when Abraham Lincoln’s own stepbrother asked for a loan, he was denied; rather, Lincoln offered him a matching grant. For every dollar the man earned, Lincoln would match it because he wanted his stepbrother to learn a valuable lesson rather than become dependant on the charity of others.

These great men in American history understood that creating dependency would never have the kind of results anyone—especially the poor—wants.

Today, though, people have come to expect government benefits. Just note the reaction when cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other social programs are suggested. No one wants to give up anything.

Supporters of a welfare state believe, in effect, that people cannot take care of themselves and therefore need the government to do so.

Germany suffered a political crisis because many of the voters simply did not want to tighten their belts. In September, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s party, the Social Democrats, did far better in elections than expected. Analysts attributed that to a desire on the part of the German people to hold on to social benefits and worker protections. Associated Press said Schröder was able to revive his campaign by portraying challenger Angela Merkel’s top economic adviser and potential finance minister as “a bogeyman who would destroy the social welfare state” (September 12). Germany is in economic crisis, and the people know it. But they too are dependant on their government benefits—even when it is to their own disadvantage in the overall analysis.

Like Benjamin Franklin observed, when the government takes care of people, many don’t even try to take care of themselves.

There is also a negative effect on the economy as a direct result of welfare. After all, as columnist Michael Hurd observed, businesses cannot sell something the government gives away for free.

Perhaps the worst effect of the welfare state has been on the American family. In his 1992 book The Tragedy of American Compassion, Professor Marvin Olasky showed that more women were married prior to 1960. Eighty-five percent of teenage mothers were married by the time their babies were born in the 1950s. Once the welfare state reached full swing, however, some women saw a welfare check as an alternative to a male paycheck and a father in the home. Accompanying the rise in welfare was a dramatic rise in single motherhood.

People often expect something for nothing. But worse than that, too many are willing to manipulate the system. I remember all too well that my home town had improvised store fronts set up to sell non-consumable products—clothes, books, televisions, etc.—in exchange for food stamps, certainly an illegal use of the food stamps and an abuse of an already deeply flawed system.

There is no doubt that this problem of welfare dependency was—and is—reversible. In fact, the problem is nowhere near as pronounced as it once was.

In Wisconsin, changes to the welfare laws brought the number of recipients down by over 90 percent in the early 1990s. Similar initiatives succeeded in Indiana, Michigan and New York.

The biggest impact came when the national welfare laws were changed in 1996, resulting in a drop from 14.2 million welfare recipients in 1993 to 5.4 million in 2001. The main difference: a five-year limit on the receipt of welfare benefits.

Barone gives an account of people changing their minds about applying for welfare: “In Fond du Lac County, I saw women walk out the door when the five-year limit was explained to them: better not to use up the benefits now, but to save them up for when they might really be needed, and go out and get a job” (op.cit.).

God’s Welfare Program

What is God’s view on welfare? Believe it or not, He commands it.

God gave the Israelites a specific command regarding welfare: “And the Levite … and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest” (Deuteronomy 14:29). God does expect us to take care of widows and orphans; He has special provisions in the Bible to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. James 1:27 tells us that visiting the fatherless and the widows in their affliction is pure religion.

It may surprise some to learn, though, that there is no similar provision for the poor. Rather, God says if an impoverished man needs help, we should lend him what he needs—without interest: “If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren … thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8). God’s way helps the man get back on his feet as a productive member of society. That’s the kind of welfare that benefits everyone involved.

God’s method of welfare is an expression of outflowing concern for our fellow man. It provides for those who cannot provide for themselves—widows and orphans—and provides a means of helping people in times of emergency.

If a society were living by God’s laws, that is how the welfare system would work—and society would prosper.

God wants us to be prosperous. He inspired the Apostle John to write: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John 2).

In order to receive those financial blessings, though, God expects everyone to work if they are able: “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). When we do work diligently and obey God’s financial laws, He rewards us accordingly—as anyone who follows God’s laws can attest.

The time when everyone will live the right way—the way that brings every kind of blessing—is not so far off. You can get a vivid picture of what a peaceful and prosperous time is just ahead of us by requesting our free booklet The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like.

Division in American Politics Is Crippling

Division in American Politics Is Crippling

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Hostility pervades American politics. There couldn’t be a worse time for weak and divided leadership.

George Orwell once said, “In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia” (Politics and the English Language). Critics of Orwell’s statement need only glimpse into the present state of American politics to see its truth.

Divisions within the U.S. government are becoming more vicious. Politicians from both major parties are increasingly expressing unwarranted criticism, blind bias, arrogance and even hatred for those they oppose. Crude and offensive remarks are commonplace. Politicians have grown more passionate and personal in their assassination of opponents’ character and principles.

Former members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, say the political atmosphere is worse than ever, and has become so poisonous and hostile that it is actually hurting the government’s ability to manage crises.

Timothy Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana, said, “There is not only a poisonous partisan attitude in Washington, but it seems to be paralyzing Congress from acting on some of the most important national security, economic and energy-related issues facing Americans. … It is more divisive than I have seen in my 20 years in Washington” (Washington Times,June 27).

The American government is under intense pressure from many varying forces, including terrorism and natural disasters. Of all the problems it faces, however, internal division is the most debilitating—and unnecessary.

Retired New Hampshire senator Warren Rudman recently highlighted the growing wedge between the Republicans and Democrats: “There is a lack of trust and a lack of collegiality between people. I saw it on occasion when I was in the Senate, but nothing like it is now. The whole atmosphere has changed. You walk onto the Senate floor and in many ways it’s like walking into a fire pit, literally” (ibid., June 30). This is an embarrassing condemnation of the state of American politics.

“Washington seems to be totally immersed in a ‘gotcha’ kind of gamesmanship that is not in any way conducive to finding solutions to these kinds of problems,” stated former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta. “Everybody is locked in this battle for power, as opposed to any effort to govern the country. When I go to Washington and talk to my former colleagues on both sides of the aisle, they don’t see any effort to try to deal with these major issues. It is really all about how you can beat the other side” (ibid., emphasis mine).

The disunity among Washington’s politicians was further exposed by Hurricane Katrina. The catastrophe was an opportunity for both parties to express unity in leadership—to set aside personal and party interests and work together for the good of the Gulf Coast and the nation. Instead, the conduct of both parties exacerbated the festering wedge of disunity between them. While the Democrats exploited Katrina as an opportunity to kneecap Republican leadership, many Republicans circumvented accountability and largely ignored criticism from the Democrats.

Selfishness and personal bias are increasingly becoming the pervading attitudes. Too many politicians are more concerned about “assassinating” each other than about destroying terrorists and others that threaten national security. Too many pay more attention to handicapping and shredding the opposing party than about establishing and maintaining a prosperous, free and safe America.

These problems are particularly on parade before elections. Remember the hostile atmosphere surrounding the 2004 presidential elections: Over a period of months, politicians from both parties worked tirelessly—and expensively—to tear down the character, in addition to the policies, of their opponents. Using the media as their primary instruments of brutality, they fired verbal assaults, gashed open old wounds, and peppered television screens with openly hostile commercials.

Charles Krauthammer summed up American election politics this way: “[E]very two years the American politics industry fills the airwaves with the most virulent, scurrilous, wall-to-wall character assassination of nearly every political practitioner in the country—and then declares itself puzzled that America has lost trust in its politicians” (Chicago Tribune, Oct. 28, 1994).

Robert Reischauer, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, pointed out the part the media plays in this. “There has been a steady deterioration in the level of discourse and the standards of politeness that are used in discussion. The participants don’t seem to care what their opponents think of them as politicians and individuals,” he said. “Part of it quite frankly is attributable to the media. To glean the attention of the media, you have to shout louder and have more extreme views” (Washington Times, June 27).

This torrent of hostility, divisiveness and arrogance among America’s politicians is sweeping away the government’s effectiveness. The United States faces a stinging leadership crisis, and it is beginning to impact the health of the nation.

Divided We Fall

Over 2,500 years ago, the Prophet Amos highlighted the importance of unity in leadership to the health of any nation, community or family. Consider his statement, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” in light of the present condition of America’s government.

The U.S. government was designed to have a checks-and-balances system in order to foster fair and equitable government. But this has made the very nature of American politics one of opposition, criticism, debate and compromise.

Strong, fair and righteous leadership is becoming increasingly difficult to find in America. This leadership crisis is discussed in detail in Isaiah 3: “For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away … the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator” (verses 1-3). Our leaders have degenerated to a child’s level in judgments and decisions! “And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them” (verse 4).

Isn’t this an apt analogy? Politicians are becoming more childish in more ways than one. Seeing our nation’s leaders lambast one another with childish names and personal abuses—doesn’t this remind you of children arguing?

A leadership crisis is the last thing that America needs right now. The nation faces a mounting tally of internal and external crises. To face these, the government needs to be more united, stable and efficient than ever.

The selfish nature within humans is the foundational cause of this crisis in our leadership. The conduct of our leaders and politicians is simply a manifestation of the carnal nature inherent within all humans. Until this inherent selfishness is banished, American politics will grow increasingly hostile and disunited.

Our free book The Incredible Human Potential reveals the source of human nature. It also discusses the future of mankind without this carnal influence. The time is quickly approaching when politics will be conducted with a prevailing spirit of unity, agreement and love.

Movie Blockbusters Glorify Irresponsible Sex and Drug Use

A recent study shows that even the most popular movies portray a world without real consequences for most real-life actions, especially regarding sex and drugs.

There is no lack of sexual activity portrayed in movies, and most of it is between unmarried people. Unsurprisingly, however, hardly a single film follows up these scenes by depicting its characters having to live with the real and likely negative consequences of their illicit sexual encounters.

A recent study conducted by the Institute for Child Health Research at Children’s Hospital Westmead, Australia, surveyed 200 top movies of all time based on box office profits. Of those, it eliminated movies that were animated, released before the emergence of aids (they chose 1983), and rated G or PG. Out of the 87 remaining films, 53 contained sex episodes. In those sex scenes, only one made a reference to any form of birth control.

Though 98 percent of the sexual escapades could have resulted in pregnancy, no movie showed any consequence of unprotected sex—not one. There were no unwanted pregnancies, no contractions of hiv or any other sexually transmitted disease.

The study also focused on how drugs were depicted in those movies. While illicit drugs were shown in fewer movies than had depicted sex, researchers found drugs were often shown in a positive light.

A clear example was found in movies that show marijuana use: 52 percent of these movies portrayed marijuana use in a positive light, while 48 percent showed it in a neutral light. As with unprotected sex, no negative consequences were ever shown.

Movies ignore reality by failing to show cause and effect. By consistently and frequently portraying unprotected sex and drug use in a positive light, movies promote these harmful practices in the minds of viewers.

There are negative consequences for the wrong use of sex. There are negative consequences for any use of illicit drugs.

But at the same time there are numerous benefits to living life the way God intended us to. More joy and happiness than can ever be portrayed on a movie screen is in store for those who live that way of life.

For information on the right and wrong use of sex, read Herbert W. Armstrong’s book The Missing Dimension in Sex. For an explanation on the dangers associated with illicit drugs, see our December 2000 article “The Drugging of America.”

Iran Uses Oil, Iraq Stability to Have Its Way

Iran Uses Oil, Iraq Stability to Have Its Way

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Opposition to Iran’s nuclear program is intensifying. Despite mounting pressure, Tehran’s foreign policy remains focused, and increasingly belligerent.

It seems the extreme pressure applied by the United States, Europe and the United Nations has done little to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions. On the contrary, Tehran’s recent actions reveal a brazen confidence and focused desire for regional and global influence.

In spite of the fervent opposition it is meeting, Iran is growing more, not less, belligerent.

Recent reports indicate that Iran’s nuclear program has been put under the management of the nation’s military. “Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has placed the military firmly in control of his nation’s nuclear program …” (Washington Times, October 5).

This decision by President Ahmadinejad did little to assuage other nations’ concerns. In fact, it gutted Iran’s argument that its nuclear program is purely for civilian purposes. Why is it necessary for a civilian nuclear program to be placed under the control of the national military?

At a time when great controversy and debate surround Tehran’s nuclear program, one would expect Iran to seek to calm the situation. Instead, the nation refuses to backdown - and even exacerbates the controversy by placing the controvesial nuclear program under the control of its military. Iran refuses to buckle.

Two reasons undergird Iran’s refusal to acquiesce under international pressure, and for the nation’s growing audacity in its confrontational foreign policy.

First, Iran is confident that through its position as a leading supplier of oil it can wield significant influence over the global energy market. In a world that is highly dependent on oil, Tehran is emboldened by its mammoth oil reserves and ability to influence the supply and price of this critical commodity.

President Ahmadinejad discussed this scenario in a recent interview. Regarding his nation’s nuclear program, he stated, “But if Iran’s case is sent to the [United Nations] Security Council, we will respond by many ways, for example by holding back on oil sales or limiting inspections of our nuclear facilities” (Khaleej Times, October 1). Iran is swimming in oil profits right now; the nation has the second-largest pool of untapped petroleum in the world.

As global demand for oil grows, so too will the political and economic influence of the nations with vast oil reserves. Nations like Iran, Iraq, Russia and Saudi Arabia will only grow in influence. Iran’s vast oil deposits give the government a strong hand at the bargaining table.

By preventing oil from reaching markets, Iran could send oil prices skyrocketing within minutes. Such a scenario could devastate the energy-dependent economies of America, Europe and, indeed, much of the world. Such a devastating strike at the heart of industrialized economies would leave these nations prostrate before Iran.

Second, Iran is aware that it plays a highly influential role in the stabilization of Iraq and establishment of an Iraqi government. With a population that is 89 percent Shia Muslim, Iranian spiritual leaders have significant influence in Iraq, which is also primarily Shia. They are instrumental to stability in Iraq.

Stratfor noted this point recently: “[T]he Islamic Republic is using the Iraq card to give the West a choice—to treat Iran as a cooperative partner in stabilizing Iraq, or as an enemy with enough assets to stir up trouble for coalition troops in Iraq. … Iran is demonstrating its capability to unleash the Shia against U.S.-led coalition forces if pressure against Tehran exceeds the Iranian regime’s tolerance level” (October 6, emphasis ours).

The U.S. is in a difficult position. While on one hand Washington adamantly opposes Iran’s nuclear program and demanding it be stopped on the other, the U.S. relies heavily on Iran’s influence over the largely Shia Iraqi population.

Iran, for its part, knows it is the linchpin in the successful establishment and operation of an Iraqi government.

Iranian foreign policy is growing pushier by the month. The nation leads the world in supporting Islamic terrorism; it has threatened to hijack the global oil market; it persists in its desire for nuclear weapons; it continues to meddle in Iraq. Iran is sowing the seeds of war!

Daniel 11:40 reveals the outcome of Iran’s pushy foreign policy. Pushed one too many times, a united European power will put an end to the king of the south’s pushy foreign policy. Iran will be defeated at the hands of a powerful and united European superpower.

Watch for Iranian foreign policy toward America and Europe to grow pushier. As this occurs, future relations between Iran and Europe will grow strained. Iran’s present conduct is moving the world closer to World War iii!

Strategic Implications of the Coming Oil Shortage

Strategic Implications of the Coming Oil Shortage

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Crude oil, refined oil, petroleum, petroleum byproducts, heating oil—if it comes from oil, it’s a hot topic. Why? What will be the outcome of the present oil squeeze? It will probably be a lot different than you think.

Everybody feels the pain of price hikes at the pump. The supply of oil is not endless.

But wasn’t this all predictable, this fact of oil becoming a precious commodity the closer we got to the limits of its availability? After all, it’s a finite resource. As well-known energy expert Dr. John Rutledge says, “God only made a limited amount of dinosaurs, and they’re all dead. … We’re running out of dead dinosaurs—that’s the big problem” (Rutledge Capital,October 5).

Of course, Dr. Rutledge is referring to the fact that fossil fuels, which supply the energy to drive today’s industrialized, high-tech economies, are limited: Only a certain number of the fossils from which oil is extracted are buried beneath the soil, rocks and seas. One day it will all simply run out. Anticipating that day, and doing something about it now, is the challenge presently facing mankind, and mankind has shown little capacity or will to act.

The technology and the know-how to really do something about this have existed for decades. What has been missing is the will to commit the requisite capital and manpower to develop viable alternatives.

For a start, business interests in the oil sector, in particular, have mitigated against it. No oil company wants to sacrifice profits, in a time of heightened demand for its product, on the altar of research and development of products that may put it out of business.

Dr. Rutledge asserts that we need to develop hydrogen, wind, tidal and solar power, and other energy sources. In the meantime, coal is enjoying a revival as a temporary fix. The problem with coal is, it’s dirty stuff. It pollutes the atmosphere when burned and coats anything within reach with its fine, dark dust. Of course, it does stave off the inevitable for a little while. Yet, akin to the dinosaurs, only a limited number of forests were also buried under the huge pressure of the pre-Adamic Flood. Coal will also run out one day.

Thus it is that the search for a renewable resource of energy has become the focus of environmentalists, let alone those realists who have predicted that the day will come when the oil pump runs dry.

The world sees America as the great bogeyman when it comes to energy consumption and resultant pollution. It also recognizes that without a continual supply of this energy-producing commodity, the U.S. would descend rapidly from its position as the world’s leading economic and military power. This all works to create a geopolitical tension in today’s high-priced oil market.

Up to recent times, the U.S. has been able to thumb its nose to the world, thanks to the fact that it had loads of oil stacked beneath its land surface and lying off its shores. Yet reality is slowly dawning in America—even as it reopens wells that, in times of lower prices, became unviable—even as it seeks to squeeze the last drop out of its once-massive energy resources. The U.S. is moving from a century of self-sufficiency in oil to, increasingly, one of dependence on other nations to meet its demand.

The problem is, much of the precious black gold outside America is vested in the hands of nations that show varying degrees of hostility to the land of the free and the home of the brave. This does not bode well for America’s future.

“Oil and energy supplies are real and long-term problems,” Dr. Rutledge comments. “We’ve got to deal [with] them now because without solutions, the energy demand required to fuel economic growth in Asia in the face of limited resources will set the stage for serious conflict between the U.S. and China. The relationship between the U.S. and China in the years ahead will be the most important story of our lifetimes. Facing up to our oil problems today will help us get it right” (ibid.).

We must agree with most of this assessment. It’s a natural extrapolation of the current crisis of supply and demand. Yet we beg to differ on one strategic point. It won’t be China that instigates serious conflict with the U.S. over oil, though indications are that Beijing will have a hand in encouraging such conflict. We would pose an alternative scenario, based on both historical precedent, and unerring biblical prophecy.

The U.S. has passed its peak as the world’s single greatest nation. Few would support this view, though many desire to see it become a reality. The facts are, however, that the U.S. built its economy on self-sufficiency and surplus of goods produced by industries energized by oil. Blessed with great ocean borders to the east and west, and a controllable gateways to its north and south, the U.S. basked in splendid isolation from the time of its founding as a nation until World War i.

Paradoxically, whereas two great world wars sucked the life’s blood largely from Britain, U.S. involvement in these wars only served to stimulate its great industrial capacity to even greater global dominance.

But, since the 1970s, the U.S. economy has changed dramatically. One observer puts it this way: “[A] great empire is rolling over. That empire got its start with steam engines and mechanized looms. It managed to parley its ‘early mover’ advantage from industrialization into an imperial asset. It could produce more weapons and more machines—and the oil to run them—than any of its competitors.

“But the great Anglo-Saxon empire rests on commerce more than outright conquest. Until the mid-1970s, it paid the costs of imperial order with the profits from its factories” (Daily Reckoning, October 10).

While the essence of this argument is correct, the inference that America is an imperial nation is not. The U.S. has seldom overtly sought to extend its national boundaries by conquest. The greatest extension of its territory was purchased in an unbelievable deal that gave it former French-owned territory stretching from the Canadian border to the Mississippi River delta. Called the Louisiana Purchase, the acquisition of this huge tract of land simply enabled the United States of America to come into being as a nation.

Similarly, the U.S. bought the Panama Canal Zone, purchasing it as sovereign territory in perpetuity. Foolishly, it gave that away some years ago.

Elsewhere, wherever the U.S. has been immersed in 20th- and 21st-century military conflicts, it has gone to war reluctantly, always withdrawing either through stalemate as in Korea, under pressure from public opinion as in Vietnam, or fear of loss of personnel and of being further drawn into insoluble situations as in Lebanon, Rwanda and Somalia.

The U.S. was coerced into an illegal war in the Balkans by Vatican-Germanic EU trickery, then, following an attack on its sovereign territory in 2001, engaged in a legal war for which it has been largely berated ever since. This is not your typical imperialist nation. To accuse America of imperialist motives shows gross ignorance of the facts and a poor grasp of the true nature of international relations.

Yet, there, indeed, once was an Anglo-Saxon empire. It belonged to the British during the 19th and half of the 20th century. It led the U.S. in getting its start “with steam engines and mechanized looms.”

This was when coal was king, and the empire had plenty of it. But the great British Empire had collapsed by the mid-1960s, its industrial fabric largely torn apart, its trade connections with its dominions sundered by a foolish whim to join its future with a federating Europe rather than with the people of its heritage scattered abroad. Cut off from its previously guaranteed global sources of raw materials and cheap labor, its sea gates thrown away, Britain inevitably lost the powerhouse of its empire, its huge industrial capacity and its secure global trade routes.

The result? Britain, in just 50 years, went from being the world’s largest producer of automobiles shortly after the Second World War, to losing its entire motor vehicle industry to foreign ownership or bankruptcy by the end of the century. Its textile industry fled offshore. Its mines and its mills were largely forced into closure, priced out of the market by the rising power of cheap Asian/Indian labor within its former colonial possessions.

Once having enjoyed the most efficient farming industry in the world, EU membership decimated Britain’s farming communities. The great British Empire, which indeed did once “rest on commerce more than outright conquest,” had “rolled over.”

Forty years later, we are witnessing the same process affecting the mighty U.S. Its days as the world’s singular superpower are numbered. The U.S. is rolling over from its height as the world’s largest creditor nation—once outproducing all others with its oil-fueled, self-sufficient economy—to becoming the world’s largest debtor nation by far—a net importer of goods from food to consumables, increasingly even including the high-tech goods whose production it pioneered.

And the very source of energy that largely empowered its once-great industrial and military might—oil—is being depleted rapidly.

Given all the other variables, in the end, it’s all going to be about oil. And herein lies our disagreement with the earlier quote. For, in this respect, it will not be China that poses the greatest strategic threat to the U.S.

The world’s largest exporter is Germany. Unlike the U.S., Germany has linked itself to a ready supply of oil and gas through a mutually dependent relationship with a huge developing supplier—Russia.

Berlin has supplied the capital and technology; Moscow supplies the product. To each, this agreement has tremendous strategic advantages. Neither can afford to upset the other politically, for they stare at each other across the vast Polish plain, having a history of massive disaster should they be drawn into conflict. It suits each to depend on the other; this makes for stability in their international relations.

Such is not the case with America and its alternative sources of supply.

The U.S. has opted for the Middle East as one of its suppliers to fill the gap as America’s own oil reserves dry up. This is hardly friendly territory. Being aware of this, it would be natural for relationships to form among those who wish to work for America’s demise, to restrict—or at a strategically convenient time—even cut off, the U.S. from its sources of energy.

China, the developing Islamic alliance led by Iran, and the European Union through its Franco-German leadership, have all expressed an interest in working to see the U.S. toppled from its perch.

Iran sits atop a major pool of oil in the Middle East and is working to add the huge oil-production capacity of Iraq to that.

The EU (destined to be led by Germany) and Russia have a workable agreement. China controls the sea gates through which much of Middle Eastern oil flows. Any student of international relations would put this equation together and come up with a future alliance of these three powers having a common interest to see the U.S. brought to its knees.

Iran could influence opec to simply turn off the tap of oil supply to the U.S. China could shut the gates, preventing supplies from other sources entering America. A German-led EU, the world’s largest trading bloc—content with its guaranteed source of energy supply and with its eastern borders secured by a convenient alliance with Russia—would be ideally placed, with the U.S. thus blockaded, to simply de-energize the U.S. and cripple its economy.

Sound far-fetched? Not to any geopolitical strategist. Is it likely to occur? Look at the present state of affairs in Germany, then consider its history.

“Few states of Germany’s size and central location would ever be satisfied deferring to Washington’s interests, while most of the rest of the EU’s 25 member states find the idea of German leadership disturbing at best. That leaves a number of other paths that Germany has trod before in the interests of German primacy—under leaders with names like Charlemagne, Bismarck, Wilhelm and Hitler” (Stratfor, October 11). That’s a rational observation from a realist perspective.

Watch Germany, and watch the oil issue! The two, in tandem, are destined to have great impact on the future of the United States of America and, indeed, the whole world economy.

Write for our free booklets Germany and the Holy Roman Empire and The United States and Britain in Prophecy. Study them, then make up your own mind as to whether this scenario will be likely to occur in the near future.