Over at National Review Online Jay Nordlinger is praising a national media outlets for its reporting from the United Nations. The UN is not exactly a hot or hostile beat for liberal media outlets, who seem to like the intentions of the UN, and never seem to worry much about the follow-through. Oil-For-Food fraud? Yawn. Sexual harassment by UN brass? Yawn. This story is more pedestrian, about how "multilateralism" can often break down into a moral void.
I wanted to be super-sure that you saw this highly revealing article about the United Nations. It’s by Edith M. Lederer, the excellent U.N. correspondent of the Associated Press.The United States criticized the United Nations for refusing to list a panel it organized Tuesday entitled “State-Sanctioned Mass Rape in Burma and Sudan” on a U.N. Web site.The U.S. Mission to the United Nations arranged to hold the panel on the sidelines of the annual two-week meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women which this year is focusing on discrimination and violence against women. It will include presentations about rape and sexual violence in both countries.But the U.N.’s Meeting Services branch objected to the title, which was published in the U.N.’s daily journal last Thursday, because it “would be perceived as offensive to named member states,” according to a letter to the U.S. Mission obtained by the Associated Press.The letter from Sylvie Cohen, deputy director of the Division for the Advancement of Women which helped organize the commission meeting, said Meeting Services noted that “it is not customary to name member states without their endorsement in the titles of United Nations parallel events.”“In addition, the name of one member state concerned is not mentioned in accordance with its official country name (Myanmar is the officially designated country name),” Cohen wrote.U.S. Ambassador Grover Joseph Rees, the State Department’s special representative for social issues who heads the U.S. delegation to the commission’s meeting, said the United States had protested to various U.N. officials.“I think what this comes down to is there is only one building where you can’t say the words rape, Burma and Sudan in the same sentence — and apparently you can’t say Burma at all,” he said in an interview.Rees said the United States insists on calling the country Burma — not Myanmar — because that’s what the pro-democracy winners of the country’s 1990 elections called it.
This was not only a U.N. item, but a language item — and I offer you my 2002 article "'Gutter' Politics,” which is on the subject of country names, the pronunciation of those names, etc.And don’t you just love Grover Joseph Rees? “I think what this comes down to is there is only one building where you can’t say the words rape, Burma and Sudan in the same sentence — and apparently you can’t say Burma at all.”