Jack Rice - Blog

Jack Rice is a criminal defense trial lawyer who provides legal advice to those charged with crimes in Federal and Minnesota State courtrooms.


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The United Nations Radio Day. One I Shall Never Forget

I arrive early at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City to broadcast my radio show from the bowels of this building on the East River. I love the idea from the very beginning. To bring my listeners into this place so they can hear these officials discuss their efforts regarding Iran, Darfur, East Timor, the whole world. I bring my Marantz Flash Recorder and microphone and I have questions.

Does the UN have a role and what should that role be? And is the UN up to the challenge? What about successes? Some politicians and pundits have used the United Nations as a convenient political punching bag. Is the criticism justified? These are all questions that I want to explore when Michael Harrison and Talkers Magazine invite me to participate in United Nations Radio Day.

But, like so many plans, events often drive themselves. The story breaks that the Americans have killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. Of course, this story drives the day.

What is the UN response? Will this mean increased UN involvement in Iraq? What comes next? I need answers and push. I leave the studio in the basement and move toward the Security Council. There, I learn that Kofi Annan, the Secretary General, may make an appearance.

As I stand and wait, I catch my first glance of the man. He is not big. He is not imposing. But I must admit that there is something compelling about him. Maybe it is his earnestness. I’m not sure. It makes me lean in. I cab almost touch him. I reach forward with my microphone in hand to try and catch his words, to get my own question in about possible UN humanitarian efforts in Iraq after the death of the Al Qaida leader. And Annon delivers.

Annon discusses Iraq but also mentions Sudan, Iran, East Timor and many of the other hot spots where the UN is currently working to bring peace and stability. I get it all!

As my show goes live, I interview UN officials from around the world. Their idealism is obvious. There desire to “do good” seems infectious. And yet, it does seem tempered with the reality that trying to work in a hostile world is not simple. And that success does not come easy.

I ask about motivation. About how one continues to try even when success seems dubious, i.e. Rwanda, East Timor, Congo, Sudan, Kosovo, and the answers I receive surprise me. “Simple,” one officer says, “we continue because for some, failure means death.” That is certainly a motivation. And to make it harder, the UN has no standing army and no real way to compel membership payments. In the past, Kofi Annon himself has compared the UN to a volunteer fire department without the truck or the money to gas it up.

The men and women of the organization understand that the rights of the individual are easily disregarded and that people are often ignored because they are politically or militarily inconvenient. Focusing upon the individual is one of the UN’s primary roles. And these humanitarian missions around the world are often what they do best. And I have seen the true cost of war throughout the world, most recently in Iraq, Israel and Palestine and in Kosovo.

The UN Radio Day concludes for me after a three hour broadcast. And I want more. Oh sure, I’m lucky and I even get a couple of words from the Secretary General. Actually, I’m thrilled. The UN has stepped up and provided experts in everything from humanitarian efforts to counter-terrorism. They highlight their successes and acknowledge their failures and their desire for reform.

By the end of the broadcast, it seems that what all my guests agree upon is the need to make the UN viable. To make it responsive. To make it effective.

What also seems clear is that without a working UN, the United States will be even more isolated and even more required to carry the ball alone. And nobody, not even the politicians and pundits who like to think of the UN as a Pinata on the East River, want that!