Saturday, January 5, 2013

Another January Re-Run: The Vulture Elite

I originally ran this post on January 7, 2005, when I was stationed in Indonesia and working on tsunami relief. If you ever want to get cynical, better said, if you want a reality check on how international organizations, especially the UN, use your money, see them at work in a crisis.  As it turned out, that post ended on an overly optimistic note re the attitude of the Third World towards the UN.

Friday, January 07, 2005
The High Priest Vulture Elite

"Warning to Potential Readers of this Posting:  The Chief Diplomad is just back from the office. It's 4 am. Mosquitoes are everywhere. The internet is painfully slow. Your "friendly" Chief Diplomad's plan to move on to another set of duties, for now, has fallen by the roadside. He must remain in the current job. The local Guardian correspondent has called the Embassy; he is doing a negative story on the US relief effort based on "information" provided by the UN at a press conference. The Diplomad is in a dark, dark mood. So, of course, just as anyone else would do in such circumstances, The Diplomad writes about the UN.  End of Warning.

Many years ago, as we prepared our return to a tough posting in the Far Abroad after leave in the States, our son asked, "Do we have to go back to the 'turd' world?" That phrase, "redolent" with the wisdom possessed only by children, has stayed with me over these passing years. My son was right about the 'turd' world. What tips you off that you have arrived in a poor country, a truly, genuinely dirt-poor corner of the Far Abroad, is the smell. As you leave the airport, you notice a special "exotic" odor of rotting vegetation, garbage, and feces combined with a slight whiff of smoke. Once you're there a bit, you no longer notice. When you leave and come back, it slams you all over again. The kid was right: we had been and still do live in the "Turd World."

This Embassy has been running 24/7 since the December 26 earthquake and tsunami. Along with my colleagues, I've spent the past several days dealing non-stop with various aspects of the relief effort in this tsunami-affected country. That work, unfortunately, has brought ever-increasing contact with the growing UN presence in this capital; in fact, we've found that to avoid running into the UN, we must go out to where the quake and tsunami actually hit. As we come up on two weeks since the disaster struck, the UN is still not to be seen where it counts -- except when holding well-staged press events. Ah, yes, but the luxury hotels are full of UN assessment teams and visiting big shots from New York, Geneva, and Vienna. The city sees a steady procession of UN Mercedes sedans and top-of-the-line SUV's -- a fully decked out Toyota Landcruiser is the UN vehicle of choice; it doesn't seem that concerns about "global warming" and preserving your tax dollars run too deep among the UNocrats.

Sitting VERY late for two consecutive nights in interminable meetings with UN reps, hearing them go on about "taking the lead coordination role," pledges, and the impending arrival of this or that UN big shot or assessment/coordination team, for the millionth time I realized that if not for Australia and America almost nobody in the tsunami-affected areas would have survived more than a few days. If we had waited for the UNocrats to get their act coordinated, the already massive death toll would have become astronomical. But, fortunately, thanks to "retrograde racist war-mongers " such as John Howard and George W. Bush, as we sat in air conditioned meeting rooms with these UNocrats, young Australians and Americans were at that moment "coordinating" without the UN and saving the lives of tens-of-thousands of people.

Seeing these UNocrats perched at the table, whispering to each other, back-slapping, shaking hands, they seemed like a periodic reunion of old cynical Mafia chieftains or mercenaries who run into each other in different hot spots, as they move from one slaughter to another, "How are you? Haven't seen you since Bosnia . . .." As the hours wore on, however, and I nervously doodled in my note pad, shifted in my chair, looked at my watch, and thought about all the real work I had to do that evening, I decided that, no, labeling them mafiosos or mercenaries was much too kind. They seemed more to be the progeny resulting from a mating between a mad oracle and a giant carrion-eater. They were akin to some sort of ancient mythical Greco-Roman-Aztec-Wes Craven-Egyptian-bird-god that demands constant sacrifice and feeding, and speaks in riddles which only it can solve. Yes, I decided, the UNocrats are great hideous vultures, roused from their caves in the European Alps and in the cement canyons and peaks of Manhattan by the stench of death. They leisurely take flight toward that odor; circle, and then swoop down, screeching UNintelligble nonsense. They arrive and immediately force others, e.g., the American taxpayer, to build them new exclusive nests in the midst of poverty, and make themselves fat on the flesh of the dead. My friends, allow The Diplomad to present to you The High Priest Vulture Elite (HPVE).

These genuinely repulsive, arrogant creatures survive only because the world's rich countries, the non-Turd World, allow them, too. We in the First World find it politically impossible to reveal their pronouncements as the cant they are. For many in Europe and among the New York Times crowd, helping maintain these mad vultures substitutes for genuine action, "The UN is on the job!" In addition, for many senior bureaucrats and minor politicians, there is always the hope that if they play the game right, they, too, can join the High Priest Vulture Elite: We see the ranks of the HPVE full of Scandinavians and leftist Americans, and the occasional pompous Euro-Brazilian, all of whom parlayed mediocre domestic careers of lip-biting humanitarian symbolism into well-paying tax-free sinecures in the HPVE.

Who are the victims? Well, of course, the tax payers of the First World come immediately to mind. But really, after all, for us it's just money. Money comes and goes. The big victims of the HPVE are the world's poor countries who pay with the lives of their children; who get diverted by HPVE mumbo jumbo and its promises of aid and technical assistance from taking actions to develop their own countries and fend off the HPVE.

This is not complete, but the hour is late (please forgive spelling/grammatical errors.) Let me post this now. The Diplomad will get some sleep, then -- as time allows --continue examining the HPVE in subsequent postings, in particular, how the Third World appears gradually to be waking up to the fact that the HPVE exists only to exist."


  1. Wow! An honest assessment of the do-gooders infecting this planet and western societies like a fatal virus! Do you think the federal government is aware that you have an Internet connection?

    For a time there the Obama Administration was flashing through my memory banks, but we both know that Dear Leader really does care about his subjects - just ask the recipients of the hurricane Sandy largesse.

    1. It's clear that in the years since Katrina, George Bush has learned NOTHING.

  2. Yes I remember the smells, quite pungent. I've had to do some hard things around the world, but nothing hardens my heart like these HPVE's. They would have made excellent candidates for the Khmer Rouge re-education camps( ironic in that I would have had no problems nuking the Khmer too!).

  3. James, you'd nuke the Khmer? My recollections of the Khmer (the majority-group Cambodians and the country people in several Thai Changwat along the Cambodian border) are that they were an unfailingly polite people, despite having been put through the proverbial wringer. They deserved a lot better than the Democratic Kampuchea (Pol Pot faction) and Hun Sen branches of the Red Khmer (I've decided that we can forget about French when talking Southeast Asia, since those peoples also have national vernaculars and histories of their own, quite apart from that vain, posturing, pretentious country in Europe).

    Now, I never got inside Cambodia itself to see Angkor, but the Khmer remains in Thailand--a couple of temples we visited along the southern tier of the Isaan region of Thailand and various greater and lesser influences in Thai art, culture, and language--were worth seeing. My impression was that the older Hundu-Mahayana culture of the classical Khmer learned everything it could from India when it came to using stone, and put its own masterful touch on it; whereas everything the Theravada Thai culture built in stone, you could see that they were still thinking "wood, wood, wood"--or, I suppose, "mai, mai, mai".

    Dip, my recollections of the UN Border Relief Commission that handled the Khmer DP's was that they were a can-do outfit--although, it struck me that their people were overwhelmingly American (although they had a Burmese Karen physician in one camp who was an out-and-out saint, too, considering the conditions in which he had to work).

    However, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was another matter. They wanted to do everything out of air-conditioned offices in Bangkok. And, my guess is that had the US not had an interest in erstwhile Cambodian and Lao allies from a failed war, a combination of Thai fears of their hard-won, small-scale prosperity being swamped by poor neighbors and the callousness of a bunch of Western European bureaucrats would've had the refugee/DP populations pushed back over the borders like so many pieces of scrap metal.

    1. My mistake, "Democratic Kampuchea (Pol Pot faction)" are who was thinking of and yes I would them.

    2. James and Kepha: Before they were "Democratic Kampuchea", they were the Khmer Rouge, the gang of thugs Pol Pot was leading. They were Khmer by race and ethnicity, but were a relatively fractional group that were communist in ideology.

      That may be what James had on the tip of his tongue.


    3. I have a pretty good grasp of the ethnic mosaic of Monsoon Asia, Mamapjs.

      Hun Sen's pro-Vietnamese people were as "rouge" as Saloth Sar (Pol Pot) or any of his gang. And, before the falling out between the two Communist factions, they were all "Khmers Rouges"--Cambodian Communists. Placing the "Khmer Rouge" label 100% on Pol Pot's people was a way to whitewash Hun Sen and his Vietnamese sponsors, who were also Communist. However, in 1978, the Vietnamese (and Hun Sen), were being backed by the Soviets, whom most of the world's innaleckchewalls had decided were the geopoliticial good guys--so it wouldn't have done to suppose that Hun Sen (and the Viet saviors of Cambodia!) were ever on the same side as the thugs of Pol Pot.

      BTW, before the falling out in 1978, Hun Sen and his crew also did their fair share of the mass murder in Cambodia.

  4. There's a wonderful sign right off the freeway near me in Oregon.

    "US out of the UN, UN out of the US!"

    Seems more and more appropriate all the time.

    Aren't we supposed to give them all our guns next?

  5. As you wrote this and the previous article seven years ago, I wondered why you weren't reprimanded for speaking such politically incorrect truth. It was obvious that you could be easily identified by your superiors, yet you continued. You stated they approved of your postings, but I worried your superors superiors might not be so generous. It was truly your finest hour and it gave me hope all was not lost at State.

    At some point I would like to reread the item where a female UNocrat visiting Aceh asked why the American and Aussie troops, who were doing the grunt work unloading the C-130s in appalling tropical conditions, weren't wearing (UN) blue helmets. That was the height of gall.

    Keep up the good work.

  6. Can't tell you how much I enjoy The Diplomad being back.

    Read the first "vulture" article when it came out a number of years ago and I recall being furious about the actions of those that represent themselves as "being-there-to-help" and being thankful that someone was there on-the-ground providing direct observation as their real actions.

    Thank you.