Last fall, as he suffered withering attacks from segments of the American and British media, and the U.S. Congress, Kofi Annan began holding–or being invited to attend—discreet meetings with a coven of “foreign policy experts” around New York City (and who knows where else), at least one or more of whom eventually leaked the story to the New York Times. The purpose of these meetings was “to save Kofi and rescue the U.N.,” an anonymous member of the coven grandiosely told the Times, and to instruct Annan that “lapses in his leadership during the past two years had eclipsed the accomplishments of his first five year-term in office and were threatening to undermine the two years remaining on his final term.”
”The intention was to keep it confidential,” the Times quoted Richard Holbrooke, at whose New York City apartment at least one of these meetings was held. ”No one wanted to give the impression of a group of outsiders,” the former UN Ambassador in the second Clinton Administration continued, “all of them Americans, dictating what to do to a secretary general.”
According to the Times, Holbrooke also described the group that met with Annan as people “who care deeply about the U.N. and believe that the U.N. cannot succeed if it is in open dispute and constant friction with its founding nation, its host nation and its largest contributor nation.”
”The U.N., without the U.S. behind it, is a failed institution,” Holbrooke explained.
The same evening that the Times‘s page-one report appeared, Holbrooke was one of four guests on American TV’s Charlie Rose Show. (For a transcript of Holbrooke’s Jan. 3 appearance, see below.)
The show’s host devoted the bulk of his discussion with Holbrooke to the story in that morning’s Times and the circumstances behind it. “[W]e talked about the fact that the U.N. could not succeed if it was in fundamental opposition to the United States,” Holbrooke told Rose. “It just can’t. The U.S. needs the U.N. and the U.N. needs the U.S. It’s as simple as that.”
Acknowledging some of the pressures brought to bear on Annan’s head (for very good analysis of the sources of this pressure within the lunatic American Right, see “The Right’s Assault on Kofi Annan,” Ian Williams, The Nation, Jan. 10, 2005), Holbrooke went on to explain just how important the U.S.-UN relationship is. To excerpt a little bit of it here:
The U.S. without the U.N. and the U.N. without the U.S. are two institutions which would both suffer, the U.N. frankly more than the U.S.
[B]ecause in the end the U.S. does need the U.N. to help it in issues of such immense importance as Iraq, and the world needs the U.N. because of the tsunami….
What Richard Holbrooke—these days, a kind of elder statesman of all that remains of liberalism within the establishment political culture in the States, and the presumptive Secretary of State, had John Kerry defeated George Bush in November—was saying throughout this January 3 interview on American TV more explicitly than the New York Times was able to convey that same day was that the American Right’s attacks on the United Nations are misplaced. They are misplaced because in fact there are all kinds of important U.S. foreign policy objectives the UN can advance on its behalf. He listed two in particular: Helping the U.S. carry out the January 30 election in Iraq (out of which no new governing coalition has yet to emerge, please note well); and helping to manage the conflict over the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories. (Though this is my language here—not Holbrooke’s.) Plus, there are other missions that need to be undertaken, but that Washington doesn’t want to mess with—addressing the aftermath of the December 26 tsunami in the Indian Ocean repeatedly on Holbrooke’s lips. Wake up, Holbrooke was telling his counterparts on the right side of the American political establishment. The various councils and agencies and expertise and personnel—even the UN brand name, above all else—still command a very pretty premium in international affairs. And no forward-looking American foreign policy expert dare sell it short. Not yet, anyway.
Looking over the Secretary-General’s In Larger Freedom: Towards Security, Development and Human Rights for All today, I couldn’t help but recall Richard Holbrooke’s interventions on behalf of the UN and its embattled Secretary-General in two of the more prestigious fora of the American media last January 3. (At least on behalf of a certain conception of the UN.)
And I also remembered that in To End A War (Modern Library, Rev. Ed., 1999), his memoirs of the time he spent representing the Clinton Administration as its chief negotiator with the warring parties in the former Yugoslavia, Holbrooke had provided an invaluable account of the importance of Kofi Annan to American Power—but ten years ago, rather than today. (And note that at the time, Operation Deliberate Force, the American bombing of Bosnian-Serb targets in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the end of August, 1995, was also what Holbrooke called the “largest military action in NATO history” (p. 102).)
When [Operation Deliberate Force] was all over and we could assess who had been most helpful, my Washington colleagues usually singled out Kofi Annan at the United Nations, and Willy Claes and General Joulwan at NATO. Annan’s gutsy performance in those twenty-four hours was to play a central role in Washington’s strong support for him a year later as the successor to Boutros Boutros-Ghali as Secretary-General of the United Nations. Indeed, in a sense Annan won the job that day. (p. 103)
At this singular moment that Holbrooke characterized as the “most important test of American leadership since the end of the Cold War” (p. 92), what, exactly, had Kofi Annan done on behalf of the Americans to deserve such high praise?
“Fortunately,” as Holbrooke tells it, for a brief period of time before the American-led NATO-bloc’s launching of the Operation Deliberate Force air strikes against the Bosnian-Serb positions,
Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali was unreachable on a commercial aircraft, so [UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright] dealt instead with his deputy, Kofi Annan, who was in charge of peacekeeping operations. At 11:45 A.M., New York time, [Aug. 29,] came a big break: Annan informed Talbott and Albright that he had instructed the U.N.’s civilian officials and military commanders to relinquish for a limited period of time their authority to veto air strikes in Bosnia. For the first time in the war, the decision on the air strikes was solely in the hands of NATO—primarily two American officers, NATO’s Supreme Commander, General George Joulwan, and Admiral Leighton Smith, the commander of NATO’s southern forces and all U.S. naval forces in Europe. (p. 99)
The result, as Holbrooke reports it, was the “largest military action in NATO history.” (Until Operation Allied Force, the U.S.-led NATO-bloc’s war over Kosovo, roughly three-and-a-half-years later.) This was how Kofi Annan “won the job,” in Holbrooke’s telling, as Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s successor to the post of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
1. In the performance of their duties the Secretary-General and the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or from any other authority external to the Organization. They shall refrain from any action which might reflect on their position as international officials responsible only to the Organization.
2. Each Member of the United Nations undertakes to respect the exclusively international character of the responsibilities of the Secretary-General and the staff and not to seek to influence them in the discharge of their responsibilities.
And I wondered whether anyone—Richard Holbrooke, Kofi Annan—the editorial board at the Wall Street Journal, the board of directors of the United Nations Foundation—would care to defend the thesis that in participating in these late 2004 meetings with the coven of “foreign policy experts,” at least one meeting at which the Secretary-General “sat in silence and made no effort to defend himself,” as the Times reported the scene, Annan was upholding his constitutional duties and responsibilities as outlined by Article 100?
Or to put my question somewhat differently: Didn’t the events reported by the January 3 New York Times (among other sources eventually) amount to constitutional-type violations of the UN Secretary-General’s legitimate role and responsibilities?
I mean, how could one look at them any other way?
(Aside from supplicating Americans, that is. So I guess they were okay after all.)
United Nations Millennium Declaration (A/55/L.2), UN General Assembly, September 8, 2000
“We the Peoples”: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century, Kofi A. Annan et al., United Nation, 2000
UN Millennium Development Goals (Overview with links)
UN Millennium Project (Homepage)
Investing in Development: A Practical Plan To Achieve the Millennium Development Goals, Jeffrey D. Sachs et al., 2005 (For the complete PDF version of the same.—Also see the accompanying Media Release.)
A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, Anand Panyarachun et al., 2004 (For the complete PDF version of the same.)
In Larger Freedom: Towards Security, Development and Human Rights for All, Report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for decisions by Heads of State and Government in September 2005 (A/59/2005), Kofi A. Annan et al., United Nations, 2005 (For the PDF version of the report.)
“Secret Meeting, Clear Mission: ‘Rescue’ U.N.,” Warren Hoge, New York Times, January 3, 2005
“The latest on the Tsunami relief effort,” Charlie Rose, The Charlie Rose Show, January 3, 2005 [see below]
“Annan names troubleshooting chief,” BBC News World Edition, January 3, 2005
“Key role for Briton in move to halt growing UN crisis,” Alec Russell, Daily Telegraph, January 4, 2005
“UN appoints Briton as new chief of staff,” Julian Borger, The Guardian, January 4,2005
“Annan Selects Briton to Repair UN,” David Usborne, The Independent, January 4, 2005
“Former journalist is trusted to send out right message,” David Usborne, The Independent, January 4, 2005
“Annan Names New Chief of Staff at the U.N.,” Maggie Farley, Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2005
“British aide heads Annan reshuffle at UN,” James Bone, The Times, January 4, 2005
“Annan Names New Top Aide, Starting Staff Shuffle,” Colum Lynch, Washington Post, January 4, 2005
“The Right’s Assault on Kofi Annan,” Ian Williams, The Nation, January 10, 2005
“The enemy within: How an Americanist devoted to destroying international alliances became the US envoy to the UN,” Sidney Blumenthal, The Guardian, March 10, 2005
“Annan to present on Monday new report on building better and safer world,” UN News Center, March 18, 2005
“Annan calls for deal by world leaders on poverty, security and human rights,” UN News Center, March 20, 2005
“Annan’s proposed deal for better world is ‘bold and achievable’ – UN officials,” UN News Center, March 20, 2005
“With call for action, not more words, Annan outlines plan for radical UN reform,” UN News Center, March 21, 2005
“Secretary-General to lobby world leaders for UN reform package over next 6 months,” UN News Center, March 21, 2005
“The Unfixable UN,” Jed Babbin, Boston Globe, March 15, 2005
“Annan Has a Plan to Revitalize U.N.,” Maggie Farley, Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2005
“UN plans revamp to win America back,” Charles Laurence, Sunday Telegraph, March 20, 2005
“UN in dramatic climbdown after American pressure,” Charles Laurence, Sunday Telegraph, March 20, 2005
“Annan Drafts Changes For U.N.,” Colum Lynch, Washington Post, March 20, 2005
“Annan unveils sweeping UN reforms,” Marc Carnegie, The Australian, March 21, 2005
“Annan to unveil plans for overhaul of UN,” Mark Turner, Financial Times, March 21, 2005
“An aspiration to a larger freedom,” Kofi A. Annan, Financial Times, March 21, 2005
“Annan proposes radical UN shakeup,” Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, March 21, 2005
“Annan to Offer Plans for Change In U.N. Structure,” Warren Hoge, New York Times, March 21, 2005
“Hard bargaining ahead on Annan’s U.N. reform plans,” Evelyn Leopold, Reuters, March 21, 2005
“BBC poll supports overhaul of United Nations,” Reuters, March 21, 2005
“The Hague, Netherlands – Secretary-General’s press conference (unofficial transcript),” UN News Center, March 10, 2003
“Excerpts: Annan interview,” BBC News Online, September 16, 2004
“Choice of words matters,” Paul Reynolds, BBC News Online, September 16, 2004
23-Country Poll Finds Strong Support for Dramatic Changes at UN, and for Increased UN Power, BBC World Service Poll, March 21, 2005 (For the HTML version of the same.)
Questionnaire, BBC World Service Poll, November 15, 2004, to January 5, 2005
FYA (“For your archives”):
The Charlie Rose Show [EXCERPT]
SHOW: THE CHARLIE ROSE SHOW 11:00 PM EST
January 3, 2005 Monday
HEADLINE: Discussing the Tsunami Disaster
BYLINE: Charlie Rose
CHARLIE ROSE: “The New York Times” today reported that a group of veteran U.S. foreign policy experts secretly met with the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan last month in New York. They advised him how to improve his leadership style and his relationship with the United Nations and the United States. The secretary-general is on his way to Southeast Asia this evening to address the tsunami disaster.
Joining me now is Richard Holbrooke. He is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a leading foreign policy expert. And he was at this meeting, and it took place on December 5th at his apartment. Let me begin with that point.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: I`m sorry we couldn`t invite you, Charlie. But these things happen.
CHARLIE ROSE: Why would I come? I`m not a leading foreign policy expert.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: That`s news to me. I`m happy to be here. Happy new year. These are very serious issues, particularly after the tsunami, which came after this meeting.
CHARLIE ROSE: I want to come to that.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Delighted to talk to you tonight.
CHARLIE ROSE: All right. So let me just start with this idea. What was the motivation for this meeting? Whose idea was it, and what role did you play?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: The meeting was one of a series of meetings that Secretary-General Annan conducted in the last six weeks. I think the animating event of all of the things that came to a head and were discussed in that meeting was really the American election. It was clear to the Bush administration, in their own mind, that the U.N. had people in it who had openly sided with President Bush`s opponent in the election. And the Bush administration was clearly not happy with the U.N.
The secretary-general had sent a letter to President Bush, Prime Minister Blair and Prime Minister Allawi of Iraq before the Fallujah offensive, urging them not to do it. That letter was clearly a mistake. And that and other factors had caused friction.
So after the election, Kofi Annan and I and many other people talked about these issues. Kofi Annan reached out to senior staff in his own institution. He talked to people like President Clinton, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, your frequent guest on this program.
CHARLIE ROSE: Who was invited but couldn`t come.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Who was invited but was in Bahrain that day, and many other people. Ambassador Zaid (ph) of Jordan was among those he talked to. And we talked about the fact that the U.N. could not succeed if it was in fundamental opposition to the United States. It just can`t. The U.S. needs the U.N. and the U.N. needs the U.S. It`s as simple as that.
CHARLIE ROSE: You have said or someone has said if the United States fails to support the United Nations, it`s a failure, the United Nations fails.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: I believe that to be true. We are the founding nation. We`re the host nation, the largest contributor. And you cannot function in opposition. And the friction between Washington and the U.N. headquarters was real and palpable.
So as a result of these conversations, secretary-general suggested that we put together a very small group of people he trusted and who were friends, and to keep it confidential. And in fact, it remained confidential for a month. And even counting the three weeks between scheduling it and its holding, it kept a secret for seven weeks. Pretty good in the U.N.
CHARLIE ROSE: The very good reporter Warren Hoge began to hear about it and did the story.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Warren Hoge pieced it together, wrote a very accurate story on the front page of today` New York Times.” And that`s where we are.
CHARLIE ROSE: OK, let me get to the context here. He comes to your house. It`s a three-hour meeting. Evidently he sits and listens, does not debate. It is not, in your words, confrontational, but it is unalloyed, I think is the word you used. It really deals with what you think the secretary has to do, and the meeting comes out of great respect for him and great commitment to the United Nations.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Respect, indeed affection for him. He — everyone in that meeting — there were only five or six of us — really cares about him and the institution.
CHARLIE ROSE: Les Gelb was there.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Les Gelb. Tim Wirth and Kathy Bushkin. They run the United Nations Foundation, which is Ted Turner`s organization. John Ruggie, a Harvard professor, who had been a senior adviser and is a real expert. And Madir Mostajevich (ph), who is a former employee of his now working at Goldman Sachs, and one insider, his Assistant Secretary-General Robert Orr.
That was all. We invited Greenstock, who couldn`t come.
And we talked. The one thing you said I would slightly modify, not to quibble, was Kofi Annan didn`t sit there mute. He listened. He took notes. He responded. He heard our views. They — he had also taken soundings from other people.
Between the time we had scheduled the meeting and the time it took place, Senator Norman Coleman had called for his resignation, which had sharpened the sense of it. The Congress was debating. There was concern that Congress might try to hold back the dues. This preceded the tsunami.
And the central point was the one you already made. The U.S. without the U.N. and the U.N. without the U.S. are two institutions which would both suffer, the U.N. frankly more than the U.S. And that Secretary- General Annan — and there was a certain irony here, because most of the people in that meeting undoubtedly supported President Bush`s opponent as I did, Senator Kerry — but the fact is the public, the American public had reelected George W. Bush, and we had to move forward. And the U.N., above all, had to not only live with but work with the administration.
Kofi Annan after that meeting went to Washington and had his farewell meeting with Secretary Powell, and more significantly than that had his first private meeting with the new secretary of state, incoming, Condoleezza Rice. I leave it to the participants to characterize that, but I know that the U.N. people there, just Kofi Annan and one assistant, felt very gratified by that.
On December 23rd, Kofi Annan and President Bush spoke. Not just a brief congratulatory conversation, but something that went a little further and talked about working together. And then very significantly today, Kofi Annan appointed a new chief of staff, Mark Malloch Brown, another frequent guest on your program, who assumes what I consider the second most important job at the U.N.: The chief of staff job, replacing Riza Iqbal. And Mark Malloch Brown is a substantial and very different kind of person. And they had a very interesting press conference today, in fact.
CHARLIE ROSE: The criticism of the secretary-general, the criticism, is that he had lost the confidence of some people, or there was some real question about the confidence of his leadership at the United Nations. Two, oil-for-food was a scandal which will be soon more intensified because of the report coming from Paul Volcker. A sense that what? That his leadership after a very good four years had not gone well?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Let me — there are four external events of enormous importance in which the U.N. is central, and in which Kofi Annan and his team need to perform. And there are two scandals they need to deal with. The scandals are the one you just mentioned, oil-for-food, and this terrible sex scandal in the Congo, the pedophile scandal.
CHARLIE ROSE: Peacekeepers involved with…
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Yes, the pedophile scandal. The French have already put in jail the man who apparently was the ringleader. But when you have these scandals, no one blames the secretary-general for it, but there has to be full accountability. The four great international issues in which the U.N. is central are the tsunami response — and I know Jan Egeland, who was on your program tonight, has been leading that response. Egeland, Kofi Annan and Mark Malloch Brown, the three people we`ve been talking about, are all on their way to Indonesia tonight, as you said earlier, to deal with this.
Third, the elections in Iraq, the issue which is most important to the Bush administration, but which is in the hands of the U.N. And finally the Palestinian elections.
So the array of issues before the U.N. are enormous. It`s not a time to start attacking Kofi Annan or the U.N., it`s a time to strengthen Kofi Annan and the U.N.
CHARLIE ROSE: Well, also one of your criticisms, according to the Warren Hoge`s story, is that you don`t feel that the U.N. had sufficiently been responsive, and Kofi Annan and the office of the secretary-general had been sufficiently responsible to the criticisms made against it.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Oh, that was stated in the meeting by some of its participants, yes.
CHARLIE ROSE: That Norm Coleman, who was on this program calling for the secretary-general`s resignation, and others.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Of course, I disagree strongly with Norm Coleman on this, although he and I have worked together closely on other issues, including HIV/AIDS. I just think that attacking the secretary-general, particularly by a committee chairman who is in charge of an investigation in which the secretary-general is a factor, was quite wrong.
CHARLIE ROSE: Also, he was angered by the fact that he had requested information from the Volcker report in which — Volcker did not choose to give.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: The Volcker commission is an enormously important part of this story, and we`ll have to see how it plays out.
CHARLIE ROSE: But you were concerned, according to the Hoge story, about lapse in his leadership in the two years, and that it had eclipsed the accomplishments of the first four years.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Well, I didn`t — none of that is attributed to me in the story, and I actually didn`t say it quite that way. But let me be clear, because you`re saying something very important. Kofi Annan has been secretary-general for eight years. He`s won the Nobel Peace Prize and done some great things. And by his own admission, 2004 was a horrible year.
CHARLIE ROSE: Annus horriblis, or whatever it was.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Your Latin has always been better than mine, but he was quoting her majesty the queen.
CHARLIE ROSE: This is a man who I`ve heard speak fluent French too. Go ahead.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: So Kofi knew it was a tough year. The Norm Coleman call for resignation was an additional wake-up call. The meeting would have taken place anyway. This was one of a series of meetings.
The most important thing to me, Charlie, is that Secretary-General Annan — and I talked to him just before I came over here tonight to tell him I was coming over. He was sorry he couldn`t join you himself. But I`m sure he`ll be on as soon as he gets back.
CHARLIE ROSE: The invitation is outstanding.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: No, he knows that. And he — he just wanted to be understood that reform and reinvigorated U.N. is what he`s going to do. And he`s not going to play out a 10-year period, but he`s got a two-year term ahead of him. And again, today is a very good day for you and I to talk about this, because of the appointment of Mark Malloch Brown.
CHARLIE ROSE: OK. I want to — but that — I want to come to tsunami as well and the fact that the secretary-general and Jan Egeland are on their way over there…
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: And Mark Malloch Brown.
CHARLIE ROSE: … when this program airs. But it is also said in this article that someone within the group contacted the Bush administration to get some feeling for them. And the Bush administration supposedly said — whoever spoke for the administration at the White House — said, we will not demand the firing if Kofi Annan does not serve out his two-year term, it will be because of Volcker report and something growing out of that, not because of pressure from the United States.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: That quote is accurate. Someone in the meeting did say that. That is completely accurate. It wasn`t me. And I`d rather not say — I`m obviously not close to the Bush administration, although ironically I was trying to improve relations between the administration and the U.N. Someone did say that.
CHARLIE ROSE: Are they open, according to the meeting with Condi Rice, are they open to the idea of improving relations? They`re prepared to do — take their steps as well?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Once again, I wasn`t in the Kofi Annan-Condoleezza Rice meeting, but I think the fact that it took place was significant. The fact that President Bush and Kofi Annan spoke in late December, just before Christmas, is significant. The fact that there`s a core group for the tsunami relief is significant.
And remember this: The U.N. is in charge of the thing that`s most important to the Bush administration, the elections in Iraq. And the U.S. administration is in a critical position, and one of the things most important to the U.N., which is to be sure that the Congress does not go forward and withhold dues again as they did several years ago in the late 1990s.
CHARLIE ROSE: Do you think that`s a real possibility?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Before the tsunami, before the U.N. reforms, I don`t think it was a possibility. I know that conservative and right-wing members of Congress were preparing such legislation. It was clear. They had even said so publicly. It is my hope that as a result of the signs of collaboration — and they are very tentative, and we have to see who the Bush administration sends to the U.N. as ambassador to replace Senator Danforth. Danforth did a terrific job, but he didn`t stay long, as long as I`d hoped he would. Because of the early signs, because of the collaboration and cooperation on the tsunami, because of Iraq. And because in the end the U.S. does need the U.N. to help it in issues of such immense importance as Iraq, and the world needs the U.N. because of the tsunami, I am hopeful, I`m hopeful that the House of Representatives, which is where the problem lies now, not in the Senate anymore, will not do this kind of bill, withholding dues.
And if they do, most importantly, that the Bush administration will openly say this is not the right thing to do or the right way to go at the issue.
CHARLIE ROSE: OK. Secretary-general said he found the meeting helpful and supportive. So clearly it was a benefit to him to listen to friends offer constructive criticism.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: And he had done this with other people. I mentioned President Clinton earlier.
CHARLIE ROSE: Tsunami. How do you characterize the way the world has responded to this tragedy?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Phase one, too slow, too little and almost inexplicable. Maybe it was vacation time. Maybe they didn`t realize the dimensions. But the initial reaction was way too slow, especially in Washington.
CHARLIE ROSE: OK. The world generally, but especially in Washington.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Your other guest on this program tonight played a very important role in this. Jan Egeland, the head of the emergency relief division of the U.N., made his statement saying that rich nations had been too stingy. Egeland, whom I know very well…
CHARLIE ROSE: And on all the weekend talk shows had to defend himself, because everybody assumed he was talking about the United States…
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Well, two points…
CHARLIE ROSE: Because at that point “The New York Times” also had editorialized that he was in fact right in saying that.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Well, two points. No. 1, he never mentioned the United States. And when I talked to him, and when I talked to Kofi Annan, they made a point of this. But No. 2, Charlie, he was right.
CHARLIE ROSE: Exactly.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: And “The New York Times” was right. Jan Egeland is a man who has given his life to humanitarian service all over the world. I`ve worked very closely with him as a friend and as a government official. And he is almost guileless in his direct honesty, as your viewers tonight can see watching him. And I`m just telling you that when Jan said that, perhaps the word stingy was inappropriate, but the way some of the right- wing press jumped it as though he had committed a crime against humanity, when millions of people were in danger, when over 100,000 people had been washed away and lost at sea, was quite grotesque.
What`s the bottom line on it? He said it. People attacked him. And the United States government made a 1,000 percent increase overnight in its involvement, plus sending military aircraft and carriers into the region. So all I can say is, the mini-flap, the trivial issue of what Jan Egeland said is zero compared to the effect of what Jan Egeland — and by the way Les Gelb, who also said similar things on television, and others, did. During a period when everyone was on vacation, a handful of people, Egeland, Les Gelb and others, went out and said the truth. The world has to step up to the plate. And then belatedly, but thank God they did it. The administration came through.
CHARLIE ROSE: There are those who say that they missed an opportunity, especially the president did, because he could have if he came out of the block early, would have helped his own reputation around the world, because this was a crying — this was a brilliant opportunity, shining opportunity for the United States to take the lead in doing good.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: It was incontrovertibly true what you just said, but it is really now a historical footnote. The secretary of state and the president`s brother are in the region. The U.S. has stepped up to the plate. The U.N. and the U.S. are working very closely together in this core group. That there was a 72- to 96-hour too slow reaction is clear. But you know, better, better than not doing it at all. And I think history is not — it`s not clear yet what the final balance will be on this tsunami relief issue, because local governments are involved, the dimensions of it are still unclear. This is a monumental undertaking.
CHARLIE ROSE: Thank you for coming.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: My honor.
CHARLIE ROSE: Richard Holbrooke, former ambassador to the United Nations. At his apartment, a series or a meeting with some friends of Kofi Annan to talk about the future of Kofi Annan, and also the future of the United Nations, coming at a time in which we face in the world one of the greatest human disasters in terms of natural disasters ever.
Back in a moment. Stay with us.