UN Watch’s campaign to fire Richard Falk, the U.N.’s resident 9/11 conspiracy theorist, wins new support today in a San Francisco Chronicle column by Joel Brinkley, former New York Times correspondent and 1980 winner of the Pulitzer Prize. UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, currently on a California speaking tour, visited Stanford University campus today to meet with Mr. Brinkley and discuss latest U.N. developments.
San Francisco Chronicle, December 14, 2008, p. G-8.
CONSPIRACY THEORIST SHOULD LEAVE U.N. JOB
By Joel Brinkley
Millions of Americans believe the Sept. 11 attacks were not the work of Muslim fundamentalists. They like to call the strikes “false flag” operations — a conspiracy planned and executed by the Bush administration. Why? Under this unusual theory, the attacks provided President Bush and his aides the pretext to launch international wars and to enact policies that “led to widespread denials of rights under the pretext of homeland security.”
So writes Richard Falk, a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University — and also a special representative of the U.N. Human Rights Council, who is charged with investigating Israeli abuses against the Palestinians.
Anything believed by millions of Americans, according to (perhaps suspect) public opinion surveys, can hardly be called an underground movement. But I, for one, had never heard of this until a row broke out last month between Falk and U.N. monitors who try to defend Israel.
What does this have to do with Israel and the Palestinians? Nothing, really — except that the U.N. monitors who already view Falk with grave distrust are now throwing up his advocacy of the 9/11 conspiracy theory as further evidence that he is not qualified to serve as an important U.N. envoy. (The Islamic nations chose Falk for the position early this year in large part because he once compared Israel to Nazi Germany.)
Of course, Falk’s supporters on the council — Egypt, Pakistan and other members of the Islamic conference — are not bothered by any of this. That should be no surprise. If the Bush administration actually perpetrated the Sept. 11 attacks, then the world’s distrust of Islam would be largely unfounded.
It’s hard to reconcile the 9/11 skeptics’ story. But one common idea among them is that government operatives planted explosives throughout the two World Trade Center towers, and that those bombs caused the buildings to collapse.
After a cursory look at the books, articles and Web sites, (including 911truth.org) I was able to discern the advocates’ broad notion: The government knew that the 9/11 hijackers were on their way, and let them carry out the attack — even aided and abetted them.
Well, even if we could accept this theory of unadulterated evil intent, it’s patently clear that the government is not competent to pull off something this complex. In any case, last month an organization called UN Watch published an angry press release attacking Falk for publishing an article in a Scottish newspaper, entitled, “9/11, More Than Meets the Eye.” In it, Falk does not say flatly that the theories are correct — just that they warrant further investigation. Still, Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch, wrote: “The very credibility of the U.N. mission to preserve international peace is at stake.”
I talked with Neuer, and with Falk. In any conversation about Falk, Neuer’s fundamental concern is on a different plane. The Human Rights Council, he notes, has fired its special representatives for Cuba, Liberia, Uzbekistan — even Congo. But one state has a permanent monitor not subject to debate or renewal. That is Israel, and Falk holds that position. “He has a very serious mandate,” Neuer said. “People who question whether 9/11 happened are not serious people. No one in the United States or the West could be in positions of authority if they engaged in 9/11 conspiracy talk.”
Falk, of course, disagrees. He notes that his position is part-time — and unpaid. “I’ve been trying to balance different agendas and roles. I am an academic and a citizen. And I don’t think those roles reflect on my position as special rapporteur.”
Fair enough, but these 9/11 conspiracy theorists remind me of the people who used to think that Neil Armstrong didn’t really land on the moon 40 years ago; the entire exercise was actually carried out in a water tank. It’s a free country; you’re entitled to think whatever you like. But this is fringe stuff. Would we ever have appointed an advocate of the water-tank theory to a senior position in government? The Human Rights Council is already an embarrassment to the United Nations. Certainly reasonable people can criticize Israel, just as they can find fault with the Palestinians. But the council’s pathological obsession with Israel is its defining characteristic, and Falk is its embodiment.
I wouldn’t have cared that an academic wrote the foreword several years ago for a book that is the conspiracy advocates’ bible. But I do care that the man whose job now is to help the Islamic states pursue their vendetta against Israel also believes that the U.S. government is capable of such unspeakable evil. What does that tell you about his frame of mind for his United Nations job?
Joel Brinkley is a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a former foreign policy correspondent for the New York Times. To comment, e-mail email@example.com. To comment to him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared on page G-8 of the San Francisco Chronicle: