A Modest Proposal to the City of San Francisco
By Scott Harrison (email@example.com)
San Francisco is not an ordinary city. Aside from the clear and obvious
distinctions is the fact that the United Nations Charter was signed here
in June of 1945. Essentially, this world body, dedicated to peaceful
resolution between nations, was born on our doorstep. For me personally,
as a citizen of San Francisco, this suggests that the city bears some
strong responsibilities for its welfare.
Unfortunately, the U.N. is seriously faulted. Helped into being by
Eleanor Roosevelt and descended from the League of Nations, the United
Nations has some serious shortcomings. One problem is the disproportionate
power of a few select members in the elite Security Council. Of the more
than 185 regular members, only fifteen have seats on the Security Council.
Of these fifteen, only five have permanent seats. Why India doesnít have a
permanent seat? That seems totally mistaken. But regardless of who should
have seats, the arrangement seems clearly undemocratic. Furthermore, the
five permanent members each have the power to veto any Security Council
initiative. This exposes an already-undemocratic body to possible bullying
by one member. In fact, this has happened over and over again.
Iím also troubled by the fact that, if nations are ruled by brutal
tyrants and these tyrants send their emissaries to meet with their
counterparts in New York, no one represents those nationís actual people.
Who speaks for the silenced? The oppressed?
Nevertheless, it is our child, and I think we should love it despite
its faults (while at the same time working to correct them). The United
Nations has done some incredibly good work. It has organized nations to
address the roots of war -- first by decolonializing right after WWII and
then by getting deeply into the issues of land, poverty, hunger, water and
other resources, and the legitimacy of divergent ethnic or racial groups,
by sponsoring world conferences on the status of women, of children, on
education, on the environment and population problems. Some very fine
results have come from a group that barely has the budget of the New York
When George Bush went to the United Nations to win consensus so that he
and his Washington entourage could indulge in this present war on Iraq,
when he then aborted the task of getting U.N. endorsement when it was
clearly not working (for him), he didnít merely attack Iraq. He attacked
the United Nations and all that it stands for. I think this should bother
us. It certainly upset me. He broadsided the will of countless small
nations (and large ones) that donít like bullies. He went completely
contrary to all the principles of the United Nations.
It seems to me proper that, in turn, San Francisco should voice its
opposition, by formally recommending that U.S. membership in the United
Nations should be suspended. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, or
the mayor, or both (wouldnít that be something!) should say to U.N.
Headquarters in New York that the city where the United Nations was born
finds this U.S. behavior unacceptable. The U.N. Charter clearly provides
for this kind of action, for Article 6 states: ďA Member of the United
Nations which has persistently violated the Principles contained in the
present Charter may be expelled from the Organization.Ē I have read the
Charter and it seems to me that what the United States has done goes
directly against the letter, the spirit, and the intended purpose of the
The reason the United States would not actually be suspended or
expelled is the very reason for making the recommendation: expulsion is to
be done ďupon the recommendation of the Security Council.Ē The one the
United States has veto power in.
But if a vote were taken anyway, even though it could not pass, it
would still be a vote of no confidence. It would also be a condemnation of
this war and a message: if you wish to violate every one of the principles
we were founded upon (beginning in San Francisco), then you (and all your
money) are not welcome here.
If the United Nations does not dare to stand up against military
aggression, who will?