“Here is a man who, by his own account, came to America nearly 50 years ago to study in Minnesota. He then spent something like 44 years in or close to the United Nations, rising to the top of an organization that has been funded, through thick and thin, by the ordinary American taxpayer, who underwrites the United Nations to the tune of $5.3 billion a year. Mr. Annan was given the leadership of the world body with the backing of America and, despite the eruption on his watch of the worst scandals in the history of the world body, was kept in office by the acquiescence of America. Our taxpayers have helped underwrite a luxurious residence for him. He won the Nobel Prize for work funded by America. Yet he has chosen to depart his office with a bitter diatribe directed at the very country at whose table he for so long supped.”
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Those are the words with which these columns remarked on Kofi Annan’s last departure from a United Nations assignment. That was back in 2006, when he finished his term as secretary general. The question that is raised by his resignation this morning as the special envoy on Syria for the United Nations and the Arab League — one could just say the United Nations, for short — is a moment to ask the question: What in the world was the United States doing countenancing his return in the first place?