Each year, U.S. taxpayers give the United Nations $8.5 billion for peacekeeping and humanitarian purposes – that’s a whopping $5,073 deposited in their account in just the time it took you to read this sentence.
But what exactly is the U.N. doing with all that money?
Nothing close to what it set forth in its charter as its founding goals more than 60 years ago: “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war … to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights ... to maintain international peace and security.” No – today, with some of the West’s staunchest enemies holding leadership positions, and with flagrant human-rights abusers and known terror-funding nations still held as members in good standing, the U.N. could not be more of an antithesis to the aforementioned principles.
A new documentary exposes just how deep the bureaucratic corruption and the enablement of evil runs within the organization. In U.N. Me, conservative investment-banker-turned-filmmaker Ami Horowitz takes viewers on an eye-opening and utterly shocking tour through a number of places in the world where the U.N. has intervened. Striking a skillful balance between sharply sobering and wryly humorous, Horowitz discovers along the way the massacre of unarmed protesters by a peacekeeping force stationed in Cote d’Ivoire, the astounding number of sexual abuses committed by U.N. peacekeepers, the counter-terrorism committee’s almost laughable inability to define terrorism, the purportedly humanitarian Oil for Food Program devolving into a scam – with the main culprits going undisciplined – and the prolongation of the Darfur genocide by the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, among other atrocities.
Horowitz likens the style of his self-described “docu-tainment” to that of Michael Moore – and, in fact, he even hired some of Moore’s own writers and editors. There is certainly no shortage of entertaining and outright funny moments along the way in this detailed exposé, with some of the best moments coming as Horowitz fearlessly charges a government checkpoint in Cote d’Ivoire, sneaks into a meeting to corner an elusive official, and lets various U.N. bureaucrats all but admit their own corruption as they talk circles around themselves in response to his incisive questions.
Also weaving in exclusive interviews from former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, former CIA director James Woolsey, former U.N. weapons inspector Charles Duelfer and Nobel laureate Jody Williams, among others, U.N. Me delivers an unforgettable account of how the organization’s failures have turned it into “the clubhouse of dictators, thugs and tyrants.” This must-see documentary will challenge everything you thought you knew about the U.N., leave you appalled and outraged at what is really going on behind the scenes, and amaze you at all you learned during its fast-paced 90 minutes.
In the days leading up to U.N. Me’s June 1 release in select theaters and nationwide on Video on Demand, I had the chance to speak with Horowitz about the making of the documentary, what can be done regarding the U.N., and what he hopes viewers will take away from the film.
You were an investment banker for 13 years – what inspired you to investigate the U.N. and make this documentary about it?
I had an epiphany, actually. I literally was sitting around watching Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine, if you can believe that. I’m actually a big fan of what he does – not a big fan of his politics at all, but his use of the medium. I had seen it before, so I was just drifting off and thinking about the United Nations for some reason which I can’t explain why. I was becoming very upset; I was thinking about the bias against Israel at the U.N., I was thinking about Rwanda, I was thinking about Sudan, where there’s genocide happening right now. So while I was sitting in my Upper West Side apartment watching the movie, there were people running in terror in the night. And I had two emotions: one was anger – infuriation – and the other was that I felt really small. Here’s these big issues out there and I can’t do anything about them – no one cares what I have to say. I can’t change anything. But then I looked over at the screen and I saw Michael’s documentary, and – say what you will about Michael Moore the man, but Michael Moore the filmmaker knows how to take a topic and make it entertaining and engaging and can change things. And I thought, “This is what I want to do.” And that was it. I quit my job literally the next Monday.
You had literally no filmmaking experience before this. Talk a little bit about how you went about starting the whole process.
It was interesting – I’m one who [likes] to do things I’ve never done before. I never studied business or finance and I became an investment banker, and I figured if I could do that I could probably do the same thing with filmmaking. So that’s what I did. I put together a game plan on how to pursue it – essentially hiring the highest quality people in the business, the best of breed in filmmaking. I made a list of documentaries I liked the most and hired the people who made them, and we called together cinematographers and writers and my co-director, [Matthew Groff], and we made this picture.
Going into your investigations, did you have any idea the extent of the things you would discover? What were maybe the one or two most shocking or surprising things you came across?
I would say that we had a pretty good sense – I knew the U.N. was not a great place going in. I just didn’t realize how deep the rabbit hole went. And that’s what blew me away. I think the two things on top of my head that were unbelievable were that Boutros Boutros-Ghali – who was Secretary General at the time in Rwanda and was obviously criticized heavily for not doing anything during the genocide, not taking action to stop it when he could have –was funding the Hutus, the genocidaires, giving them weapons, right before he became Secretary General. It was out there but people didn’t pick up on it. That really blew me away. And the notion that [the U.N.] still can’t define terrorism – that’s insane. I mean, you can’t define what terrorism is? Except, of course, when it’s Israel – then of course they can define terrorism pretty well. But all the shocking and crazy stuff, I knew it would be too bitter a pill just to put it to a documentary … which is why we hired some of Michael Moore’s writers, writers from The Onion, top-notch entertainment and comedy guys, to put together this really good package.
Do you think the U.N. can be saved? What can be done to help?
You know, the movie does not call for a solution. It wasn’t just lazy filmmaking, why we didn’t put the answer in, but I prefer this to be a bottom-up approach, not a top-down approach. In other words, I’d rather the audience come up with their own solutions for what we need to do. What I did push – what our website is going to be all about – is that Congress really could make a difference here. Congress controls the purse-strings of America, and they are the ones who are able to say to the U.N., “If you don’t reform, we’re going to cut your funding.” So if there’s a chance for reform, it has to come through Congress being really resolute and steadfast on cutting back funding. If you ask me whether I think reform will happen, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
U.S. taxpayers give the U.N. $8.5 billion dollars a year, which is a huge number.
And I’m sure that number now, by the way – we don’t have the 2011 number yet – is much higher.
What do you want viewers to take away from the film?
Here’s what: I felt really small, I felt insignificant – which I’m sure a lot of people will feel after they see this movie – and I made a difference; each individual can make a difference. And I don’t want them to think that calling their congressman or senator means nothing. It’s a powerful way to get Congress to do what I just said about cutting back funding. So I don’t want people to feel like they’re powerless – you can make a difference as an individual. I chose [this] path, you can choose a different path. But the whole idea is choose one, because it will have an effect. And of course, the most important thing is go see the movie on June 1.
How would you respond to the question of why this is an issue Americans should care about?
First of all, in a time when we’re in such tough fiscal straits, every dollar counts … and the worst part is we’re not just spending the money, we’re spending the money on an institution that essentially goes against our interests. That’s the worst part of it. The money is being spent on fraud and waste and literally going against our interest and the interest of our allies. I think money makes a difference these days. I think Americans want to sleep at night knowing we live in a better world, and it’s clear that what we have in the United Nations is not accomplishing that.
Anything else you’d like to say to people considering watching the documentary?
I think the final thing is that this is not a straight-up, boring documentary. I went to great lengths to entertain you, and it’s a great date movie on a Saturday night, you know? You’re not gonna feel like you got ripped off. It’s also going to be on Video on Demand for every major cable company, so if you don’t want to go out and park your car and get babysitting, you can just dial it up and replace 90 minutes of "Snooki" with 90 minutes of a movie that will blow your head off.
For a list of theaters and more information, or to view the official trailer, visit www.unmemovie.com.
Anna Kuta is the editor of ReligionToday.com.
Publication date: May 31, 2012