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Veto by Ed Griffin 1 The Age of Nations is past.

The Task before us now, if we would not perish, is to build the earth. Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)

Chapter 1
Appointment Schedule for the Secretary-General Monday, September 25 10:30 AM Abdullah Roble Dirie, Somali Ambassador to the United Nations 11:00 AM Muhammad Faisal Djalil, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Indonesia 12:30 PM Luncheon, The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations 2:30 PM Thomas E. Brennan, U.S.A. Ambassador to the UN Pilar Marti stood to greet her first appointment on her first day as Secretary-General of the UN. She took a deep breath and reminded herself that the newly appointed Somali Ambassador to the UN was a softball start. The man approached her desk with a tentative step. She studied his inexpensive Arab dress, his slight frame and his gray hair. Abdullah Roble Dirie. The background sheet gave his age as forty-five, already past the life expectancy of a man in Somalia. Im very pleased, Your Excellency, he said, extending his hand. She smiled and shook his hand. Madame Secretary, she corrected softly and pointed to a chair. Im very sorry, Madame. He sat down and pulled papers, folders and envelopes from his briefcase, some of which slid to the floor. While he retrieved his things, she sat down and waited for the small talk to begin. All her life shed paid attention to casual words and passing conversations. They revealed things about the speaker, things she could use. It didnt matter if Abdullah only represented poverty-stricken Somalia. Someday she might need his vote. Abdullah sat up straight and stared at her. Madame, we need water. Then nothing more. No small talk, no request for sanctions against Ethiopia, no UN resolution to condemn Ethiopias damming of the Jubba and Shabelle rivers, no grandiose desalinization projects, no conservation experts and no peace-keepers to control thirst-maddened crowds. Just water. She studied him for a moment. Stark, simple, direct like his sparse country. The man had no diplomatic background. He owned a teashop in Mogadishu until the shaky national government convinced him to represent the country at the UN.

Veto by Ed Griffin 2 He shifted on the edge of his chair. A more seasoned diplomat would have listed Arab and African states who supported his request for water and would have teased her with tales of potential oil riches deep in the Somali earth, untapped because of the civil strife. Yes, I understand, she said. Water. She congratulated herself silently she had listened, not talked; she had affirmed the need, not promised the solution. But something was wrong. This new job demanded more. Ive brought you some pictures, Madame. He took a brown envelope from his lap and spread a half dozen photos on her desk. My goodness, she thought, he has no idea how things are done. She had already seen the drought on TV a record, even for a sun-baked country like Somalia. A half million people had died. But she could not let the UN get involved in Somalia again after the disaster in 1993, when the UNs mission ended in a bloody shoot-out between American Rangers and Somali warlord, Aidid. As she stood to look at the pictures, she caught sight of her navy blue suit in the framed mirror on her wall. Very business chic, the sales woman had told her on Saturday. Yes, yes, business chic, but would it help reverse the media jabber that a woman running the UN meant the organization had bottomed out on the power scale? Or as a Chicago tabloid put it, The UN has gone from a sexy, six-foot senior to a detached, five-foot-six, fifty-two year old queen bee. If only the gods had given her the looks of her romantic Cuban exile father rather than those of her dour English-Canadian mother. But it was not to be. She looked at the photographs: a man kneeling on the scorched earth, his eyes heavenward, his hand on a shriveled sorghum plant, a dead goat behind him; a mother sitting under a withered eucalyptus tree, her two children in her lap, their lips parched and swollen. The woman had placed her body against the assailant sun and shadows covered the faces of the children, emphasizing their lifeless appearance. Abdullah had placed this picture by itself in such a way that the womans eyes stared right at Pilar, big sad eyes, on the verge of despair. More pictures emaciated children, dead animals and shriveled banana trees, but still the woman under the eucalyptus tree stared at Pilar. Water. Please, water, the woman seemed to cry. Pilar shook her head to break the fixation and stepped back around the desk to her seat. She had to keep her distance. Over her twenty-four years in the UN, she had learned to analyze problems dispassionately. The world was full of sad stories and if a person paid attention to every one of them, madness would result. Besides, she had to weigh the political implications of everything she did give water to Somalia and Sudan would demand the same. And the supplier country whose turn was it? But still that photo on her desk even upside-down the womans eyes found her. She turned slightly to get the womans image out of her field of vision. No need to scold herself for this action, she reassured herself. A person had to pay attention to the big picture. And her way had proven successful. Two weeks previous, after a record struggle between the Americans, the Chinese and the Russians, she had been chosen as Secretary-General. Im sorry, Abdullah, theres not much the UN can do. Any action would be vetoed by the Americans. That picture of an American pilots dead body being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu well, they wont forget that. We just need water. The man was pleading with her. How interesting. Before the meeting she feared that a Muslim man would walk in, see a woman as Secretary General, and walk out.

Veto by Ed Griffin 3 Have you tried the NGOs? The what? This poor man had no background at all. The Non-Governmental Organizations. Things like Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent. Yes. They are doing what they can. Can you come to Somalia, Madame, and call the worlds attention to this problem? We have a saying, The small camel follows the big camels steps. Others will follow your example. The simplicity of the man touched her, but she had a lot to do this morning. She had to pick her way through a political mine field and choose her cabinet. Already she had a cobra as her second-in-command. The Americans and the Chinese gave the Deputy Secretary-General post to her main opponent. The Americans won the Secretary-General post so the Chinese secured the deputys position. According to tradition, the Americans and the Chinese followed UN custom and called on a citizen of a client state, Pilar as a Canadian and Quan Mai Ngo as a Vietnamese. Even thinking of the man caused her stomach to knot. She stood to indicate the interview was over. Thank you for coming, Ambassador. I will visit your country as soon as I can. You must come soon, Madam. Must? Getting ready for her afternoon meeting with the new American ambassador that was must enough for today. Working successfully with him was a requisite for a second term. Finding water for Somalia? The NGOs could take care of that. Ill call CARE for you, she said and gently put her right hand on his elbow, guiding him to the door. She kept her left hand by her side to hide her little finger, the top cut off on her fathers table saw forty-two years ago a lesson learned to follow the rules. Abdullah stopped and faced her. No, please, you come, Madame. We need leadership at the UN. She kept light pressure on his arm, moving him toward the door. It wasnt leadership the UN needed, but money. Thank you for coming, she said as he left. She stepped toward her desk but stopped as she saw the framed map she had hung on the wall the day before. Oh, Mom, she said softly. Her mother heard of her daughters appointment as Secretary-General of the United Nations on a Thursday. On Friday she was killed in a head-on collision on British Columbias Sea-to-Sky highway. That was a week ago. Pilar touched the glass cover of the map. The coast of British Columbia with her mothers notes inked in archeological sites. How strange for her to come back from the funeral with only this memento. It was a map from her mothers youth when her mother was passionately interested in theories of first nation migration from Asia. It wasnt even her mothers life work. The sociology department offered her scholarships and later a teaching position and she let her interest in archeology die. Pilar traced her finger down the coast, remembering how her mother explained that the oceans were lower then. Pilar was only five at the time, but because of her mothers enthusiasm the ancient peoples lived and marched down the coast in her mind. It was the best of her mother. Her finger stopped at the Queen Charlotte Islands where her mother had made several notes. Yes, this map belonged here, in this office. The map recorded the heroic journey of the first settlers to North America, while the office of the Secretary-General, her office, worked to keep the whole human race moving forward on its journey through space and time.

Veto by Ed Griffin 4 Pilar lifted her finger from the map. She shivered. She knew why she had picked this map this was her passionate mother, not the prim, bureaucratic sociology professor. And the knot in her stomach tightened had she hung it on her wall for a memento or for a message to herself? She returned to her desk, wiped her eyes and reached for her water bottle. The coldness of the water shocked her tongue. Reality. Back to work. As she took another sip, her eye caught the picture of the Somali woman under the eucalyptus tree. That desperate, begging stare. Here, she said, holding out her water bottle. Thats all the woman wanted water. Why couldnt she get her out of her mind? She had reached the pinnacle of her career, the SecretaryGeneral of the UN, yet her mind focused on this ordinary Somali woman. She only had a few minutes before the foreign minister came in and she had to study the background paper. Oil. Thats what he wanted to talk about. And after him, the Saudis wanted to talk to her at the luncheon about oil. The Somali woman wanted water but Pilars day was centered on oil. * * * Promptly at 2:30 Thomas E. Brennan, newly appointed American ambassador to the UN, swung open her door until it hit the doorstop with a thud. Howdy, little lady. Tom Brennan here. He strode toward her, not with the tight steps of a diplomat, but with the easy lope of a construction boss on an oilrig, which she knew to be his early background. She took his extended hand, but then glanced more closely at his face. His mean, narrow eyes belied his friendly cowboy manner. They were the eyes of a man that could hit a dog and drive on. She suppressed a sudden gasp for air, shook his hand quickly and motioned toward her new leather office chairs which she had arranged around a teak coffee table. Maybe she was just nervous, she cautioned herself, and he might be, too. He was new on the job as well. Brennan stopped at her desk and stared at the pictures, picking up the one of the woman under the tree. Africa? he asked. Yes. Somalia. Got to stay away from that place, he said and dropped the picture on her desk. He sauntered over to a leather chair and sat his big body down, twacking the leather as he did so. Nice chair, little lady. Madame Secretary, thats the correct title. Nice of you to come by, Ambassador. Call me Tom. Can I pour you some coffee? Sure. Cream and sugar. She poured coffee from her silver decanter, debating whether shed been firm enough about her title. Best to let it slide for the moment. Got a paper here for you. A name for your Minister of the Environment. The United States wants this man. Its a sensitive position. Oil, you know. He pulled the paper from his suit coat and offered it to her, but she had his cup and saucer in her right hand. She had to take the paper with her left hand. What happened to your finger, little lady? Madame Secretary. Your finger? Dont look to be nothin dangerous around this UN building. He spread his left arm toward the floors below. Every time I come in here, seems like everybodys asleep.

Veto by Ed Griffin 5 In all her twenty-four years at the UN, no one had ever commented on her missing finger. She sat down opposite him. Ill certainly consider your candidate, Mr. Ambassador. Consider him? This is the man we want. Silence, her best response. She knew he was learning on the job. The rumor was that he wanted to step up to Secretary of State when the incumbent Secretary retired next year. She assumed the White House had put him at the UN to see how well he controlled events, a sort of training ground for international diplomacy. She wondered if he knew how far he was from the center of power in America. I mean, you understand the United States backed your candidacy for a reason. There it was. She was bought and paid for. Resist, and no second term. Damn him. He gestured over to her desk. Whats with the Somali pictures? What should she tell him? The ambassador must have forgotten them, or He wants me to go there. A diplomatic lie or the truth? Throughout her career she had worked with people like Brennan. The UN was full of them political hacks appointed by their governments. Her strategy had been to stay with them and maneuver them into a position where they lived up to their job. When she was in the finance department, her assistant, new to the western world, spent his time touring New York. She praised his accounting skills, she got her colleagues to compliment him and she brought in tourists from his country to applaud his financial wizardry. The man got back to his ledgers. So with Brennan. The ambassador was in this morning. She sipped her coffee. He asked me to go there and call attention to the drought and famine. Let me show you those pictures, Tom. She stood to go to her desk. Its a terrible drought. But youre not going? What do you think about the situation, Tom? Youre the key at the UN, the American ambassador. He hesitated for a moment and she took a step toward the desk. Wait, now. I know its a serious situation, but you shouldnt go. Why, Tom? What was his reason? She hadnt even considered going, but now Ah, now, it would just be a mistake. He dumped another spoon of sugar into his coffee and muttered, A mistake. She started back toward him with the pictures. He held up his hand. Whoa, there. I know there are lots of people suffering and women get all bothered and sympathetic about situations like that, but Congress has a foreign aid bill in front of them to help and at the right time, theyll pass it. Oh? She raised her eyebrows. And when is the right time? Ive got a special interest in Somalia. Done some studying about it. Our State Department is just as worried about the situation as you are. People dying, starving, no water its a perfect setup for the Islamic crazies. Why not work through the UN? All due respect now, but the UN doesnt have a very good record at driving out the bad guys. You guys just give em water and walk away. The US Governments got a plan. Just as the commentators always said, the US used the UN when it wanted to and ignored it at other times. The UN was just one tool among many.

Veto by Ed Griffin 6 Brennan glanced at his watch. Gotta run, little lady. Sure was nice talking to you. He clinked his coffee cup on the table and stood up. She rose and stepped in front of him, blocking his way out. Mr. Ambassador, I think we need to clarify one thing. My name is not Little Lady. From now on, I insist that you call me Madame Secretary. She saw anger flit across his eyes, but then he apologized. Shucks, Im sorry, Madame. You know, its just down home Texas style. My wife tells me the same thing. It was only two weeks ago that the Senate confirmed me, so Im learning on the job just like you. We all try to do what our predecessors did. Mine looked after US interests, your predecessors were smooth diplomats. Sure, they had to take a stand against us now and then, but most things came out our way. All we have to do is replay the past. Thank you, Sir. Maybe things would work out. But replaying the past was a poor strategy for the future. He took a few steps toward the door. Im sure youve heard how we stood up for you in the Security Council. Youve got some powerful enemies out there. I appreciate your support. My staff has me studying the past, and, you know, those Secretary-Generals that try to be leaders and change things, well, they dont do well. But if the Secretary-General gets along with our office, well, its like a beautiful sunset on the range. Im sure you get my meaning. Yes, Mr. Ambassador, as long you remember that when the sun is setting in Texas, its coming up on another hot, dry day in Somalia. He motioned to tip a hat that wasnt there and said as he left, Its been a pleasure, Madame. That last Madame reassured her. Maybe it would work. But his comments about going along with the American office reminded her that the old saying was still true: the big powers wanted her and her predecessors to be more Secretary than General. No leaders allowed. She returned to her desk and checked her schedule. Her head throbbed with the tension of her meeting with Brennan. No more appointments, but with the UN in session, she should attend committee meetings. Still. . . She dialed her new chief of security, Alex Richardson. Can you come in, Alex? A minute later he entered, a man with deep ebony skin and gray sideburns. When she hired him, she valued his honest, intelligent eyes as much as his extensive background as a Cleveland policeman and detective. Alex, Im sorry. Do we have chauffeur service at this time? Budget cuts had limited her service and she had forgotten the cut-off time. For another hour, he said. Ill be going home. Ill get the chauffeur. Alex picked up the picture. Oh. This poor woman. She nodded. Somalia. He stared at the picture for a long moment and then looked up at her. What were his eyes saying? Alex? she asked after a pause. Yes, Madame? The picture? He looked down at the picture again. I dont know, Madame. When I was a beat cop in Cleveland, I had a real bad area. Rats jumping in the cribs of babies, drugs, shootings, muggings.

Veto by Ed Griffin 7 I convinced the councilman from the area to spend a few days sitting on a folding chair on the worst corner. Things got better from then on, not paradise, but better. She smiled. An honest, direct man. Ill get the chauffeur now, Madame. Alex left. She walked over to the window and stared at New York, thirty-eight floors below. What was this job she had striven so hard to get? Was she just a functionary, a person who shook hands and made harmless statements? Or was she a woman of power who could help another woman get some water?

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