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Diplomatic Immunity


Chapter 1 - sample


On Manhattan Island by the East River there are eighteen acres that are not legally part of the United States. This fact was impressed upon me throughout the first week of my induction, but acquired the force of reality only when I was called upon to pledge allegiance to a charter that was not the U.S. Constitution and to a flag that was not my own.

After the ceremony that year, the Secretary-General invited me and my fellow inductees up to his private dining room for drinks on the thirty-eighth floor. He made a speech.

“You have come here from many lands to dedicate your working lives to the service of all nations,” he proclaimed, sweeping his hand regally to embrace us, the newest and lowliest members of his team.

Twenty-two of us, as I recall. Three, like me, U.S. citizens, the others from all quarters of the globe. And all gathered to join the great United Nations enterprise, to aid the downtrodden of the earth, to build bridges of trust between nations, and to free mankind from the scourge of war.

The Secretary-General was eloquent. He painted the big picture. Duty. Responsibility. Hope. The greater good of mankind. A practiced politician, though I did not see it at the time, he offered us the words we wanted to hear. I was twenty-six, my fellow inductees mostly younger, each of us playing at being maturely level-headed but underneath that, burning, lit with personal ambitions and universal ideals that seemed not only compatible but inseperable, as if the world's good was somehow at one with our own. We were united too, of course, by youth's universal belief - the evidence for which was all around us - that our parents' generation had screwed up badly; that we could do better; that, given a chance, we could build a finer world.

I sat by the window. The view from the thirty-eighth floor was splendid.

"Each of you has a part to play, a real part in this endeavor. To serve all nations. All nations. Not merely your home countries. Not even that greater number, those nations with which you feel some affinity, some tie of culture, language or race. But all nations. Those with whom you agree and those with whom you disagree. Those which you believe good and those which you believe bad. Once accepted by the General Assembly, once a signatory to the UN Charter, each state has a legitimate call on the services of the Secretariat" His hand swept over us again, not regally now but inclusively. "On me. And on you."

Then he put on his glasses. And he opened the UN Charter, a red morocco-bound copy, which he held in one hand.

"You have undoubtedly heard this several times these past few days. It will do you no harm to hear it again." His smile was wry, our laughter dutiful. But when he looked down and began to read, his grandiloquent and somewhat showy manner of address fell away. His tone became dry, almost prefessorial. And though we had as he surmised heard Article 100 of the Charter frequently during the course of our induction, we listened. Attentively.

" 'In the performance of their duties the Secretary-Genral and the staff shall not seek or receive instruction from any government or any authority external to the Organization. They shall refrain from any action which might reflect on their position as international officials responsible only to the Organization.' "

He closed the morocco-bound copy. "The Secretary-General and the staff," he intoned. He removed his glasses slowly. He looked up. "Me," he said. "And you."

A weight seemed to settle over the room, a moment of pure silence. And at that moment we were not merely young, ambitious men and women embarking on careers as international cicil servants; at that moment we were acolytes, novitiates of a secular oreder, receiving final instruction from the high priest of our faith. A final warning. We would be leaned on. Attempts would be made, through us, to subvert the UN's high ideals.

Then the Secretary-General raised a hand. And smiled somewhat equivocally.

"Good luck," he said.

  © Grant Sutherland