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Sex and Drugs at the UN

New York Post | June 1 2004

Three United Nations fieldworkers are publishing details of sex, drugs and corruption inside U.N. missions - despite an attempt by the world body to block their book.

"Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story from Hell on Earth" chronicles the experiences of a doctor, a human-rights official and a secretary in U.N. operations in Cambodia, Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda, Liberia and Bosnia.

The controversial volume, due out next week, charges that some U.N. officials demanded that 15 percent of their local staff's salaries go directly to them instead; that Bulgaria sent freed criminals to serve as peacekeepers; and that incompetent U.N. security has cost lives.

Their first-person account of a decade in U.N. service also includes candid details of drug use - particularly a marijuana cocktail called "The Space Shuttle" - and casual sex.

"Almost a million civilians [whom] our peacekeepers were supposed to protect died in two genocides," said Dr. Andrew Thomson, one of the co-authors. "We didn't set out to write a scandalous book about the U.N., but this is a matter of historical record. Did the U.N. really think that none of us would come home angry and write about it?"

The book takes its title from an episode in Somalia in which Heidi Postlewait, an American secretary, seeks consolation with a local interpreter after a sniper attack.

"I can feel this pounding inside me and I can't wait. It has to be right now, not in 10 minutes, not five. Now," she writes. "An emergency. Emergency sex."

At one point, the former New York social worker has sex with a soldier at their Mogadishu base.

"After, we lay back naked, sweat drying, smoking cigarettes. Nice," she writes. "Then I spotted an observation tower not 50 feet away, where two soldiers with night-vision goggles were peeping down at us . . . I think they set me up."

Particularly galling to the fieldworkers is the murder in Mogadishu of a young American colleague, shot dead as he rode in a U.N. convoy.

Kenneth Cain, an American human-rights official, complains bitterly that the board of inquiry ignored failings in U.N. security.

"The board is stacked with U.N. officials who oversee security," he writes. "I don't trust these f- - -s for a second to truly investigate and hold one of their own accountable."

Bulgaria has denied that it sent freed prisoners as peacekeepers to Cambodia, but some of the other allegations in the book have been substantiated.

For instance, an inquiry into the bombing of the U.N. office in Baghdad last year found the whole U.N. security system to be "dysfunctional."

The U.N. hierarchy tried to block the book using a rule requiring that U.N. staff get approval before writing about their work. Permission was denied.