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United Nations Celebrates 60th Anniversary

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2005 – An organization born in war, but dedicated to peace celebrated its 60th anniversary today.

June 28 marks 60 years since representatives from 50 nations signed the United Nations Charter in a ceremony in San Francisco.

The organization grew out of the chaos of World War II. President Harry S. Truman, who had been in office only since April 12, 1945, when Franklin D. Roosevelt died, called the charter "a solid structure upon which we can build a better world. History will honor you for it. Between the victory in Europe and the final victory, in this most destructive of all wars, you have won a victory against war itself."

The war in Europe had ended the month before and fighting continued in the Pacific. The war had claimed the lives of 60 million people. Ahead in 1945 lay the atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the end of the war.

The United Nations was an attempt by the nations allied against the Axis powers to create an organization that could settle disputes without relying on war. Countries also saw the organization as a way that the world could act in concert against regimes that disturbed the peace.

The U.N., now headquartered in New York, has done that and more. The organization is at the lead of efforts to eradicate hunger and disease. It is working to house refugees and to combat climate change.

And it has had successes in combating aggression. In 1947, U.N. peacekeepers first deployed going into Cyprus to separate warring factions. U.N. officials helped broker a ceasefire in the first Arab-Israeli War, and the world body stopped aggression in 1950 when troops from the United States first went into South Korea to stop the North Korea attack. Ultimately more than 20 nations sent troops to aid South Korea.

In the years since, the United Nations has sent peacekeepers to numerous parts of the world. From Africa to Asia and South America, the "blue hats" of the United Nation have helped shaped the world.

There have been problems. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the organization failed to prevent genocide in Rwanda, and charges of excesses by U.N. troops in other regions of Africa tarnish the organization's reputation.

The United States has called for U.N. reform, and U.N. officials have developed a plan to overhaul agencies now drowning in bureaucracy. Charges of corruption in the oil-for-food program in Iraq dog the organization.

But overall the United Nations has remained true to its charter. "With this charter the world can begin to look forward to the time when all worthy human beings may be permitted to live decently as free people," Truman said at the signing. "If we fail to use it, we shall betray all those who have died so that we might meet here in freedom and safety to create it. If we seek to use it selfishly - for the advantage of any one nation or any small group of nations - we shall be equally guilty of that betrayal."

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