About

Columbia University Press Pinterest

Twitter

Facebook

CUP Web site

RSS Feed

New Books

Author Interviews

Author Events

Keep track of new CUP book releases:
e-newsletters

For media inquiries, please contact our
publicity department

CUP Authors Blogs and Sites

American Society of Magazine Editors

Leonard Cassuto

Mike Chasar / Poetry and Popular Culture

Erica Chenoweth / "Rational Insurgent"

Juan Cole

Jenny Davidson / "Light Reading"

Faisal Devji

William Duggan

James Fleming / Atmosphere: Air, Weather, and Climate History Blog

David Harvey

Paul Harvey / "Religion in American History"

Bruce Hoffman

Alexander Huang

David K. Hurst / The New Ecology of Leadership

Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh

Geoffrey Kabat / "Hyping Health Risks"

Grzegorz W. Kolodko / "Truth, Errors, and Lies"

Jerelle Kraus

Julia Kristeva

Michael LaSala / Gay and Lesbian Well-Being (Psychology Today)

David Leibow / The College Shrink

Marc Lynch / "Abu Aardvark"

S. J. Marshall

Michael Mauboussin

Noelle McAfee

The Measure of America

Philip Napoli / Audience Evolution

Paul Offit

Frederick Douglass Opie / Food as a Lens

Jeffrey Perry

Mari Ruti / The Juicy Bits

Marian Ronan

Michael Sledge

Jacqueline Stevens / States without Nations

Ted Striphas / The Late Age of Print

Charles Strozier / 9/11 after Ten Years

Hervé This

Alan Wallace

James Igoe Walsh / Back Channels

Xiaoming Wang

Santiago Zabala

Press Blogs

AAUP

University of Akron

University of Alberta

American Management Association

Baylor University

Beacon Broadside

University of California

Cambridge University Press

University of Chicago

Cork University

Duke University

University of Florida

Fordham University Press

Georgetown University

University of Georgia

Harvard University

Harvard Educational Publishing Group

University of Hawaii

Hyperbole Books

University of Illinois

Island Press

Indiana University

Johns Hopkins University

University of Kentucky

Louisiana State University

McGill-Queens University Press

Mercer University

University of Michigan

University of Minnesota

Minnesota Historical Society

University of Mississippi

University of Missouri

MIT

University of Nebraska

University Press of New England

University of North Carolina

University Press of North Georgia

NYU / From the Square

University of Oklahoma

Oregon State University

University of Ottawa

Oxford University

Penn State University

University of Pennsylvania

Princeton University

Stanford University

University of Sydney

University of Syracuse

Temple University

University of Texas

Texas A&M University

University of Toronto

University of Virginia

Wilfrid Laurier University

Yale University

February 17th, 2012 at 12:00 pm

The Legacy of Dag Hammarskjold

“I realize now, that in comparison to [Dag Hammarskjöld], I am a small man. He was the greatest statesman of our century.”—John F. Kennedy

We conclude our week-long feature on Who Killed Hammarskjöld?: The UN, the Cold War, and White Supremacy in Africa, by Susan Williams with an excerpt from her moving epilogue. Williams focuses not on the mystery surrounding his death but rather his important legacy. Who Killed Dag Hammarskjold, Susan Williams

On 14 March 1962, six months after Hammarskjöld’s death, President John F. Kennedy invited Sture Linnér [a Hammarskjöld aide], who had by now left the Congo and was at UN headquarters in New York, to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. He told Linnér that he wanted to apologize for the pressure that had been put on Dag to implement US policy in the Congo—a pressure which Dag had refused to heed. The Secretary-General’s strategy had been straightforward: ‘I do not intend to give way to any pressure, be it from the East or the West; we shall sink or swim.’ Equally clear were his instructions to Linnér: ‘Continue to follow the line you find to be in accordance with the UN Charter.’

Kennedy explained to Linnér the reasons for US opposition to Dag’s policy in the Congo. For his own political survival, said the President, he had felt obliged to heed the deep aversion towards Communism and left-wing views, which even after McCarthy’s heyday played an important role in American politics. He then said that because it was now too late to offer an apology to Hammarskjöld, he wished to do so to Linnér. ‘I realise now,’ said Kennedy, that in comparison to [Dag], I am a small man. He was the greatest statesman of our century.’

Unlike Kennedy—or, indeed, the first UN Secretary-General, Trygve Lie—Hammarskjöld did not make compromises with the political establishment. On 31 October 1956, during the Suez crisis, he stated to the Security Council that in his view, ‘the discretion and impartiality … imposed on the Secretary-General’ could not be allowed to ‘degenerate into a policy of expediency.’ He reiterated this point in his introduction to the Annual Report of the UN for 1959–60. ‘It is my firm conviction,’ he argued,

that any result bought at the price of a compromise with the principles and ideals of the Organisation, either by yielding to force, by disregard of justice, by neglect of common interests or by contempt for human rights, is bought at too high a price.

‘That is so,’ he went on, ‘because a compromise with its principles and purposes weakens the Organisation in a way representing a definite loss for the future that cannot be balanced by any immediate advantage achieved.’ Kofi Annan has said that he was guided by the example of Dag Hammarskjöld when he was UN Secretary-General between 1997 and 2006. There could be no better rule of thumb for a Secretary-General, believed Annan, than to ask himself, ‘How would Hammarskjöld have handled this?’ Hammarskjöld’s life and his death, his words and his action, argued the seventh Secretary-General, ‘have done more to shape public expectations of the office, and indeed of the Organization, than those of any other man or woman in its history. His wisdom and his modesty, his unimpeachable integrity and singleminded devotion to duty, have set a standard for all servants of the international community.’

In a sense, Hammarskjöld’s unswerving high principles and his determined search for peaceful solutions contributed to his death. A different Secretary-General, faced with the Katangan crisis in September 1961, might have found an easier option than flying, exhausted, to a small town in central Africa to negotiate with an enemy of the United Nations. But Hammarskjöld was indefatigable in the cause of justice and peace. ‘We can put our influence to the best of our understanding and ability,’ he stated firmly in 1953, ‘on the side of what we believe is right and true. We can help in the movement toward those ends that inspire our lives and are shared by all men of good will—in terms very close to those of the Charter of the United Nations—peace and freedom for all, in a world of equal rights for all.’

Tragically, he was never allowed to reach Ndola and to speak with Tshombe. But his mission of peace and self-sacrifice offers a lesson to the world. It exemplifies
a goodness and a love of humanity to which Hammarskjöld, though keenly aware of his own failings, consciously and determinedly aspired.

Post a comment