April 30, 2003

Legitimacy?

Saturday Night Live could not do a better parody of the United Nations than the one they pulled off themselves today, electing Cuba to the U.N. Human Rights Commission just days after Castro completed a crackdown resulting in the arrests of some 80 independent journalists and assorted dissidents. The U.S. walked out of the meeting in protest of the move, and later walked out again when the Cuban representative got up to speak.

Cuba now joins their fellow watchdogs of human rights abuse, the thugs... I mean, the governments of Saudi Arabia and Libya, the commission chair. Doubtless they are "concerned" about U.S. treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, U.S. occupation in Iraq, and of course, all manner of issues regarding Israel. At least they don't have to be concerned with pesky matters like elections back home, so they can concentrate fully on documenting the rights abuses of certain other countries.

The Weekly Standard this week provides a little "timeline", contrasting the events of certain dates with the goings on at the Geneva meetings of the U.N.H.R.C. Consider April 9th:

Crowds of Iraqis celebrate and pull down a statue of Saddam as Baghdad falls. Western newspapers publish reports from inside the infamous "White Lion" prison in the southern city of Basra, where for decades victims of the toppled regime were hung from ceiling hooks and tortured with hot irons, cigarettes, boiling water, pliers, and baths of acid.

meanwhile in Geneva...

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, announces himself "deeply disturbed" over civilian deaths and injuries resulting from the U.S.-led coalition war of liberation.

So, acid baths, pliers, and meathooks notwithstanding, Kofi Annan continues to regret the coalition's "decision to go to war without specific authorization by the Security Council". Such "authorization" as we now know would have been forthcoming shortly after hell froze over, given France's promise to veto a resolution "no matter what" it said. Another excerpt:

In the future, Annan concludes, wars like this one should be avoided; the world will be "safer" in a system "governed by the international rule of law and principles set out in the United Nations Charter." The Commission officially declares itself in agreement with Annan, approving a resolution identifying "peace" as a fundamental precondition for human rights and calling upon member states to renounce the use of force against other member states "irrespective of their political, economic, or social systems."

Let me get this right then. No matter how badly a regime violates the human rights of their people, all nations must renounce the use of force against them. And, for now at least, the dictators of Libya, Cuba and Saudi Arabia, among others, will be deciding for the world what constitutes a human rights abuse.

Now, are we absolutely sure that's not Eddie Murphy doin' his best Kofi?

As for combatting terrorism, Anne Bayefsky, a board member of U.N. Watch, says in a WSJ op-ed that the Commission cannot even define terrorism, much less confront it. Could they be preoccupied? What have they been up to?:

More than a quarter of the commission's resolutions condemning a state's human rights violations passed over the last 30 years have been directed at Israel. There has never been a single resolution on China, Syria or Saudi Arabia. The current session ended by defeating a resolution to criticize anything about the situation in Zimbabwe, and by eliminating the 10-year-old position of rapporteur on human rights in Sudan. This was despite a report of the U.N. rapporteur on torture informing commission members of the Sudanese practice of "cross-amputation"--amputation of right hand and left foot for armed robbery, and various cases of women being stoned to death for alleged adultery.

Commission meetings themselves are a platform for incitement to hate and violence. At this year's session, the Iranian deputy foreign minister threatened what he called a "vicious circle" of violence and future "extremism" resulting from the Iraq war. The Cuban representative demanded action against "the most critical case of . . . massive and flagrant violations of human rights [and] of the systemic institutionalization of racism--that of the United States." The Algerian delegate said: "The Israeli war machine has been trying for five decades to arrive at a final solution." The Palestinian representative called for the "elimination" of "Zionist Nazism."

Bayefsky ends by pointing out that the U.N. has seemingly abandoned the principles of universal human rights that were a foundation of its creation, and which at the time were consistent with the principles of the United States. It has demonstrably failed to protect human rights, and its credibilty is crippled by its systemic anti-Semitism, and overriding antipathy toward things American, save our role as host and principal cash cow.

Even when we succeed in our U.N. diplomacy, as with Resolution 1441, we shouldn't kid ourselves as to how we made that happen. Despite the organization's lofty goals, member nations act and vote in their own self-interests. Back in November, when we were basking in the 15-0 vote on 1441, Jonah Goldberg reminded us that it wasn't "because the glorious spirit of human cooperation and global harmony filled the air". We knew how it worked. We twisted arms, made promises, and bought votes. Goldberg continues:

Whether these countries think we're right about toppling or containing Saddam is something of a mystery; what we do know is that they don't think our case is compelling enough to trump their own narrow self-interests. If it were, we wouldn't have had to spend the last couple of months haggling over what happens to Iraq's debt to Russia or France's oil contracts. Right? I mean, if the U.N. were half the thing it ought to be, our U.N. partners would have dropped those concerns the way Cincinnatus laid down his plow. And if the United States is as wrong and selfish as the anti-war crowd says, then the rest of the Security Council are just a bunch of whores willing to do the wrong thing if we pay them enough.

As the Iraqi archives come into the public domain, the posturing of Russia, France and Germany will become all the more transparent for what it is, and their moral preening at the U.N. will prove all the more cynical and hypocritical. There was no shortage of pundits who were ready to write the obituary for the U.N. two months ago, and Kofi has been scrambling ever since to look "relevant". I'd settle for a little less self-parody.

Posted by dan at April 30, 2003 1:40 AM