- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Something is amiss at the United Nations. With more than 180,000 troops assembled in the Persian Gulf and compelling new evidence proving that Saddam Hussein is in material breach of U.N. resolutions on disarmament, the world body is prepared to award two of the world's most notorious and despotic regimes with leadership positions.
By spring, Libya, internationally recognized as one of the world's most oppressive governments and among the most egregious violators of human rights, will take control of the U.N.'s Commission on Human Rights. And in May, the very same Iraq that is systematically hiding weapons of mass destruction, including a reported 5,000 liters of anthrax and thousands of liters of botulin, nerve gas and sarin gas, will take (from Iran, no less) the gavel of a body billed by the U.N. as "the world's sole multilateral forum for [nuclear] disarmament negotiations."
Sadly, these are only the latest breaches of common sense by the world body, which in its zeal to be non-judgmental, also fails to make distinctions between the actions of countries such as, on the one hand, the United States and England, and on the other hand, Libya and Iraq. Outside the ivory walls of the U.N. is reality reality that there are good and bad people in the world and that it is morally acceptable and essential to make such distinctions.
The institutional indifference that infects the U.N. today prevents it from distinguishing between the evil endeavors of dictators and tyrants and the more noble actions of democratic governments. Where the League of Nations exuded impotence, the U.N. is allowing the fox to watch the henhouse.
Today, the U.N. is too often dominated by a culture of carelessness that has led to a recklessness in how its many committees are administered. That is why this week, I will introduce legislation that would withhold United States funding for any U.N. commission that is chaired by a country that the State Department classifies as a terrorist nation. In addition, the bill would withhold expenses for any United States dele-gation to participate in these commissions until a more appropriate nation is selected as its leader.
For example, under the legislation, when Iraq assumes the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament, the United States would automatically reduce our payments to the U.N. and the U.S. delegation would not participate in the conference. This would send an unmistakable message that the United States will neither condone nor waste a single taxpayer dollar on a commission being led by a terrorist state.
The legislation would also apply pressure on U.N. to implement more internal reforms, including establishing appropriate electoral procedures, enacting minimum standards for membership to a commission and eliminating automatic rotation for leadership positions. Nations that stand accused of violating the very principles that a particular commission seeks to promote do not deserve a seat at the table, let alone the head chair.
It's not asking much for the U.N. to require that any nation applying for membership to, say, the Commission on Human Rights not torture its citizens or use sadistic forms of violence to deny them basic inalienable rights. A get-tough approach toward terrorist states should be the rule, not the exception at the U.N.
At its onset, the U.N. held great promise, rising from the ashes of World War II and unprecedented human suffering. Charged with maintaining international peace and security and solving international disputes, the U.N. has had a spotty record in achieving these goals. In recent years, the mission of the U.N. has become further compromised, its agenda manipulated by an institutional bureaucracy that is unwilling to confront the most obvious of evils.
Beginning in the 1980s, the United States was forced to use the power of the purse to rattle the bureaucracy and reset the U.N.'s moral compass. Today, the U.N. again seems adrift as terrorist nations and thug dictators hijack its commissions to gain an international seal of approval to deflect criticisms for their often criminal actions.
This is tragic for the millions of oppressed people around the world. How can Libya have the moral authority to expand human rights in other countries when Moammar Gadhafi has a long and sordid history of human rights abuses and state-sponsored acts of terrorism? How can a Conference on Disarmament pursue a policy of nuclear arms control when Saddam Hussein is actively and illegally developing weapons of mass destruction?
Clearly, it challenges both reason and common sense to select nations such as Iraq and Libya to chair commissions within the U.N. Indeed, the U.N.'s willingness to indulge the world's rogue nations undermines its credibility and threatens its long-term ability to serve as an international force for positive change.
The U.N. will become increasingly irrelevant in the 21st century unless it firmly rejects the views of countries mired in the past and looks to new nations that have recently attained freedom and appreciate the majesty of liberty. The U.N. must be guided by a never-ending thirst for democracy and the virtues it protects if it is to maintain any moral authority to assist in securing world peace. It is essential for the U.N. not only to recognize situations that smack of absurdity, but also to demonstrate through its actions that it deeply holds the view that freedom trumps tyranny every time.

Vito Fossella is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York.

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