- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2001

In a secret vote last week, the United States was kicked off the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Many observers were more than happy to volunteer their interpretations of the vote against the United States. Everything from the White Houses position on AIDS drugs, the Kyoto treaty, a land mine treaty, and national missile defense was proposed. So-called experts seemed to relish the opportunity to target a variety of Bush policies, while ascribing their pet issues to the councils motivation. A free-for-all on the administration has prevailed since Thursday, compliments of the United Nations.
Naturally, these "experts" have not provided a shred of evidence that these issues were a significant factor in Thursdays vote. Given the secret nature of the ballot, the suggestions that have been offered are mere conjecture, if not fancy.
Now, it is up to the White House to find out just what went wrong. Under U.N. rules, the 54 countries in the Economic and Social Council vote on the countries nominated to serve on the U.N. Commission for Human Rights. Of the 43 countries on the council that had pledged in writing to support the United States, only 29 kept their word on Thursday. The White House should call on each and every one of the countries that promised their votes, and ask them what their decision was on Thursday, and, if they acknowledge reneging their support, state why. Secretary of State Colin Powell has declared his reluctance to do so, but he ought to rethink. Fourteen countries who pretend to be friends of the United States just proved they are not. Thats a serious matter.
What does remain glaringly clear, though, is that the council has voted for such an array of dictatorships and rogue states that the so-called Human Rights Commission is beginning to look like a paradox. Sudan, for example, was voted onto the commission on Thursday, prompting Mr. Powell to note the irony of "the biggest single abuser of human rights on earth" to serve on a human rights commission. Interestingly, China, Libya, Algeria, Syria, Vietnam and Cuba are also on the Human Rights Commission.
What is also clear is that the United States has unnerved some chronic human rights abusers on the council, which have the ability to vote against us. Most notable among these are China and Cuba. "The U.S. election loss shows that Americas long-standing pursuit of confrontation and hegemonism in international relations has aroused widespread anger," the ruling Communist Partys Peoples Daily in China said in an editorial, indicating how unhappy it has been as a result of U.S. efforts to expose Beijings human rights violations.
Revealingly, France used almost the same language as China. The New York Times reported on Friday: "Jean-David Levitte, the French ambassador, attributed the overwhelming vote for France to its policy of approaching human rights issues with cooperation and dialogue rather than confrontation, a system he said worked well with China." Indeed, China has quite explicitly illustrated how well it responds to "cooperation and dialogue." Just ask Christians, Falun Gong members or the students that protested in Tiananmen Square.
The United States should pull no punches in its opposition to brutal human rights abuses with or without the support of the human rights commission. Furthermore, until the administration has sufficiently clarified what happened and the reasons it did, the House ought to put the payment of U.N. arrears in the State Department appropriations bill on hold. Theres no reason for the United States to fund a commission of rogues.

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