- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2002

There ought to be a rule against commenting on conferences sponsored by the not-so-United Nations. Like the rule against shooting sitting ducks.
Most folks have the decency to ignore these global extravaganzas. (You don't bring together some 100 heads of state and 50,000 hangers-on excuse me, conferees on the cheap.) The only ones who take such conferences seriously are the hopelessly naive, the hopelessly ideological, and the diplomats who have to.
The routine is familiar by now: First comes all the PR about how important this worldwide gathering is going to be, preparatory to its being forgotten the day after it has concluded, if not before. And for good reason. Because the whole venture is about what Woody Allen once called "developing a framework to turn a concept into an idea." And not a very clear idea at that.
Last year about this time, the world was presented with (take a deep breath) the United Nations Conference Against Racism, Racial Intolerance, Xenophobia and/or Related Intolerance at Durham, South Africa.
Whew. I especially liked the "and/or." It lent a certain bureaucratic respectability to what otherwise was the world's most grandiose outpouring of assorted hates since Leni Riefenstahl filmed the Nuremberg Rallies. Only without the visual appeal she provided.
Typical of the ocean of Newspeak at Durban was the demand made by Robert Mugabe's thieving, murderous, racist, corrupt, election-rigging, repressive regime in Zimbabwe to cover only a few of the bloody bases. This is the regime that demanded Britain and America "apologize unreservedly for their crimes against humanity."
This is not to say that those demanding reparations for slavery, genocide, general malfeasance, cheating at craps and the crimes of the West in general were all of one demented mind. There was a serious split between the American delegation, which preferred payments to individuals, and African governments, who suggested the bill could be settled with one big check conveniently made out to, of course, them. Call it one-stop shopping.
The world scarcely had time to take in the Laff Riot at Durban before the U.N. Conference Against Racism, Rac. Intol., Xen., and/or Related Intol. ended on Sept. 9, 2001, and September 11 was upon us. All the idle, hateful verbiage unleashed at Durban under the U.N.'s auspices had suddenly taken lethal form. Don't believe anybody who says words will never hurt us.
Nobody should forget the vicious nonsense at Durham and where it leads. The stream of venom released there continues to pour forth over Al-Jazeera, in the controlled press of Third Word dictatorships, in the Malthusian idiocies of our own campus Marxists, and wherever America is blamed first, last and in between for all the troubles in the world.
This year's United Nations global conference was held in South Africa, too, at Johannesburg. The subject was the environment, and it is estimated that this 10-day spendfest put more carbon in the air than 500,000 Africans would over the course of a year. So much for fears about CO2 emissions and global warming.
After the embarrassment that was Durban, the anti-Western, anti-Semitic, anti-development and anti-people rhetoric was supposed to be muted. But Johannesburg, too, had its surreal moments. Colin Powell, that notorious right-winger, was booed by the delegates/mob when he pointed out that the specter of famine in Africa stemmed from the degradation not of the natural but the political environment. In particular, he noted the seizure and destruction of once productive farmland in Zimbabwe because its owners were of the wrong, light color.
The American delegation at Johannesburg looked a bit like a reprise of the Carter administration. Lest we forget, that crew's Global 2000 report had warned, among other dire prophecies, that "the real price of food is projected to increase 30 to 115 percent over 1969-72 prices." Actually, between 1980 and 1995, food prices fell 57 percent, grain production in the developing world rose almost a third, and commodity prices in general continued to decline. It wasn't the world's economic development that was unsustainable; it was the Mr. Carter administration's policies.
But maybe even the U.N. is catching on. Because a funny and hopeful thing happened at this conference on the environment. Many of the poorer countries revolted against the ecofascists' pet panaceas. They demanded cheap, abundant and efficient sources of energy, including coal, oil and natural gas. They noted that, the more developed a country becomes, the better care it can take of its environment. (To quote the late Indira Gandhi, "Poverty is the worst polluter.") The conference's final report actually endorsed lower tariffs, freer trade and public-private corporations to develop the Third World.
So there may be some good to come out of U.N. conferences after all. You just have to look awfully hard to find it.

Paul Greenberg is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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