Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Phyllis Bennis on Bush and the UN

I had something else posted here, but just read this essay from Phyllis Bennis and had to make reference to it here. A good portion can be found below. The entire essay can be found at:

Important reading, I think. -Dan

When John Bolton, Bush's hotly contested but newly appointed ambassador to the United Nations announced the U.S. proposed response, it was easy to assume this was just John Bolton running amok. After all, Bolton, a longtime U.N.-basher, has said: "There is no United Nations." He has written in The Wall Street Journal that the United States has no legal obligation to abide by international treaties, even when they are signed and ratified. So it was no surprise when Bolton showed up three weeks before the summit, demanding a package of 450 changes in the document that had been painstakingly negotiated for almost a year.

But, in fact, this isn't about Bolton. This Bush administration’s position was vetted and approved in what the U.S. Mission to the U.N. bragged was a "thorough interagency process"—meaning the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon and many more agencies all signed off. This is a clear statement of official U.S. policy—not the wish- ist of some marginalized extremist faction of neocon ideologues who will soon be reined in by the realists in charge. This time the extremist faction is in charge.

The U.S. proposal package is designed to force the world to accept as its own the U.S. strategy of abandoning impoverished nations and peoples, rejecting international law, privileging ruthless market forces over any attempted regulation, sidelining the role of international institutions except for the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO, and weakening, perhaps fatally, the United Nations itself.

It begins by systematically deleting every one of the 35 specific references to the Millennium Development Goals. Every reference to concrete obligations for implementation of commitments is deleted. Setting a target figure of just 0.7 percent of GNP for wealthy countries to spend on aid? Deleted. Increasing aid for agriculture and trade opportunities in poor countries? Deleted. Helping the poorest countries, especially those in Africa, to deal with the impact of climate change? Deleted.

The proposal puts at great risk treaties to which the United States is already a party, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The U.N. Summit draft referred to the NPT's "three pillars: disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy." That means that states without nukes would agree never to build or obtain them, but in return they would be guaranteed the right to produce nuclear energy for peaceful use. In return recognized nuclear weapons states—the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia—would commit, in Article VI of the NPT, to move toward "nuclear disarmament with the objective of eliminating all such weapons." The proposed U.S. changes deleted all references to the three pillars and to Article VI.

The U.S. deleted the statement that: "The use of force should be considered as an instrument of last resort." That’s also not surprising given the Bush administration's “invade first, choose your justifications later” mode of crisis resolution...

The Bush administration has given the United Nations what it believes to be a stark choice: adopt the U.S. changes and acquiesce to becoming an adjunct of Washington and a tool of empire, or reject the changes and be consigned to insignificance...

I wonder if our anti-UN friends will see fit to comment on the topic. I welcome all thoughts, but you should know that I find this unilateralism by the Bush White House disturbing to say the least.


Wasp Jerky said...

Maybe we can start appointing the other UN ambassadors at gunpoint or something. These sort of things just won't do.

Kevin Condon said...

Bolton's absence, we all remember, was due to congressional obstruction of the appointment process. His selection and presence were about deep US suspicion that the United Nations is a hole near the East River where corrupt politicians absorb US dollars and condemn Israel. I'm for UN accountability and do not accept the juris diction of international courts on national affairs, ours or anyone elses. Judges should be appointed within a "real" jurisdiction to interpret laws passed by the people of that juris diction. Anything else will result in injustice, not justice.

Dan Trabue said...

Ya know, I've heard this mentioned a good bit when we've entered the conversation on International Laws. Would someone like to try to tell me where we could go wrong if we agreed on a few basics internationally. For instance:

1. It is illegal to commit genocide.
2. It is illegal to torture (and then outline specifically what torture is).
3. It is illegal to send a captive to another country where there's reasonable evidence that the captive would be tortured and/or killed.
4. It is illegal to invade a country unprovoked (and define specifically what would constitute a provocation).

What is so horrendous about trying to do internationally what we try to do amongst our confederation of states (ie, we don't leave up to each state whether or not to make murder illegal)?

Jumpin' on the Bandwagon said...

Dan- I know you are a idealist, but come on! The Bush administration recognize and respect ANY international law it doesn't like?!

Now that's just crazy talk...

Seriously, while I agree with Kevin Condon that the U.N. has some problems and needs better is a system that can work and has proven itself to work in the past.

The fact that we scream about other countries defying U.N. mandates while we do it everyday is ludicrius. There are certain basic rules all 'civilized' nations should follow, and your list is a great example of that.

Bolton is nothing more than a puppet that agrees with the extremists in Washington. The damage being done to world perception of the U.S. will take years to correct.

Remember the slogan "USA #1"? Now it's "USA FIRST...AND F**K THE REST OF YOU."

It makes me very sad.

the daily missive said...

This is all just absurd.

The idea that America does not give its share to impoverished nations is slander. America gives more than anyone.

As far as the 0.7% of GDP is concerned, this is so misleading Dan I am surpirsed an intelligent person like you put this on your blog.

You can't just look at what our GOVERNMENT gives, you have to look at what PRIVATE CITIZENS GIVE IN AID THROUGH PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS.

The whole idea here in America is that we should not TAX OUR CITIZENS TO DEATH AND FORCE THEM TO DONATE, but instead, we should LET OUR CITIZENS KEEP THEIR MONEY AND DONATE ON THEIR OWN!!!!

America does not need to give 0.7% of GDP to poor nations because the American citizens are virtuous people that give on their own.

If you add in private donations with government funds then America far exceeds the 0.7% of GDP in charitable giving to poor countries.

This is just pure America bashing: Americans are good, wholesome, virtuous people that give plenty of money through private donations to various religious groups.

If we increase taxes so that our governmment can give more to poor countries then people will have less to give on their own, and then our private donations will go down.



the Contrary Goddess said...

Umm, Dan, sorry, but I'm afraid you don't know much about our laws. It IS up to each state if murder is illegal, what the punishment is, what constitutes "murder", etc. Only some things that cross state lines fall into the federal purvue.

Really, people should know these things. The Constitution says nothing about murder.

Jumpin' on the Bandwagon said...

Daily Missive- I think you missed the point of the article. This has nothing to do with 'America bashing'. It has nothing to do with private citizens. This is about the Bush Administration backing out of commitments. This is about changing the wording to justify our actions.

Really, America bashing?! Come on. I would never doubt Dan's patriotism.

You don't have to agree with the government to love your country.

Dan Trabue said...

Thanks, Jumpin'.

CG, I know that each state dictates their own laws, but I'm saying it would not work if one of those states decided not to have Murder, in some form or the other, on its books.

While I'm a decentralized power kind of guy generally, that's what a larger state is for, to make sure that some of the smaller states don't have abusive laws (that's why the feds intervened in the south when the individual states would have continued down a more racist path).

It's a balancing act, but one that I think is important.

And just briefly, Mr. Missive, we are also the wealthiest nation and many philosophies, not to mention basic morality and justice, suggest that "to whom that has been given much, much will be expected."

Kevin Condon said...


You mean kinda like one set of judges in one state who decide that "marriage" is no longer a contract between a man and a woman, but could be between other combinations of sentient beings or perhaps even other groups of sentient beings? Yeah, we wouldn't want that to happen.

As far as pobbible, change in culture should happen in small political units. If federal judges mandate change, the cultural disruption chaotic. Big Brother or Sister Judge needs to back up and interpret, not make the law. The legislators need to make law. The courts need to interpret, not change the law.

Dan Trabue said...

We agree Kevin, that as far as possible, decisions should be made at the local level for local well-being.

I believe that we also agree that sometimes, the larger state (or world) should step in.

The question then, is, When?

I'd suggest when human rights are being violated locally, that it is an appropriate time for a larger entity/community to step in. EVEN IF the violation of human rights is the local preference by a majority.

And so, I suggest that we have a commonly defined criteria for what is and isn't Human Rights.

Semper Fi said...

Egads! I'm surprised anyone has the temerity to defend the United Nations on anything! It is nothing more than a toothless paper tiger, riddled with graft, corruption, nepotism, and ineffectiveness -- an excuse for so-called diplomats to come to New York City and indulge their vices that they otherwise are prohibited from doing in their own countries.

When an Indonesian is Chairperson of the UN Human Rights Commission, and given Indonesia's complete intolerance to anything non-Muslim and non-Sharia, the whole organization comes across as nothing more than a sham and a cancer on the great founding dream.

And, yeah, last I read someplace, United States taxpayers footed about 25% of the cost of the UN while the other 179 member nations snickered at our naivete and stupidity.

No wonder we are not respected in the world. Fools rarely are.

Where is Adlai Stevenson when we need him...?

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