WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Your mother told you not to hang around with bad people. Mothers say things like, "You're known by the company you keep." Mothers everywhere are famous for admonishing, "Don't hang around with the wrong people." If Julius Caesar had taken his mother's advice, he would never have befriended Brutus. Hanging out with a bad crowd can bring you to a bad end. Every mother knows that.
So why are so many mother's sons in Washington upset about the United States getting kicked out of two high-profile United Nations committees? Is it the $1.5 billion the United States gives to the U.N. each year, or is it simply the embarrassment of it all? Earlier this week, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush was "disappointed" and "let down" that the United States would no longer be part of the U.N. Human Rights Commission and the International Narcotics Control Board. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher was almost distraught when he said, "We find, very regrettable" the secret ballot in the 54-member U.N. Economic and Social Council that booted us off the two panels.
And then, just to make sure everyone knew how bad official Washington really felt about this terrible affront, "senior U.S. officials" proceeded to "background" reporters on how we had been maligned by our "friends" at Kofi Annan's big blue building on the banks of the East River. "We had written pledges that were not kept!" moaned one. Another sniffed, "Commitments were broken." Fleischer was caught on the record saying, "Those nations (that voted us off) did not keep their word."
What? Devious betrayal at the United Nations! Can it be? Stow the angst. Get a grip. Suck it up. Forget the chiding of the Blame-America-First-Crowd and get on with life. Despite the critique of the so-called mainstream media and the nattering of backbench Democrats, these aren't the kind of people who would have earned your mother's approval anyway.
The 54-member U.N. Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), on which the United States has had a seat since 1947, has on it today some of the most unsavory characters on the planet. They don't want the United States; they just want our money. And they are glad to have as members in good standing such stalwart protectors of human rights as communist China, Cuba, Indonesia, Libya, Pakistan, Russia, Sudan, Syria and Vietnam.
All, save Russia, have been cited by the UNHRC in recent years for horrific human rights abuses, denial of religious freedoms, ethnic atrocities and political repression. And if the UNHRC had been more sensitive to human rights than diplomatic political correctness, Moscow would have been challenged for its brutal suppression of Chechnya.
Then there's Sudan. According to the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the regime in Khartoum, now proudly represented on the UNHRC, is responsible for, among other things, "extra-judicial killings," "disappearances" and "torture." Government security forces "beat refugees, reportedly raped women abducted during raids, and ... harassed and detained persons on the basis of their religion. Prison conditions remained harsh and life-threatening, prolonged detention is a problem, and the judiciary continued to be subservient to the government."
So should we be surprised that this week a Red Cross plane was shot down over Sudan, killing the 26-year-old Danish copilot?
Who would want to serve on a panel next to a country with a record like this? Allowing Sudan and these other repressive regimes to serve on the U.N. Human Rights Commission gives new meaning to the word "hypocrisy."
And as for the International Narcotics Control Board, from which we were also secretly ousted, it's more of the same. The 13-member drug panel includes Russia, Iran, Nigeria, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and China. It's supposed to monitor compliance with international drug conventions on substance abuse and illegal trafficking, and report on government controls over chemicals used in the illicit manufacture of drugs. Ronald Reagan first appointed Ambassador Herbert Okun, the U.S. representative on the Control Board, to the U.N. in 1985. They will miss the 70-year old diplomat far more than he will miss them.
Like the nations sitting on the Human Rights Commission, representatives on the Drug Commission are mired in controversy. France, according to the State Department, is a "transshipment point for drugs moving in Europe." Colombia is the world's No. 1 producer and distributor of cocaine and a major supplier of heroin to the United States. Approximately 55 percent of all the cocaine sold in the United States makes it way through Mexico.
Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the Clinton administration's Drug Czar, summed it up just about right when he said, "Moves to exclude the U.S. from these organizations could add to the sentiment in Congress that would say, 'Why should we support regional or multinational U.N. operations?'"
Why indeed. Your mother wouldn't want you hanging around with people like these. And she wouldn't want you to pay to be a member of their club either. Thanks, Mom.