Politics & Policy

Dubya For Secretary General

The human-rights champion in the White House.

After he’s won reelection and after he’s served his second term as leader of the free world, President George W. Bush could do a world of good as United Nations secretary general.

Yes, seriously.

Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy blasted President Bush earlier this month for his “arrogant disrespect for the United Nations.” Presidential wannabe (and current Democratic frontrunner) John Kerry says, “I’m not going to turn my back” on the U.N., unlike, as he claims, President Bush has. At a Hampton, New Hampshire, campaign event earlier this week, Kerry pledged, as he does, to lead America to “rejoin the community of nations” if he is elected president.

Unfortunately for the Massachusetts senatorial duo, that critique doesn’t stand up against the record. The reality is a testament to the president’s consistent commitment to the dignity of human life and to being a beacon of hope for some 800,000-900,000 girls (some as young as ten), women, and men who are modern-day slaves, entrapped and sold for sex and labor worldwide.

The administration’s repeated negotiations with the United Nations surrounding Iraq, of course, are well known (if not universally recognized). But there is a world beyond Iraq, and the Bush White House is engaging the United Nations on a whole host of issues–successfully.

Even the New York Times has praised the White House for its “tough stance” against sex trafficking. In his September 2003 speech before the United Nations, President Bush called the sex trade a “humanitarian crisis” largely “hidden from view.” He challenged the U.N. and its member nations to “show new energy in fighting back an old evil. Nearly two centuries after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, and more than a century after slavery was officially ended in its last strongholds, the trade in human beings for any purpose must not be allowed to thrive in our time.”

And wouldn’t you know it? Through the leadership of the United States, progress has been made in countries including Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Dominican Republic, Georgia, Greece, Turkey, and Uzbekistan, among others. The United States has brought attention to these international criminal networks and taken the lead in influencing change. When faced with the threat of penalties last year, some of the worst offenders started cracking down, breaking the backs of some of world’s the trafficking menaces. As former congressman John R. Miller, who effectively heads the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, recently explained in the Washington Post,

Congress provided that countries rated by the State Department as having made no significant efforts be faced with the potential loss of U.S. military aid, educational and cultural assistance, and support from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

In the three months before the slavery report came out this past June, my office saw more progress in some countries than in the previous two years. Laws against trafficking in persons were passed in places from the Philippines to Haiti to Burkina Faso. Victims were rescued and massive arrests of traffickers were made in Cambodia and Serbia.

The U.S. law provided that for those countries poorly rated in this year’s report, there would be a three-month period to make antislavery efforts. In 10 countries, including military allies of the United States, there was a flurry of activity.

And the results continue to come in; already this year, in fact, a brothel operator in Cambodia was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for trafficking children. Thirty-seven victims, many of them under the age of twelve, were rescued after an investigation by the International Justice Mission, a U.S.-based nonprofit recently awarded a USAID grant for its efforts.

There are also other human-rights accomplishments ushered in by the Bush administration’s leadership–ones that the paper of record would not recognize as such, but Americans who consider the dignity of human life–at all stages–a high priority would. Again, as part of a multinational effort, the Bush administration won a victory on cloning just this December. While the U.S.’s own Congress is in a stalemate over the issue of human cloning, the Bush administration managed to help coordinate a 66-nation coalition in support of a complete ban on human cloning put forth by Costa Rica. (The prohibition will be voted on later this year.) Noted a representative from Lesotho, Lineo Khiba-Matekane, in a statement:

As co-sponsors of the draft resolution presented by Costa Rica, we wish to reiterate our confidence that a comprehensive, complete ban on human cloning is the right way to go. It is heartening to recognize that this belief is shared by nations from varied regions of the world–nations with diverse cultural and economic backgrounds, and different philosophical viewpoints, as is verified by the long list of co-sponsors. It is this broad support that will speak for the credibility of our cause and that should dispel the impression that this approach is inclined to suppress the opposing views of others.

As Wendy Wright, of Concerned Women for America, adds, “Two years ago, it appeared that a fake ban, which would allow cloning of human embryos for research, would sail through. Through admirable diplomacy, they were able to persuade other countries why a partial, or fake, ban would never work.”

On a whole host of “pro-life” issues, the White House has been a leader–a stark divergence from the Clinton years, when the First Lady would be a star attraction at U.N. conferences, promoting abortion rights.

In fact, activists on the ground at the U.N. are overwhelmed by the sea change there, directly influenced by the United States under President Bush (in years past). Douglas Sylva, vice president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, notes that 2004 marks the ten-year anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). A normal, pre-Bush U.N., he suggests, would have automatically had a ten-year reunion, to do the work left undone. But, says Sylva, pro-abortion bureaucrats at the United Nations “are having no such conference, simply because they know that Bush would successfully oppose any nonsense. Some NGOs have admitted as much. Thus, the very absence of a major ICPD +10 conference is an accomplishment.”

“I think that President Bush has exhibited consistent, ethical leadership on so many international issues, including seeking a ban on human cloning, giving real hope to AIDS victims throughout the world, and abolishing human trafficking,” says Ann Corkery, who recently served a term as senior adviser for the United States to the United Nations. “There is consistency and clarity in his approach to many ethical issues, because he begins with profound respect for the human dignity of each individual. He seeks to defend the most vulnerable. He seeks to prevent human exploitation or the use of the human being as a mere ‘commodity.’”

In speaking about Iraq before the general assembly in September 2002, President Bush asked, “Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?” In the administration’s work on human-rights issues, the president has made the U.N. a better body, more responsive to today’s crises of human dignity, and more relevant globally. That’s not quite the record of an administration with “arrogant disrespect.” And the world is a better place for it.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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