The debate over John Bolton’s nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations could have been a constructive national conversation about the future of the United Nations and human rights. Instead the Senate Foreign Relations Committee–and the media folk cheering it on–has resembled a rowdy playground scene.
He’s a “madman”! Smearing and stalling tactics have been the rule during the nomination hearings for Bolton. Even the more substantive arguments against him have been curious ones. One line of attack has included the complaint that he raised concerns about Cuba posing a weapons-of-mass-destruction threat to the United States. Imagine–wanting to protect the United States from a tyrant 90 miles away.
What a fringer! Who did he think he was, U.S. undersecretary of state? (Which, of course, he was.)
The fact is that Bolton is no wild extremist–at least any more than is President Bush, who managed to win the last election with a majority.
But that’s Bolton’s problem.
He’s being targeted for two reasons. First, he unapologetically and consistently represents the foreign policy of President Bush. This is not a popular position with Senate Democrats and their fellow travelers. Nor has it been a popular position even in the State Department where he served under then Secretary of State Colin Powell, who famously butted heads behind the scenes with members of the administration–including Bolton. Second, Bolton espouses a distinct view of the United Nations. As has been repeatedly broadcast, he once said, “If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a difference.” That might be wildly explosive to anyone who thinks that the United Nations is doing well, doing the world a service, and should continue as is.
But you would have to have your head deep in the sand to believe that.
Of course, the debate over the United Nations is often an exercise in the blind leading the blind–in the Senate, in the media, and in the United Nations. And don’t forget U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The building off the East River in Manhattan seems like a playground, too, a dangerous one, where the hungry people of Iraq were robbed to the tune of well over $10 billion, and a blind eye has been repeatedly turned away from human-rights abusers by the very institution that purports to be a human-rights watchdog.
The United Nations would be a joke if it weren’t such a dangerous mess.
And instead of standing up and insisting on a full accounting–or, resigning–Annan complains about getting picked on. He blames the United States and Britain for not stopping the Oil-for-Food scandal that happened during his tenure as U.N. secretary-general.
The United Nations’ problem is not Bolton, but the United Nations itself.
There are the obvious scandals beyond the Oil-for-Food scandal (in which the U.S. Justice Department has most recently obtained indictments while the United Nations still drags its feet). There are also the scandals that tar the day-to-day work of the United Nations. It’s an outrage, for instance, that countries like China, Cuba, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe–some of the worst human-rights violators in the world, according to Freedom House–sit on the United Nations human-rights commission.
Where’s the moral authority in that kind of commission? How is genocidal Sudan, for instance, supposed to judge democratic, freedom-loving nations?
These are questions President Bush addressed before the United Nations not all that long ago. He’s no U.N.-basher. In fact, he’s its best friend–challenging the body to be all that it can be. Back in September 2003, when he spoke before the U.N. General Assembly, he said that, “As an original signer of the U.N. Charter, the United States of America is committed to the United Nations. And we show that commitment by working to fulfill the U.N.’s stated purposes, and give meaning to its ideals.” If U.N. officials would really listen–and the left-wingers in the United States would rechannel their anger from John Bolton and into resolving U.N. corruption–the Bush administration could wind up being God’s gift to the United Nations.
And it’s not just President Bush. Sen. Norm Coleman (R., Minn.), has been front-and-center among senators calling for Annan’s resignation. Why? Because where the buck stops is a man who has to take the fall for the current disaster that is the United Nations. The place needs change, and that high level a resignation would send a dramatic, cleansing message.
But Annan doesn’t look to be budging–he recently said “Hell no” when asked if he would resign.
White House spokesman Dan Bartlett recently said, “A vote for John Bolton will be a vote for change at the United Nations. A vote against will be for the status quo. The president believes the status quo is unacceptable.” It is–and that shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
Memo to U.S. senators: Get John Bolton to work in Turtle Bay. And send him over gift-wrapped in a copy of the U.N. Charter as a gentle compass for a body desperately in need of a healthy survival strategy.
–(c) 2005, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.