Politics & Policy

U.N. vs. U.S., &c.

Concerning the recent tussle between the United Nations and the United States, a few observations. (Buckleyholics will recognize that formulation instantly.)

A member of the U.N. Secretariat–in fact, the deputy secretary general–criticized the United States in a speech in New York. For the New York Times’s report on the matter, go here.

I wish to quote a portion of that report:

“The showdown was provoked when Mr. Malloch Brown said in his speech that although the United States was constructively engaged with the United Nations in many areas, the American public was shielded from knowledge of it by Washington’s tolerance of what he called ‘too much unchecked U.N.-bashing and stereotyping.’”

Mr. Malloch Brown–that’s Mark Malloch Brown, a Briton–would perhaps rather deal with countries where the government controls the press. Where it “checks” it, as he might say. Someone ought to remind him that the United States is a free country, with a free and independent press.

Said Malloch Brown in this speech, “Much of the public discourse that reaches the U.S. heartland has been largely abandoned to its loudest detractors such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.”

Is it normal for a member of the U.N. Secretariat to criticize individuals in a country’s press, or organizations in that press?

And you can just hear the sneer in the word “heartland,” can’t you? I guess Malloch Brown is exempting the “public discourse” that reaches our two coasts.

And how, may I ask, are Rush Limbaugh and Fox News “louder” than, say, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, NPR, CNN . . . ?

Further, I’m reminded of an episode at Davos. You may recall my reporting this, a couple of years ago. A prominent member of the American media–from a very prominent news outlet–was explaining to an editor of al-Jazeera that, if you wanted to understand American attitudes, you had to know Fox News: The unwashed drank in this propaganda all day, winding up stupid and war-mad.

Can you imagine Mark Malloch Brown criticizing al-Jazeera, for misinforming people? Of course you can’t. For one thing, he might be in physical danger.

In that speech, Malloch Brown said, “To acknowledge an America reliant on international institutions is not perceived to be good politics at home.”

This guy would be better off leaving analysis of American politics to people who know what they’re talking about (Michael Barone, the many writers of National Journal). The truth is, it depends.

More from the Times report: “ . . . Mr. Malloch Brown cited the American unwillingness to join the other 190 nations in backing the plan to renovate the aging and dilapidated headquarters, and the decision to force a vote in March on the new Human Rights Council in which the United States stood virtually alone in opposition.”

The headquarters aside, how about that Human Rights Council? The United States wanted–at a minimum–to bar governments under Security Council sanction for human-rights violations from serving on . . . the Human Rights Council. But, no, the U.N. wouldn’t allow that; those governments had to be eligible, too.

Americans should be proud that their president and his appointees “stood virtually alone in opposition.”

Finally, I thought Ambassador Bolton gave a very good–and very important–answer at a press briefing. A reporter asked whether the U.S., in speaking out against Malloch Brown, and demanding that Secretary General Annan repudiate him (he did the opposite), was trying to silence criticism. Said Bolton:

“[The United Nations] is an organization of member governments. The Secretariat works for the member governments. So that when a member of the Secretariat criticizes a member government . . . that’s a very questionable activity.”

Friends, we are very lucky to have John Bolton as our U.N. ambassador. I don’t know how long we can keep him (his recess appointment expires at the end of this year). But enjoy it while you can.

‐I trust that you read Andy McCarthy’s article on Monday’s NRO. It was a very good article, on press treatment of terror suspects. McCarthy wrote that, at least in the initial stage of a story, the press tends not to identify terror suspects as Muslim.

My belief is that people simply assume that terror suspects are Muslim. (I should really say “self-proclaimed Muslims,” for a great many of that religion will tell you that no terrorist has a right to the name “Muslim.”) Sadly, this can be analogized to reporting on American crime. People are likely to assume that, when the race of a suspect is not mentioned or shown, that suspect is black. Otherwise, race will be stated, even emphasized.

This is most insulting, of course, to black people, who are endlessly condescended to. And I imagine that most Muslims don’t want any hush-hush when it comes to reporting on terror.

‐My girl Laurie Kellman of the AP had this to say, in a story yesterday: “The Senate rejected a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage by a wide margin Wednesday, delivering a stinging defeat to President Bush and other Republicans who had hoped the issue would rally GOP voters for the November elections.”

Oh? How does she know that “the issue” won’t rally GOP voters in November? And why does she characterize the defeat as “stinging”?

I don’t feel stung. Do you?

‐Bear with me on this one, because you might call me a political paranoid. (Heaven forfend.) When Duke Cunningham and other Republicans get in trouble, I’m asked–we’re asked–“Do you think this will hurt the GOP? What will be the effect?” Some bad apples are taken to represent the whole party, and spoil it.

But is this ever–ever–asked about Cynthia McKinney, Patrick Kennedy, William Jefferson? Hmm? Hmm? Why aren’t they ever said to damage the party?

To repeat myself: Hmm?

‐Turn to China for a moment, to listen to this story:

A Chinese activist lawyer, freed from prison after a three-year sentence imposed in a secret trial, said Tuesday he would defy warnings to remain silent and appeal his conviction to the Supreme Court. Zheng Enchong was convicted of revealing state secrets while helping Shanghai residents sue a prominent real estate developer.

“I am innocent,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview a day after his release. “I am also going to report the corruption, irregularities in land-use approval and violations of human rights in Shanghai redevelopment projects to the central government.”

Before his release, he was told to keep a low profile and not to accept interviews from the media, publish anything or contact foreign embassies for one year, he said.

When studying dissidents in places like China and Cuba, I often ask, “Are they incredibly brave or incredibly foolhardy? Where does one leave off and the other begin?” I don’t know–but the likes of Zheng Enchong certainly have my admiration, and awe.

‐A Syrian writer, Mohammad Ghanem, has been sentenced to prison for “insulting the president.” (Or at least that seems to be the chief charge–for an article, go here.) In Russia, too, they are bearing down on writers for “insulting the president.”

It reminds us, for one thing, to be grateful that we live in a country where we can “insult” the president. And to be grateful for such as Mohammad Ghanem, who take righteous risks.

‐I have written a lot about Sudan, my main article being here (subscription required). At the moment, I would simply like to note GWB’s recent language, which I rather like: “I appreciate [Congolese president Denis Sassou-Nguesso’s] leadership in helping negotiate a peace agreement, and I appreciate his leadership in working with the United Nations so we can get the [African Union] forces blue-helmeted as quickly as possible.”

Blue-helmeted (meaning, converted into a U.N. operation). Very nice.

‐Do you want to hear a wonderful trivial fact, in the realm of sports? I was reading about the recent U.S. Open qualifying (and I’m talking golf here, not tennis). And one article said this:

“[Qualifying for the Open] caps off a strong surge for [Jay] Delsing, whose father died last month. He nearly won a Nationwide Tour event, then tied for fifth in the St. Jude Classic on the PGA Tour two weeks ago. His father, Jim Delsing, played baseball in the 1950s and was the pinch-runner after midget Eddie Gaedel was walked while playing for the St. Louis Browns.”

Well, blow me down.

(Besides which, I didn’t know you could use the word “midget” anymore.)

‐Friend of mine sent me an interview with the late Earl Woods, father of Tiger. Good deal of wit and wisdom in there. Thought you might be interested in this:

“I acquired some knowledge of geopolitics through my two tours of Vietnam. I can unequivocally say that as hairy as things are in Iraq, the situation would be apocalyptic if we pulled out. Civil war, reprisals and bloodshed like you can’t imagine. I support our involvement there totally, for humanitarian reasons. At a minimum.”

‐All right, friends, let’s wrap this baby up. In Tuesday’s Impromptus, I spoke of Barry Manilow, and how town fathers in Australia are using his music to scare away hooligans. They pipe it over loudspeakers; the ruffians disperse.

A great many readers responded to this, and I very much want to share this note:

Jay,

Thought you might find it interesting to learn that Minneapolis recently started piping opera outside of E Block, a downtown block that has drawn idle/hooligan youth for decades. My bus has picked up youth at E Block for as many years.

The theory was, it would drive them away. But instead, the kids are staying–and starting to appreciate opera. They now board the bus in an outwardly positive mood.

Well, to repeat myself: Blow me down! And if these “youth” ever actually saw an opera, they’d especially appreciate the extreme violence.

See you.

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