Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I am afraid this concerns us all

I seem to end up writing a good deal about American politics. Partly that is because of it being more interesting than our own rather parochial in-fighting but partly because developments on the other side of the Pond concern us all.

So I was rather disturbed to see on Instapundit these two linked stories.

The first leads us to an article in the Weekly Standard, which tells us of America’s new-found multilateralism that consists on sucking up (there is no other way of describing it and I apologize for the language) to some of the nastiest regimes in the world.

Not only has the United States now decided to be a full member of the despicable, anti-Western, anti-democratic and anti-Semitic Council of Human Rights “despite the fact that the Organization of the Islamic Conference holds the balance of power and human rights abusers are among its lead actors, including China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia”, it has also scuppered Canada’s attempts to pilot through a resolution on free speech (not that it would have made any difference).

Instead, the newly “engaged” American diplomats have co-sponsored a resolution with Egypt, not a country known for its adherence to free speech.
Privately, other Western governments were taken aback and watched the weeks of negotiations with dismay as it became clear that American negotiators wanted consensus at all costs.

In introducing the resolution on Thursday, October 1--adopted by consensus the following day--the ranking U.S. diplomat, Chargé d'Affaires Douglas Griffiths, crowed:

"The United States is very pleased to present this joint project with Egypt. This initiative is a manifestation of the Obama administration's commitment to multilateral engagement throughout the United Nations and of our genuine desire to seek and build cooperation based upon mutual interest and mutual respect in pursuit of our shared common principles of tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."

His Egyptian counterpart, Ambassador Hisham Badr, was equally pleased--for all the wrong reasons. He praised the development by telling the Council that "freedom of expression . . . has been sometimes misused," insisting on limits consistent with the "true nature of this right" and demanding that the "the media must . . . conduct . . . itself in a professional and ethical manner."

The new resolution, championed by the Obama administration, has a number of disturbing elements. It emphasizes that "the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities . . ." which include taking action against anything meeting the description of "negative racial and religious stereotyping." It also purports to "recognize . . . the moral and social responsibilities of the media" and supports "the media's elaboration of voluntary codes of professional ethical conduct" in relation to "combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."
In other words, as various Islamic countries have made it clear, this is a resolution that aims to control free speech, a particularly dangerous idea when we look at activists, journalists, bloggers and just ordinary dissidents in oppressive states. They will now be imprisoned and punished in the name of the UN’s resolution on freedom of speech.
Even the normally feeble European Union tried to salvage the American capitulation by expressing the hope that the resolution might be read a different way. Speaking on behalf of the EU following the resolution's adoption, French Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Mattéi declared that "human rights law does not, and should not, protect religions or belief systems, hence the language on stereotyping only applies to stereotyping of individuals . . . and not of ideologies, religions or abstract values. The EU rejects the concept of defamation of religions." The EU also distanced itself from the American compromise on the media, declaring that "the notion of a moral and social responsibility of the media" goes "well beyond" existing international law and "the EU cannot subscribe to this concept in such general terms."
I suppose that is something to feel cheerful about.

The other story is even more disturbing. After all, who really cares about UN resolutions? Michael Rubin reports on the National Review site that
The Clinton State Department has decided to cut off all funding for the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC), which was compiling lists of protestors imprisoned in this summer's unrest, as well as those who were killed in the crackdown.

IHRDC is what human-rights advocates should be: methodical, precise, and apolitical in their work. And yet, the Obama administration has, without explanation, cut off all federal funding to the group which has consistently fulfilled its mandate.

Anyone, across the political spectrum who has any interest in human rights in Iran keeps the IHRDC reports on their desks.
God forbid that there should be any accurate information about what the Ahmadinejad regime is up inside the country. After all, we might want to help the opposition for political as well as moral reasons.

Glenn Reynolds agrees with Bret Stephens’s bitterly ironic article in the Wall Street Journal that this is yet another step towards a complete sell-out to the Iranian regime. As that regime’s nuclear capability intensifies while its grip on the country becomes more tenuous; as the rumours of a possible Israeli strike circulate, it seems a little unwise for the US Administration to move so close to the Iranian government. For, after all, which country is being sold out by the United States as part of its new buddy-buddy relationship with the UN?


  1. Iran and America have enjoyed a long and hugely fruitful collaboration.

  2. The other side of this is drawing away from civilized countries. This ranges from lofty disdain for some (Britain) to active hostility (Israel). This is so basic to Obama's worldview that it is unlikely to change.