U.N. vote slap in America's face
By By SONNY CALLAHAN
In what was a surprise to many observers, the United Nations' 54-member economic and social council voted on May 3 to remove the United States from a seat on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, a position we've held on the commission since it was first established in 1947.
The vote was said to be an expression of concern by the international tribunal over the Bush administration's stand on global warming, missile defense and AIDS medication.
To add insult to injury, Sudan was rewarded with a seat on the Human Rights Commission.
In addition to its gross abuses of political and religious freedoms, Sudan is one of the few countries in modern times that still permits slavery.
Speak softly but carry a big stick
In what some say was a stinging rebuke to the U.N.'s actions, the House of Representatives voted last Thursday to withhold $244 million in U.N. arrears.
The matter was somewhat complicated, however, in that Congress agreed to fulfill our commitment to pay the $582 million obligated for this year but suspend the next installment, $244 million, unless the U.S. regains its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
Nevertheless, the vote, 252-165, sent a strong, bipartisan message to the United Nations that Congress and the American people didn't appreciate one bit the international organization's statement.
Sixty-two Democrats and one independent joined with 189 Republicans to underscore the depth of concern on Capitol Hill.
A little background
The entire debate over what the U.S. owes the U.N. in late dues has been contentious from the very beginning.
In a carefully crafted deal struck during the final weeks of the Clinton administration, the U.S. reluctantly agreed to pay the nearly $1 billion in arrears in exchange for a smaller share of the U.N.'s peacekeeping operations, as well as the U.N.'s overall budget. Congress was expected to approve this request when the vote against the U.S. occurred.
For years, Senator Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina, had led the opposition in the Senate to paying back dues, and I had been one of the most vocal critics of the repayment in the House.
Like Senator Helms, I have long felt the United Nations wasn't giving the U.S. proper credit for our many contributions in terms of the numerous peacekeeping operations around the world in which we've been involved.
Moreover, I have never had more than a handful of people from south Alabama ever express to me their support for the United Nations, much less their passion for the U.S. to spend almost $1 billion dollars paying back dues.
All that said, I was one of the members who reluctantly agreed with the Clinton administration that if, in fact, we owed the money, then we should go ahead and pay it, provided we get some additional assurances that would benefit the U.S. in the end.
I was also one of the 252 members of the House who said last Thursday "enough is enough."
What is the U.N.'s purpose?
Conservative groups, such as the John Birch Society, have long held that the U.N. is nothing more than a front for one-world government. Perhaps they are right.
But history shows the United Nations was actually conceived by representatives of some 26 countries during World War II who pledged their governments would continue fighting together against the Axis Powers.
The name "United Nations" was actually devised by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The U.N. was formally established on October 24, 1945, by 51 countries which were committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security.
Today, 189 countries are members of the United Nations.
Despite setting out basic principles of international relations, the United Nations is not a world government and it doesn't make laws. It does; however, provide a forum whereby all member countries large and small, rich and poor can have a voice and a vote.
The vote to suspend back dues next year now moves to the U.S. Senate for action.
If you have a thought about this, now would be a good time to make Senators Shelby and Sessions aware of your views.
Until next week, take care and God bless.