The Obama Administration’s approach to foreign policy requires a passionate embrace of moral equivalence. Nowhere is that approach more demonstrably corrupt than in the administration’s actions on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The Obama State Department recently sent the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights its Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which is essentially a human rights audit that all UN members must conduct every four years.
The 30-page report touts all the steps the administration has taken to help America become “a more perfect union,” by which the administration means steps it has taken to help America become more like Europe. The administration pats itself on the back for Obamacare, for its “stimulus” spending and for its efforts to end so-called “unlawful interrogations” of terrorists.
But then it discusses all the ways in which human rights are supposedly violated in America: our discrimination against gays, racial minorities and Muslims; unequal pay for women; the Arizona immigration law; the death penalty and the still-operational Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
Clearly Obama thinks of human rights quite differently than you and I do. And the administration left off of its list any mention of the actual human rights violations that occur in America (abortion-on-demand, left-wing voter fraud, etc.). To this administration, America’s most egregious sins include laws that prevent men from marrying other men and statues that allow border-state police officers to enforce immigration law.
This was the first-ever report the U.S. has submitted to the council. That’s because President Bush refused to be part of a “human rights” organization whose membership includes Cuba, Pakistan, Libya and China.
The UN Human Rights Council is a farce. Its Muslim members regularly sponsor “defamation of religions” resolutions, which are essentially global blasphemy laws to protect Islam from criticism. And 80% of the council’s resolutions condemn the only true democracy in the Middle East, Israel.
By joining last year, the Obama Administration gave the council unwarranted credibility, not to mention nearly a quarter of the council’s annual budget at U.S. taxpayers’ expense.
It is unlikely that countries such as China and Cuba will do much hand-wringing over their UPR reports. According to Freedom House, each country essentially writes its own report. And we know how reliable the information is coming out of Cuba and China.
Real human rights abuses rarely get discussed at the council. During a meeting in March, the U.S. tried to confront Iran over its deadly repression of domestic opposition. But Iran used the opportunity to launch an attack at the United States and our treatment of Muslims.
Iran’s foreign minister shouted, “Muslim communities in Western countries in particular have been the target not only of massive propaganda campaigns, but outright social castigation and open violence, all under the pretext of freedom of expression.”
In May, the council voted to add Libya, Angola, Malaysia, Qatar and Uganda as new members. Keep in mind, to get voted onto the council, 80% of U.N. members most vote for you.
In April, the Obama Administration helped arrange a deal in which Iran agreed to abandon its attempt to join the Human Rights Council in exchange for a seat on the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women. No joke. This is the same country whose government is deliberating over whether to stone a woman for adultery, or whether merely to hang her.
In spring 2009, when the U.S. joined the council, Susan Rice, the Obama Administration’s ambassador to the UN, justified the decision, saying that America had the duty to “stand up and lead.”
Sadly, with Obama at the helm, the U.S. has not led on human rights, from inside or outside the UN. It’s forgotten about spreading and advocating for religious liberty abroad and stifled the most basic human right—life—through its promotion of abortion.
Things got off to an ominous start back in February 2009, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in China, “Our pressing on those [human rights] issues can’t interfere on the global economic crisis, the global climate-change crisis and the security crisis.”
Then in October, the State Department ended funding for the Iran Human Rights Watch Documentation Center, which tracks the abuses of the Iranian government. “If there is one time that I expected to get funding,” said the Center’s Executive Director, Rene Redman, “this was it.”
The administration has been at pains to defend its approach to human rights as “nuanced.” Last December, Clinton said, “we must be pragmatic and agile in pursuit of our human rights agenda, not compromising on our principles, but doing what is most likely to make them real.”
The upshot of that approach, however, is that words like “freedom,” “human rights” and “democracy” rarely make appearances in Obama’s speeches. Meanwhile, recalcitrant regimes the world over have felt emboldened to Obama’s inattention to human rights.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both gave Obama mixed reviews in recent reports. “He has created a false choice between having to speak out forcefully on human rights or being pragmatic and getting results on other issues,” Amnesty International USA Executive Director Larry Cox told Reuters.
Indeed engagement and condemnation are not mutually exclusive. During the Cold War, for example, the United States discussed arms control agreements with the Soviet Union while it used the Helsinki process to advocate for political dissidents. Reagan had no trouble calling the Soviet Union an “evil empire.”
America has always married advancing democratic values with national economic and security goals. In choosing to speak softly (when he speaks at all) about human rights, President Obama projects a weakness that infects all areas of his foreign policy. The Obama Administration should not treat human rights as an impediment to a successful foreign policy, but rather as a cornerstone of it.
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