Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Globophobia: America Against the World

Globophobia: America Against the World

By Thomas Magstadt

December 4, 2012. Mark this date on your calendar. The somber day the U.S. Senate voted down the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty designed to extend the same rights disabled Americans already have to the rest of the world. The treaty fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority required for ratification because the extremists who now control the House Republican caucus hate the United Nations.

The headline in the Yakima Herald said it all: “Senate vote a profile in cowardice”. If that's how it looks to folks in Yakima, imagine how it looks to people in Yakutsk (that's right, Putin's Russia ratified the treaty in September). Or to the 114 nations that have ratified this treaty, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the European Union.

Who cares how it looks to the outside world? That's frequently the first question the anti-UN globophobics ask of "bleeding-heart liberals" dumb enough to believe it matters what the rest of the world think of us. The fact that the UN is made in America (rare these days), that it's located in New York City (within spitting distance of Wall Street), and that the US has a veto in the Security Council (one of 5 Permanent Members thusly privileged) is irrelevant.

With an original roster of 51 member-states, the UN today is a place where ambassadors representing 192 nations of the world meet and talk. Irrelevant.

It's specialized agencies do all kinds of good in the world in quiet ways (think UNICEF, World Bank, World Health Organization, and the FAO). Irrelevant.

The UN's peacekeeping forces help to dampen down brushfire wars and contain regional conflicts – dozens of them – with a tiny fraction of the Pentagon's budget. Totally irrelevant.

Just ask Twitter bug, Rick Santorum, who teamed up with other patriotic senators to save America's parents from the Disabilities Convention. "We did it!" he tweeted.* The offending treaty, he explained, "is a direct assault on us and our family." How, you ask? Obvious: someone might use the treaty in a lawsuit "and through the court system begin to deny parents the right to raise their children in conformity with what they believe." See?

But it's not just the Disabilities Convention globophobes and UN haters have saved us from. Here's a partial list to jog everyone's memory.

#1 The Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997. The treaty sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European Union aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The modest targets amount to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012. At present, 195 parties have ratified the 1992 Convention on Climate Change, all but three (192 in all) have now ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which entered into force in February 2005 when 55 parties emitting 55% of the greenhouses gases ratified the 1992 Convention.

The United States is the only country of any consequence that has refused to ratify the treaty. When Hurricane Sandy hit the very city the UN calls home nobody in the major news media remarked on the irony. Nor did New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie, despite the devastation "Superstorm Sandy" wrought on the Jersey Shore.

#2 Gaza and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

In three decades between 1972-2002, the US vetoed well over 100 resolutions in the UN Security Council (no need to filibuster when you have a veto). Nearly half of these vetoes had a singular purpose: to block UN efforts to condemn Israel's policies toward the Palestinians and/or Israeli military action. In 1981 alone, for example, the US vetoed 18 resolutions condemning a) Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, b) Israel's human rights policies, and c) Israel's bombing attack on the Iraqi Osiris nuclear reactor.

During this same period, Russia used its veto twice. Over the next decade (2003-2012), the US vetoed another 14 resolutions as Israel's surrogate on the Security Council, including one in 2009 that called for an end to the twenty-two-day-long Israeli attack on Gaza and one last year calling for a halt to the illegal Israeli West Bank settlements. Along the way, Washington also vetoed a resolution to end racial discrimination and one that enjoined all states (including the US) to obey international law.

#3 The World Court and International Law

The International Court of Justice (or ICJ), as it is formally known, was established under the UN Charter in 1945. The United States signed on but only after inserting an "optional clause" which, in effect, allows Washington to decide when to be a party to a legal dispute and when not to be. In other words, the "compulsory jurisdiction" provision is only compulsory for everybody else. If there was ever in doubt, it was laid to rest during the Reagan era when the ICJ ruled that the Reagan's covert war against Nicaragua violated international law and Washington promptly withdrew from compulsory jurisdiction in 1986.

We now accept the World Court's jurisdiction on a case-by-case basis – that is, when it suits us. Chapter XIV of the UN Charter authorizes the Security Council to enforce World Court rulings, but enforcement is subject to the veto power of the five permanent members. Besides, nobody can enforce anything unless we say so.

For a country that claims to be the beacon of democracy and exemplar of law-and-order in the world it amounts to a self-indictment. It makes us look like a bunch of hypocrites, makes our words meaningless no matter how true they are, and sucks the soft power out of our policies, leaving nothing but brute force to fall back on. And so we do.

#4 The Law of the Sea Treaty

This treaty, which 161 governments have ratified, governs international waterways and marine resources. It w successfully negotiated in 1982, but US Senate has never ratified it. Opponents cite possible restrictions on the US Navy and express fear that rich nations will see the ocean's wealth redistributed to poor nations. (Real Americans are against the haves helping the have-nots, okay?) With support from big business, the State Department and the Pentagon, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) made another push in 2012 but 34 right-wing extremists in the Senate opposed the measure so it was dead in the water again. (Under the antiquated US Constitution, of course, it takes two-thirds of the Senate, 67 votes, to approve a treaty).

What do we care? We've got the biggest Navy money can buy. And everybody knows the Army gets the gravy and the Navy gets the beans. Who needs fish?

What about saving the whales? Forget the whales, we've got bigger fish to fry (LOL).

#5 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

This treaty has passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee twice. President Jimmy Carter signed it in 1980, but it's never come up for a vote in the Senate. Oh sure, it guarantees women equal rights in housing, employment, pay and other areas, but if the Senate gets suckered into ratifying it, the next thing you know the UN will force Kansas to legalize abortion. To date, 187 countries have been suckered into ratifying this treaty. But Santorum and his buddies in the Senate aren't that dumb, see?

#6 The International Criminal Court

The treaty forming the ICC was finalized in Rome in 1998. The ICC's raison d'ĂȘtre is to investigate genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes — you know, the sort of things we "tried and fried" accused Nazi killers for at Nuremburg after World War II.

Well, guess what, the U.S. has not ratified this treaty either. But this time, at least, we have company: Iraq, Israel, Yemen, China, Qatar and Libya. (Who said it was good company?) In one of his more creative strokes (rivaled only by his parsing of the word "is" in the Lewinsky caper) President Bill Clinton signed the treaty but didn't send it to the Senate for ratification – it supposedly lacked safeguards to protect the rights of American soldiers. It had adequate safeguards for signing, but not for ratifying. Kapish?

Subsequently, "W" revoked Clinton's signature in 2002 right on cue – one month after the ICC officially came into existence. So the 121 countries that ratified it can go pound sand. Hee hee hee.

#7 The Convention on the Rights of the Child

No joke. Only two countries have failed to ratify this treaty. The other one is Somalia. So what if 193 countries have ratified it? Clinton signed the treaty in 1995, but conservative extremists in the Senate have blocked its ratification. President Obama characterized the Senate's failure to ratify it as "embarrassing" but then what can you expect from a Muslim socialist who wasn't even born in the United States? Thank goodness Rick Santorum and Paul Ryan are smart enough to see through this subterfuge. Next thing you know parents won't have the right to discipline their own kids. Or home school them like Santorum does.

#8 The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

That's right, we haven't ratified this one either. Its purpose: to ban countries from testing nuclear weapons, something the U.S. has consistently opposed when other countries do it. Something the U.S. has not done in 20 years. But (surprise!) right-wingers in the Senate are against ratifying it (meanwhile they're all for other countries observing it, of course). Here's the catch: the treaty will not go into effect until every nuclear power in 1994 (when it was adopted) ratifies it. President Barack Obama's brief attempt to get it done in 2010 fizzled. To date, 157 countries have ratified it.

We also have not signed the Ottawa Treaty that bans the development of anti-personnel landmines and requires countries to clear landmines. The Pentagon is against ratifying this treaty and, of course, gets all the backing it needs to block a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate.

One can easily get the impression that the US Senate lets no good deed (or idea) go unpunished. And what the Senate does or does not do is what the rest of the world sees.

The Yakima Herald noted that "the actions of some of the Republicans who voted against the [UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities] make one doubt how many of them truly believed they were doing the right thing.” In my home state of Kansas, Senator Pat Roberts and his colleague Jerry Moran voted “no” despite having promised aging and ailing fellow Kansan, former Senator Bob Dole, they would support the treaty.

Campaigning for the presidency, Mitt Romney urged America to heed the words of Thomas Paine: "lead, follow, or get out of the way". (Never mind the fact nobody to date has been able to verify Tom Paine ever said or wrote it – the truth is irrelevant if you have enough guns, money, and cheek.) But there's a larger truth the rest of the world sees and the Wingnuts in Washington don't. It's this: we no longer lead, we won't follow, and, as the disgraceful vote against helping the world's disabled shows, we can't get out of our own way.

*Never mind that Santorum as a wannabe president was roundly rejected by his own party, that both of his parties (Republican and Tea) lost the election, and that the outcome was a virtual landslide considering that a sitting president is usually blamed for a bad economy.

This article was published at NationofChange at: http://www.nationofchange.org/globophobia-america-against-world-1355235178. All rights are reserved.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

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