Jonah Goldberg's column appears occasionally in my local newspaper. Today, George Romoser, a Political Science professor retired from a University Near Here, took Jonah to task in a letter to the editor.
The article by one "Jonah Goldberg" in the April 14,2009 issue of the Citizen ("President Obama's Bailout for Despots") amounts to an offensive rant by the author. It substitutes unconvincing accusations and distortions for even halfway solid arguments. It substitutes undocumented and unacceptable accusations of anti-Israeli sentiments against the United Nations and its branches, simply because Goldberg disapproves with [sic] some UN procedures.Whoa. Well, fortunately, you can judge for yourself: Jonah's column in question is here. Although you wouldn't know it from Prof Romoser's letter, it's about the Obama Administration's decision to undo the US's previous boyott of the United Nations Human Rights Council [HRC]. Read the whole thing, and make your own call about who's making an "offensive rant", using "unconvincing accusations and distortions" and "undocumented and unacceptable accusations". A summary of the main points made in Jonah's column:
Venom and distortions are no substitute for coherent or fair discussion.
This letter's publication was entirely unworthy of your newspaper.
President Obama has given the HRC undeserved credibility
and respect by un-boycotting it, validating its despicable record.
The HRC replaced the older UN "Commission on Human Rights", which the
UN itself disbanded; it was a "Petri dish of moral decay and political
corruption." The HRC, however, continues in the sad tradition of focusing solely
on Israel while ignoring or wrist-slapping
abuses in other countries (e.g., Sudan, Zimbabwe, Somalia, and a host of
Among current HRC members are a host of rights-abusers: e.g.,
China, Cuba, Egypt, and Russia.
When it joins, the US will get the one of the
seats reserved for the "Western Bloc", so there will be
no net gain in representation for rights-respecting nations.
The Obama Administration's belief that they can improve things
by US participation in the HRC is naive and illogical.
Now, really: does this sound to you as if Jonah's simply disapproving of "some UN procedures", as Prof Romoser claims?
Of course, Jonah's a well-known conservative voice. But do you have to be a conservative to think there's a problem at the UN HRC? You might want to check out this editorial, which deems the HRC "highly dysfunctional" and an "international embarrassment". Specifically:
The council frequently and unsparingly condemns Israel, but when it comes to Sudan's genocide in Darfur or the murderous crimes of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, it has cynically and shamefully pulled its punches. Last month, it endorsed an ill-considered Pakistani resolution against defaming religions that could easily be used to justify censorship and official persecution of unbelievers.Echoing many of the same points Jonah makes, the editorial comes from that well-known right-wing extremist rag, the New York Times.
The council's weakness is part of a larger problem at the United Nations. Rather than risk criticism of their own policies, members all too willingly enable each other's excesses -- and call it respect for national sovereignty. And like too many other United Nations bodies, the council apportions membership on the basis of regional bloc politics, not merit or performance. As a result, countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Cuba -- all current members -- sit in judgment of others' human rights performance, while routinely abusing the rights of their own people.
You can also visit the HRC's website, an entertaining mix of anti-Israeli venom and stultifying bureacratic bafflegab. For example, its 9th "Special Session" earlier this year was titled "The Grave Violations of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including the recent aggression in the occupied Gaza Strip". With nary a pretense of even-handedness, they passed yet another condemnation of Israel, 33 in favor (including China, Cuba, Egypt, Russia…), one opposed (Canada), and 17 lily-livered abstentions.
And you can read for yourself (doc) the "defaming religions" resolution mentioned by both Jonah and the New York Times, passed by the HRC last month. The vote was 23 to 11, with 13 abstentions; on the winning side were well-known beacons of religious liberty: China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Cuba, Egypt, Russia, and Malaysia, all of whom, for good reasons, are under various degrees of scrutiny by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. As noted, it's widely expected that the sole impact of the resolution will be to provide cover for governments to quash dissent or criticism of Islam, aka "free speech".
Summary: when comparing the arguments of Goldberg vs. Romoser, Romoser doesn't come off well. In fact the criticisms Romoser makes are more applicable to his own letter than Jonah's column. Funny.