Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Stumping the State Department

Quick – name three good things that have come from the U.S.’s participating in the UN Human Rights Council! OK, it was a trick question. We have accomplished nothing there. P.J. Crowley couldn’t even come up with one:

QUESTION: P.J., earlier today, the UN Human Rights Council passed a pretty strong condemnatory resolution about the flotilla incident. Among the items in this resolution is the creation of a independent fact-finding mission to go and investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance. I realize that you guys voted against this along with two of your stalwart allies, but it passed pretty overwhelmingly. I’m wondering if this is the kind of thing that you were thinking about when you were talking about an international component to the Israeli investigation. 

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think you heard in our explanation of vote that we considered this to be a rush to judgment. I would call attention in the resolution that it actually condemned the attack by Israeli forces before Israel or anyone else has had the opportunity to fairly evaluate the facts. So that is the reason why we voted no.. .

QUESTION: So in the 18 months that you are — 15, 16 months that you’ve been on the council, have you seen it improve? 

MR.CROWLEY: We think our presence on the council is positive and constructive. 

QUESTION: How did that manifest itself in this vote? 

CROWLEY: Well, we — there was a — I mean, all we can do — we have — we don’t — we don’t dictate what the Human Rights Council. …

QUESTION: The previous administration didn’t — didn’t — I mean, didn’t — they basically ignored the whole council because — because of situations like this. 

CROWLEY: Well, and we don’t think ignoring, you know, these issues. …

QUESTION: So your no vote is enough? 

CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the no vote is what we’re empowered to do as part of the Human Rights Council. We will continue to work — you know, I mean, we’ll — we’ll engage in the Human Rights Council, just as we’re engaging on the margins of the International Criminal Court review conference. You had a briefing about that earlier this afternoon. 

We — we are willing to work constructively with countries around the world on the most urgent issues that face us all. We understand that there will be times where our view may carry the day, and there will be times where our — you know, other countries have different points of view.

Got that? In fact, we’ve done plenty of damage by being there — displaying our impotence and elevating the profile of regimes that are among the worst human rights abusers. The administration keeps saying it defends Israel in international bodies. When? How?

The administration’s participation in the Human Rights Council is a sop to the thugocracies. The notion that we are doing good by showing them deference is based on nothing but wishful thinking. Hillary told us that “ideology is so yesterday.” Actually, it’s alive and well in the State Department.