What's going on America?!?
May 10, 2001 9:03 AM   Subscribe

What's going on America?!? Influential Republicans and Democrats in the House have threatened to hold back $244 million in dues to the United Nations if the United States does not recover a seat on the Human Rights Commission next year.
posted by twistedonion (86 comments total)
 
This is not news. The U.S. is notorious for not paying its U.N. dues. Disgraceful.
posted by fleener at 9:08 AM on May 10, 2001


To be fair, even though I disagree with the Congress here, I think their argument is that we've been knocked off and Sudan and Libya have been put on. And that should be mentioned.

However, I think the Congress and Bush administration would do better to try to rebuild the rift in the relationship with other countries than withhold funds. And Bush has correctly said we should pay our dues.

I also think the Congress and other critizing the UN should not punish the overall organization for politics of the member states. You don't quit the club because they didn't make you club leader. Or do you?
posted by brucec at 9:08 AM on May 10, 2001


Good grief. Sometimes I'm ashamed to be represented by this group of playground bullies.
posted by ook at 9:08 AM on May 10, 2001


The rest of the UN must be laughing right now. We've always held back hundreds of millions in payments. The UN wouldn't be getting that money anyway.

You don't quit the club because they didn't make you club leader. Or do you?

If you're the US, you absolutely do. It's times like this that make me realize why we're often criticized by other countries. The US is a bully in the international scene. We want things our way, or not at all.
posted by jpoulos at 9:13 AM on May 10, 2001


What's going on? The US is whining "Well if you won't play ball with me, then you can't use my ball!" and thinking the other kids will find that to be a persuasive argument. Whether it will or not probably depends on how badly the UN needs that money, or if they can find another way of obtaining it without giving in.
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:17 AM on May 10, 2001


Before the overseas members of MeFi continue their anti-American rants, and before the American members start their self-flagellation, why not find out the real story behind the decision?

Putting Sudan -- where torture and slavery are national pastimes -- in the seat formerly occupied by the U.S. shows how transparent, hypocritical -- and useless -- the UN Human Rights Commission is.

I've always felt the U.S. holding back of UN dues was shameful too. But in this case, I think the action is justified.
You don't want us in your club, then don't expect us to pay the majority of the bills.

Call that petty if you want. As a person who writes the checks every April 15, I have no problem with it.
posted by darren at 9:18 AM on May 10, 2001


I think their argument is that we've been knocked off and Sudan and Libya have been put on. And that should be mentioned.


Except that the seats are allocated based on geographic region, so we weren't competing against those countries, only three European nations (who all beat us).

Does the U.S. even have a U.N. ambassador yet? Did they not read those quotes from the French describing the new administration as "Not so much isolationalist as unilateralist?"

In the quiet moments beneath my bouts of rage, I feel for this administration. They were so ready to look like players in international affairs.
posted by tingley at 9:18 AM on May 10, 2001


The much-hyped election of Sudan and Libya is completely due to geographical votes. Sudan and Liyba didn't knock the US off the board: France, Sweden and Austria (yes?) did.

Someone called the US on their horrible arrogance, and now people are screeching.
posted by solistrato at 9:19 AM on May 10, 2001


In my (humble European) opinion, America has simply had too much power for too long. I think that is the point other countries may be trying to make.

Being the ONLY superpower must be a great responsibility, and with the right leader I think America can really help our pretty f***ed up world - if it wasn't for Clinton I really don't think as much progress would have been made in the Northern Ireland peace talks (which I am very grateful for, I really don't care what the anti-agreement people say, life is a lot better over here these days)

The problem is that America doesn't seem to have the right leader - PEOPLE OF AMERICA, PLEASE SORT IT OUT NEXT TIME!
posted by twistedonion at 9:20 AM on May 10, 2001


I warned you what would happen if Bush got elected. Really.

I think Bush's election was an affirmation that this type of behavior is what we, as an electorate, want. It's the mandate these boobs have been waiting for.

It's "Don't mess with Texas" taken to a national level. Stubborn arrogance in the face of real issues.

Four more years people........
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:23 AM on May 10, 2001


Again: the UN should leave the US. I suggest a move to Canada, which is safer, cleaner, nicer in so many ways, and yet close enough to give a mass raspberry to Washington. Or it could start a world tour, like the Olympics, a few years in each country that paid its debts and signed the right treaties.
posted by pracowity at 9:23 AM on May 10, 2001


Frankly, pay the UN, don't pay the UN, move it out of NYC (along with all those damned "diplomats" who park illegally and drive like maniacs with impunity) - who cares? Just so long as the UN (and the international community) remembers on which side their bread is buttered next time they need military help and our already overextended troops are not available, or need aid for this trouble or that and finds our checkbook firmly shut.
posted by Dreama at 9:27 AM on May 10, 2001


I am stepping lightly here.

What has the US lost by not being on the Human Rights Commission?
Any replies mention prestige will be yawned at.
The UN should sell the building and move to Europe, it would certainly save on airfare.
Lastly, does anyone have a link on the amounts everyone in the UN pays for dues? Does everyone pay the same, or is there a sliding scale?
I guess I should disclose that I don't approve of the UN or NATO, so this does not phase me too much. I do think if we agreed to pay, we should pay, as that ain't right. But like in a restaurant, once we pay up, we should get out.
posted by thirteen at 9:31 AM on May 10, 2001


The much-hyped election of Sudan and Libya is completely due to geographical votes.

I realize everyone wants to get their whiny "the U.S. is a big bad bully" rants in, but YOU'RE IGNORING THE POINT! Having Sudan and Libya ON the friggin commission shows how morally bankrupt the commission is, and exposes this move for the political pandering it is. Putting the Sudan on the comission is like electing John Wayne Gacy as chairman of UNICEF!
posted by darren at 9:31 AM on May 10, 2001


Any replies that mention prestige...
posted by thirteen at 9:32 AM on May 10, 2001


Look. The UN has been a sham for years: anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-democracy. Ship the whole building to Paris (but not Paramus!): the French are much better political/money whores than we are. Good riddens!
posted by ParisParamus at 9:34 AM on May 10, 2001


ParisParamus: the French are much better political/money whores than we are.

Drema: so long as the UN (and the international community) remembers on which side their bread is buttered next time they need military help and our already overextended troops are not available, or need aid for this trouble or that and finds our checkbook firmly shut.

Amen. Amen.
posted by darren at 9:35 AM on May 10, 2001




Just so long as the UN (and the international community) remembers on which side their bread is buttered




You see, that's the attitude I'm talking about. Congratulations that you are the wealthiest country in the world. Congratulations that you are the only Superpower left. But just because you are the biggest doesn't mean you have to be a bully, just because you are the biggest doesn't mean you should treat the rest of the world with the lack of respect that you do. Just remember that the UK was the Superpower only a mere century ago, and look at the pathetic country that is left - greed gets you nowhere.

Just remember that one day you may need your fellow brothers and sisters, and if the arrogance continues it could be your downfall.

peace

posted by twistedonion at 9:36 AM on May 10, 2001


Give the U.N. 30 days to vacate that prime property. Then begin hauling away the diplomat cars and fining them.
We are rich enough to start our own U.N. and exculde those nations who voted against us.
Once an alpha male is challenged, he must WIN. Or he joins the rest of the losers.
posted by Postroad at 9:39 AM on May 10, 2001


I don't like the idea of superpowers, I hope we do step down, and nobody takes our place.
posted by thirteen at 9:40 AM on May 10, 2001


As I noted in the previous thread (and I'm not looking up all those links again), the US dispute over dues goes back a long way, but really heated up when the Senate passed Helms-Biden over Clinton's veto, insisting that the back dues would (mostly) not be paid until the US share of both UN administrative budget and peacekeeping going-forward budgets were reduced. We kept up just enough to keep from losing our General Assembly seat a year or so ago; and in December outgoing UN Ambassador Holbrooke negotiated a marathon deal that reduced our share almost to Helms-Biden levels in return for payment of most back dues. The incoming Senate, in February, affirmed that they approved of this deal. The House, however, chose to sit on their butts.

In return for this golden raspberry (the UN thought they'd bent over backwards to get this deal, which was apparently paid with a rubber check), we get kicked off of a couple of insignificant commissions, and instead of getting the message, the House is acting like the wounded victim.

To his credit, Bush today urged the House to abide by the Holbrooke agreement. At least the people inside the White House are waking up.
posted by dhartung at 9:41 AM on May 10, 2001


Postroad is the ugly American.
posted by thirteen at 9:41 AM on May 10, 2001


I'd be glad to see the US pull out of the UN (after, as thirteen said, finally honoring the commitments we've agreed to over the years), if only to see if it can operate effectively without the US. Basically, has US support been worth US interference?
posted by harmful at 9:42 AM on May 10, 2001


Like I've said before, xenophobia from a nation of immigrants really fucking cracks me up. It does! Have you ever even traveled past your own borders?

darren, you missed the point. Libya or Sudan didn't take the U.S. seat -- Sweden did. Sweden pays its U.N. bill, doesn't bully its neighbors or act like vindictive, spoiled brat, and has a pretty unblemished humans rights record, unlike the U.S.A..

Of course it's political -- everything is political, darren. Duh. It's as simple as this: the western voting block got tired of 4% of the world's population playing deadbeat and still feeling morally entitled to boss everyone else around.
posted by lia at 9:46 AM on May 10, 2001


FYI, the U.S. pays 25% of the UN Operating Budget.
Other countries:
China: 0.9%
Australia: 1.47%
Belgium: 1.09%
Brazil: 1.51%
Canada: 2.82%
Mexico: 0.94%
Russia: 2.87%
Germany: 9.63%
Britain and France pay roughly 6% each.
These figures are from 1997, the most recent I could find. God help you trying to find them on the UN's site. Apparently they don't want anyone to know.


Recent tripe from twistedonion: Just remember that one day you may need your fellow brothers and sisters, and if the arrogance continues it could be your downfall.

Just like we needed you in 1917-19 and 1939-45, right? Or how we needed you to finance the rebuilding of Europe from 1945-51? Or how we needed Korea in 1950-53?

Look, Americans are not looking to run the show. We'd just like to stop getting reamed in the a-- everytime we stoop over to pick up the pieces each time something gets screwed up in the world.

My favorite line from Chicken Run: "Bloody Americans, always showing up late for the wars"!
posted by darren at 9:51 AM on May 10, 2001


Just because darren likes to do this
Just remember that one day you may need your fellow brothers and sisters, and if the arrogance continues it could be your downfall.

Amen, amen, amen.


but more to the point: having Sudan and Libya ON the friggin commission will probably do more good than leaving them off.

You can't buy your way into everything and sometimes it's not that bad to be on the side-line. Other countries have done it for centuries.
posted by nonharmful at 9:54 AM on May 10, 2001


lia: darren, you missed the point. Libya or Sudan didn't take the U.S. seat -- Sweden did.

I didn't miss the fact that Sudan didn't get the U.S. seat. That argument is irrelevant to my point: That any commission that lets Sudan and Libya sit in judgment has no moral authority to scold the U.S about anything.
posted by darren at 9:55 AM on May 10, 2001


thirteen, it's a deadheat between Postroad and darren.
posted by lia at 9:56 AM on May 10, 2001


I think that since we agreed to pay the dues, we should pay them. On the other hand, maybe we shouldn't agree to pay so much in the future. BTW, does anyone know if that 25% figure is simply cash and whether the UN owns its buildings or leases them at market rates? We may be kicking in some additional amounts in de facto rent subsidies.

I would argue that there are positive aspects to being kicked off the UNHRC. The committee has been largely ineffective in the past, precisely because of nations like Libya and Sudan getting on. Here's the way you play the game. If you're a human rights abuser, like China, then you work hard to get on the committee. Then when sanctions are proposed against, say Libya, you vote against them so that Libya will help bail you out the next time someone mentions Tibet or the Falun Gong. I'm not saying that to bash China, merely to point out that the countries who have the most to gain by getting on the committee are the countries with the worst records on human rights. Perhaps our losing our seat can lead to some meaningful reforms.

I don't think nationalist rhetoric on either side gets us anywhere. We are the world's superpower, and that status carries both privileges and responsibilities. We have all this power, do other countries think we just won't use it? And do we think other countries have no right to complain if we don't use it wisely?
posted by anapestic at 10:09 AM on May 10, 2001


Oh, and calling someone "the ugly American" is an ad hominem attack. Cut it out. Ok?
posted by anapestic at 10:12 AM on May 10, 2001


just because you are the biggest doesn't mean you should treat the rest of the world with the lack of respect that you do.

exactly. the attitudes i see here, even among intelligent, presumably decent people, make me embarrassed to be an American. There's no reason to be like this. It's pure, unadulterated arrogance.

Yes, we pay most of the bills (although we don't actually pay near the 25% we've agreed to). But, until now, we've called most of the shots, and we stand to gain the most from a global economy and improved relations in the international community.

Just like we needed you in 1917-19 and 1939-45, right?

so we won those wars on our own, huh? how dare you suggest such a thing when half of friggin' Europe was turned to dust during the two world wars?

Europe lost a lot more than we did in those wars. A lot more people were a lot more dedicated and suffered a lot more than we did to win that war.

And if you think we went to war solely for the benefit of Europe, put down that Tom Clancy book and get with it.
posted by jpoulos at 10:15 AM on May 10, 2001


You see, that's the attitude I'm talking about. Congratulations that you are the wealthiest country in the world.

Yeah, perhaps we lucked by being born here. But being affluent doesn't mean we should be entitled to less fairness or justice. And it doesn't mean we should lose our right to call slavery slavery, or a terrorist a terrorist, or hold back some of our support from an organization which treats democracies and terrorists and despotic nations as equals.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:16 AM on May 10, 2001


I'm pretty sure we have donated those buildings in New York to the UN when
it was created, and were more than willing to do so.

If we decide to withdraw the buildings, perhaps the Kremlin would offer them some space or China would give them
a peace of the Palace, and those countries could benefit from enhanced credibility. Heck, it might even put a spotlight
on em.
posted by brucec at 10:16 AM on May 10, 2001


Congress and Bush administration would do better to try to rebuild the rift in the relationship with other countries

Shovels for everyone, let's get digging people! We need that rift now!
posted by kindall at 10:17 AM on May 10, 2001


Hey, if these are the people you'd rather associate with, be my guest.
posted by darren at 10:25 AM on May 10, 2001


As an american I really wish we would leave the rest of the world the hell alone and that they would return the favor. I don't care what europe does to itself as long as they keep making brandy and artisan cheeses. Past that why do we care?
posted by revbrian at 10:39 AM on May 10, 2001


anapestic: Did you see Postroad's comment? I am fairly certain he was attempting to be sarcastic, but he did not leave any roadsigns to let us know that was what he was doing. I know from his posting history, that he most likely feels exactly the opposite of what he wrote, so I left a playful comment. I thought my italics would carry better.

jpoulos: I think the US in those wars because war was declared on the US, otherwise I don't think we would have been willing to bury a single American. I am not entirely sure how we came into WWI, it could be through those peacetime alliances that I so disapprove of. I am really curious why Canada jumped into the war so quick, they declared war on the Japanese before the US did after Pearl Harbor.

Are you suggesting the allies would have had any chance of winning WWII without the US? Possibly without our troops, but probably not. Certainly not at all without our resources and technology. Europe's greater sacrifice does not actually equate with anything resembling victory.

And if you think we went to war solely for the benefit of Europe, put down that Tom Clancy book and get with it.
Never read any Tom Clancy. I think I have to be wrong, but are you saying our economic boom justifies our entry into the war? I don't think you could mean any of the players in WWII could have posed a physical threat to the American homeland. Hell, the US is still pretty much untakeable even without an army, American citizens would make the Vietnamese look like guerilla war pikers.

thirteen: Did you see those numbers Darren posted?!? You were right, you are totally getting screwed.
posted by thirteen at 10:45 AM on May 10, 2001


I would love to know two things:

1. How many Americans know anything about what's going on between the U.S. and the U.N.?

2. Of those that know, what percentage actually care?

I have kept up with this issue fairly well, but I have yet to hear one other person talking about this issue. All of this is going mostly unnoticed by the vast majority of Americans (at least the Americans I know and talk to every day).
posted by Reggie452 at 10:46 AM on May 10, 2001


I don't care what europe does to itself as long as they keep making brandy and artisan cheeses.

Is that a joke?

Thousands of years from now, archeologists will find that comment on a back-up tape in the buried remains of what used to be Pyra. They'll turn to each other and say: "Oh, so that's what brought down the US civilization." It's like Rome all over again.
posted by jpoulos at 10:50 AM on May 10, 2001


> darren, you missed the point. Libya or Sudan didn't take > the U.S. seat -- Sweden did.

In exchange for votes for Libya or Sudan, no doubt.

> Sweden pays its U.N. bill, doesn't bully its neighbors
> or act like vindictive, spoiled brat, and has a pretty
> unblemished humans rights record, unlike the U.S.A..

I noted that you quoted from Amnesty International, who has This to say about Sweden. They screw up, too, even if they did vote to abolish the death penalty.
posted by dwivian at 10:52 AM on May 10, 2001


How many Americans know anything about what's going on between the U.S. and the U.N.?

A woman I work with was pissed because the US "pays over a billion dollars a year to be on that human rights committee" and "the Chinese kicked us off".
posted by jpoulos at 10:52 AM on May 10, 2001


We give too much to the U.N. as it is, Im glad we're not paying
posted by PatMcGroin at 10:55 AM on May 10, 2001


I noted that you quoted from Amnesty International, who has This to say about Sweden. They screw up, too, even if they did vote to abolish the death penalty.


No government is perfect, I just think America is a little too self righteous at the minute. Not too long ago Americas human rights record was appalling.
posted by twistedonion at 10:57 AM on May 10, 2001


> Not too long ago Americas human rights record was
> appalling.

Not too long ago France was lopping off peopls heads with amazing efficiency. And, as our European friends are so prone to tell us, they have a longer history than the Americas. You'd think they would have gotten all humanitarian long ago, with such a long history!

What was Sweden doing 200 years ago about humanitarian existance?

Not to say that the U.S. isn't being a bully -- it is ingrained in the culture here afterall -- but I find it incredibly amusing that the U.N. takes itself so seriously as to slap the hand of the Americans and expect to make a positive point.
posted by dwivian at 11:01 AM on May 10, 2001


Not too long ago France was lopping off peopls heads with amazing efficiency.

Almost as efficient as Texas currently does...but that's right they don't chop there do they, that must make it different.

What was Sweden doing 200 years ago about humanitarian existance?

Not allowing people to OWN the life and servitude of another, for a start.

Geez, you gotta be able to come up with better arguments than that.
posted by DiplomaticImmunity at 11:08 AM on May 10, 2001


When Harold Stassen died in March, he was the last of 1,700 who signed the 1945 charter that founded the United Nations.

Stassen thought his work on the charter was his most important accomplishment, and was still working on improving the UN into his eighties.

"People are more and more realizing we do need a United Nations," he said on C-Span in 1990. "and I think we need a better one when you think in terms of what the next 40 or 50 years might bring."

Discussions like this really make me wonder if Stassen was fooling himself about how people feel about the UN today. Most Americans view it with suspicion or outright hostility.
posted by rcade at 11:09 AM on May 10, 2001


Nothing like a good old fashioned ultimatum. Politics as usual seems to me. Hold the $ hostage, this from a country that won't negotiate with terrorists.
God I hate politicians. Lying scheming snakes with no apparent worth.
posted by a3matrix at 11:12 AM on May 10, 2001


Discussions like this really make me wonder if Stassen was fooling himself about how people feel about the UN today. Most Americans view it with suspicion or outright hostility.

Americans are still a minority of the world's population. How people in general feel about the UN and how Americans feel about the UN are often very different things.
posted by DiplomaticImmunity at 11:16 AM on May 10, 2001


I would posit that Stassen's remarks came earlier than hositility to and mistrust of the UN in the U.S. began to make much news--not to say it didn't exist. For example, in 1990, with the world just reeling euphorically from the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the iron curtain, I think the world, including the US, was a much more optimistic place with regard to international relations and the UN as a whole.


At this time, I believer the Bush the elder was talking about a New World Order and it was quite awhile before I heard the term "black helicopters". (If I recall correctly, militias and the like began to abound in the mid-90s). It's really amazing what a single decade can do, and I am not really sure why. The only possible reason I can come up with is the rise of conservatives in congress, but I haven't thought that one fully out, so I'll just leave it at that.
posted by trox at 11:25 AM on May 10, 2001


FYI, I LOVE it when people talk about "black helicopters" !!!!

Here's a hint to all those single-chromosome conspiracy theorists: When you look up at the bright sky, ANYTHING up there is going to look black. IT'S CALLED A SILHOUETTE!

Sorry. Just felt good to do that.
We now return you to anti-Americans vs. isolationists rants.
posted by darren at 11:53 AM on May 10, 2001


FYI, the U.S. House just voted to freeze payments.
Here's a link.
posted by darren at 11:55 AM on May 10, 2001


Some historical notes for thirteen and everyone else:

I am not entirely sure how we came into WWI

The US had been secretly supplying arms to Britain, despite our protestations of neutrality. The German U-boats had been shooting at ships suspected of carrying arms. Eventually the Germans managed to sink a passenger liner (the Lusitania) with Americans on board. It was just the excuse we were looking for.


I am really curious why Canada jumped into the war so quick

Canada was still a Dominion of the British Empire at the time, and the entire Empire was already at war in 1941.

You will recall that the US refused to join the League of Nations, which was largely cited as the prime factor of its failure. The UN was the invention of the Americans as a way to lend political legitimacy to their war aims; placing the UN's offices in the US was a) a way to keep control over the organization and b) a way to make it more palatable to the American public.
posted by briank at 11:58 AM on May 10, 2001


(of course, neither a nor b ever really worked)
posted by briank at 12:00 PM on May 10, 2001


>>What was Sweden doing 200 years ago about >>humanitarian existance?

>Not allowing people to OWN the life and servitude of
>another, for a start.

Really? While Sweden abolished slavery in 1335 (which is really saying something, when you come down to it), the guild system wasn't abolished until 1846. And, it was such a constraint on trade that it was the same as slavery (including the beatings) but without the actual ownership question. In short, it was a legal trick to allow the benefits of slavery while still being able to decry it in principle.

> Geez, you gotta be able to come up with better
> arguments than that.

Why? This one seems to have worked.
posted by dwivian at 12:01 PM on May 10, 2001


Ahhh! I forgot about the Lusitania!

Are you saying Canada joined the Pacific war to ping us and reaffirm our friendship in hope we would help out with Europe's war?

Thanks for the post.
posted by thirteen at 12:05 PM on May 10, 2001


Are you suggesting the allies would have had any chance of winning WWII without the US?

Sorry, thirteen, I missed your post until just now. I don't suggest that the allies would have won without us. But there's a mentality in this country (maybe left over from the Cold War?) that the hapless Europeans were running around like headless chickens, or surrendering at the first sign of aggression, until Uncle Sam swept in and put out the fire. We get way too much of our history from the movies.
posted by jpoulos at 12:08 PM on May 10, 2001


Putting Sudan -- where torture and slavery are national pastimes -- in the seat formerly occupied by the U.S. shows how transparent, hypocritical -- and useless -- the UN Human Rights Commission is.

Woah, Darren ... sorry, I had to take off my hairshirt and put down my paddle to type out a reply as "self-flagellating American" (hey, after all, it is National Masturbation Month.)

Part of the point being made here by our allies who didn't support us is that the U.S. uses a false moral highground on human rights and drug policy to play international politics and put other states under the control of our military. What, is something about that wrong or incorrect? Now, our allies didn't support Sudan ... but other states did.

More power to the U.N. -- I think us pompous Americans could use a bit of a wakeup call.

Come to think of it, as a gay man, the Republicans have never wanted me in their club. Does that mean I could stop paying taxes now? I'm not trolling here folks ... it would be an interesting defense to make in a court: "I'm just doing what the government does ... I thought that was OK?"
posted by bclark at 12:09 PM on May 10, 2001


Are you saying Canada joined the Pacific war to ping us and reaffirm our friendship in hope we would help out with Europe's war?

No, not at all. Canada was at war because Britain was at war. Britain was already at war with Japan because the war was with the "Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis Powers". The war in the Pacific began well before 1941.

Germany declared war on the US as soon as the US declared war on Japan. We declared war on Germany the next day.
posted by briank at 12:13 PM on May 10, 2001


FUCK THE FRENCH!!!!

sorry, sorry, I was somewhat out of line there. Normally, I am quite middle-of-the-road on these issues. However, I feel that the U.N. needs the U.S. more than the U.S. needs the U.N. On its own, the U.S. has the ability to influence other nations. Without the U.S. the U.N. will have a difficult time implementing human aid programs as well lose its effectiveness as a peace-keeping force.

BTW, Canada is like the smart-assed kid with a tough older brother. SO what if they jump into a war? Any attack on Canada will be perceived as a threat to the U.S. who will back them up.

FUCK THE CANADIANS!!!

Yikes! Sorry, sorry, I really like people. I really do but sometimes I can get frustrated by all of this posturing. I enjoy reading all of the posts here and feel that both sides make some strong arguments. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
posted by Stretch at 12:17 PM on May 10, 2001


Thanks Stretch.

And the signal:noise ratio reaches an all-time low.
posted by dogmatic at 12:30 PM on May 10, 2001


This is becoming parallel, but Steven Den Beste responded to some questions I had about the origns of the Pacific war, and it might be interesting to those who have become interested in this sideline thread. Steven really is pretty amazing. Please forgive having to slog throughy my tepid questions to get to the good stuff. For faster loading, I am sending you to our friend SeanMeades's page.
posted by thirteen at 12:31 PM on May 10, 2001


Come to think of it, as a gay man, the Republicans have never wanted me in their club. Does that mean I could stop paying taxes now? I'm not trolling here folks ... it would be an interesting defense to make in a court: "I'm just doing what the government does ... I thought that was OK?"

If you're not trolling (and I'll believe it) then you're still bright enough to see the difference - you have no choice but to pay taxes if you're a citizen of this country and a member of our society, no matter what party is in power. Being a dues-paying member of a voluntary organization is somewhat different. Apples, oranges, no argument.

I find it interesting to note that as Congress votes to withhold payments, and the international community decries the U.S. as smug and self-righteous, there is no end to the willingness to come to us for help just as I mentioned earlier. One hand out, the other prepared to slap us in the face. Pardon us if we slam the lid down on the coffers while your fingers are still inside.
posted by Dreama at 12:34 PM on May 10, 2001


My favorite quote about how much we as Americans really value democracy:

``Actions have consequences. Our U.N. friends have an option -- if they would like to get the payment, they will vote the United States back on the commission,'' said Rep. Tom Lantos.

Isn't that trying to hold a gun to a voter's head? I'm so ashamed ... and the guy's even a Democrat :(
posted by bclark at 12:36 PM on May 10, 2001


thirteen -- thanks for the link to Sean's site.
posted by briank at 12:38 PM on May 10, 2001


I don't think it matters any more in this thread, but what folks seem to have missed is the House is conducting a little diplomacy of its own. Here's the story from CNN. The amendment withholding money was attached to a State Department authorization bill. This bill has not been signed into law since 1993, and it's become tradition to load the bill with all kinds of crazy amendments -- not for eventual passage into law, but to make a statement to the executive branch that the legislative branch over differences of opinion over foreign policy.

We'll pay the bill. But the House isn't very happy with GWB's people's handling of things of late.
posted by ewagoner at 12:51 PM on May 10, 2001


the hapless Europeans were running around like headless chickens, or surrendering at the first sign of aggression

Not all the Europeans, just the French.
posted by ljromanoff at 12:53 PM on May 10, 2001


the UN stands for "United Nothing." When you have diplomatic plates, you dont even have to pay parking tickets. It gives foreigners a VISA to thumb their nose at American laws.
posted by PatMcGroin at 1:01 PM on May 10, 2001


Actually, some half truths bandying around in here. The Lusitania was sunk in 1915, and we didn't enter the war until 1917. Basically, there was a long lead-in to the war, and President Wilson was whole hog for neutrality-- on paper, of course. There were most likely munitions on the Lusitania, as well as many of the other ships sunk by U-boats coming from the US going to Britain and France, like the Arabic, etc. After we got really mad in 1915 and threatened to get into the war, Germany called off their unrestricted submarine warfare campaign, which allowed us to back down on our threats. Anyway, after Wilson got re-elected in 1916 (slogan: "He kept us out of war.") the Germans announced that they were starting up unrestricted submarine warfare again, which made us get all up in arms about the Freedom of the Seas. Along with the Zimmerman telegram, which was an intercepted wire from Germany to Mexico that offered to give Mexico all the territory they lost in the Mexican-American War if they'd just invade the US, war became politically inevitable. That and Theodore Roosevelt insisted. Sorry I'm not Stephen, and sorry I'm too lazy to link any of this, but dammit, I'm right. (Incindentally, go read The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman to get an idea of the start of the Great War, not involving the US).
posted by norm at 1:08 PM on May 10, 2001


Pat McGroin, diplomatic immunity works both ways. Many of our diplomats in foreign countries can also park anywhere with impunity.

I think what's interesting about this thread is the shift some of us (myself included) go through when we're talking about the US in relationship to the rest of the world. I'm normally perfectly willing to decry the workings of our government, but when someone from another country wants to do the same thing, I'm all "oh yeah? well my country can whip your country's ass and who the hell asked you anyway?" I guess when I'm talking about our government, I'm criticizing them, but when we're talking about international affairs, other people are criticizing us.
posted by anapestic at 1:12 PM on May 10, 2001


Actually, some half truths bandying around in here

Not in an intentionally misleading sense, I assure you. Sometimes the condensed version is fine for the purposes of the discussion.

dammit, I'm right
Indeed you are. I don't believe I misrepresented anything, either.
posted by briank at 1:18 PM on May 10, 2001


I guess when I'm talking about our government, I'm criticizing them, but when we're talking about international affairs, other people are criticizing us.

Don't sell yourself short. The Supreme Court may have unfairly intervened in the 2000 election, we may not have gotten to the point of having affordable medical insurance for all, but that's minutae compared to the practices of the foreign regimes at issue here.

It's unfortunate that so many Americans and Europeans can't figure out how clearly offensive it is to participate in and contribute monies to an organization which would put Sudan or China on a body with "human rights" in its name. Probably the same people who would have described the United States and Soviet Union as moral equivalents.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:43 PM on May 10, 2001


I find patriotism pretty disgusting. In the words of Bill Hicks, "It's a round world last time I checked."

If you want someone to hate, hate the individuals that are commiting the human rights violations. Or just hate the action itself and not the people. By some chance I was born in the US and some of my relatives are from Germany. I was lucky enough to visit there and talk with my great grandfather that had to serve in the army during WW2. I can't imagine the fear of doing things just to survive.

They still live in the same large apartment complex and after the war was over the few pro-nazi types were kicked out.

Fascism survives on fear and mistrust. Fear and mistrust only become greater when you "take your ball and go home." No nation is perfect. When you point a finger there is blood dripping from it as well.
posted by john at 1:47 PM on May 10, 2001


Anapestic - I liken it to a marriage. If your neighbour starts railing at you about how awful and messed up your marriage is, you won't just stand and let them criticise you without defending yourself, or at least telling them to blow it out their ear. But when it is just you and your spouse - and maybe your therapist - the nuts and bolts of your shortcomings, dysfunction and troubles are fair game to be discussed. Unlike your nebby neighbour, when you speak as a party to marriage, you actually have some power to fix the problems, rather than just pick them apart from an outsider's perspective.
posted by Dreama at 1:52 PM on May 10, 2001


Made me think of these words . . .

"No one likes us, I don't know why
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
But all around even our old friends put us down
Let's drop the big one and see what happens
We give them money, but are they grateful?
No they're spiteful and they're hateful
They don't respect us, so let's surprise them
We'll drop the big one and pulverize them"
-- Randy Newman, "Political Science"
posted by raysmj at 2:08 PM on May 10, 2001


Really? While Sweden abolished slavery in 1335 (which is really saying something, when you come down to it),

Then you've made my point. As you equally did by omitting any defense of your other fine standpoint of american superiority over other nations, the fact that the French have executed numbers of their citizens in the past...while Americans of course haven't, and certainly don't continue to do so.
posted by DiplomaticImmunity at 2:35 PM on May 10, 2001


I find it interesting that everyone here has been discussing "human rights" with what seems to be no actual knowledge of what they really are? The expulsion of the United States from the Commission has been a long time coming and should not have been a surprise, considering how the US has been using its seat on the Commission in recent years in pursuit of purely political (not humanitarian) goals in seeking condemnations of China and Cuba, and in pushing a Western concept of 'civil and political rights' while blocking or ignoring the basic and more important economic, social, and cultural rights of the majority of humanity. Perhaps when the United States deigns to ratify the Declaration on the Rights of the Child and support the International Criminal Court to punish those responsible for massive and egregious violations of human rights, we will have a better case for reinstatement to the Commission.

Unfortunately, the Republican Administration and Congress seem to believe that UN-bashing and blackmail is a more appropriate course of action.
posted by SenshiNeko at 2:44 PM on May 10, 2001


Dear me, are we hosting the Freeper convention?

One thought: if you hold one election where the number of votes appears not to count, it becomes easier and easier to demand that other elections follow the same course.

Which is, of course, the path to tyranny.
posted by holgate at 2:44 PM on May 10, 2001


Interesting, the following are from SenshiNeko's links.

The human rights commission, which Eleanor Roosevelt helped create in 1947, has long been a polarized group, which is no surprise given the delicate nature of its subject matter.

Ms. Ferraro said. "We should not have lost the vote. Eleanor Roosevelt is probably turning over in her grave, and if I were dead, I'd be turning over, too."

The air smells sweeter, my Diet Coke just got colder. If it upsets the corpse of a Roosevelt, how can it be bad?
posted by thirteen at 3:52 PM on May 10, 2001


One thought: if you hold one election where the number of votes appears not to count, it becomes easier and easier to demand that other elections follow the same course.

Holgate, that's an incredibly silly comment, even more so considering it came from someone that ought to know full well how presidential elections have worked in the country for the last 200+ years.
posted by aaron at 3:58 PM on May 10, 2001


a Western concept of 'civil and political rights' while blocking or ignoring the basic and more important economic, social, and cultural rights of the majority of humanity.

Bullshit.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:04 PM on May 10, 2001


aaron: I wasn't referring to the electoral college..

I was thinking of the political and cultural impact of having an election where, for the first time in living memory, the notion of there being a "clear result" from the votes cast was thrown into question. As many MeFites have said, the ultimate margin of victory was smaller than the margin of error. Democracy threw up a GPF. Elections in the US have been proved to be an inexact science: what counts as a "vote" is now negotiable, re-cast from day to day based upon the lawyer, the court, and the judge.

That's not a partisan point. Though it does appear that the Republicans in Congress seem incapable of appreciating that the same basic principle that brought them to the House, and passes their resolutions, governed the US's defeat in the HRC elections.

Or, with tongue in cheek: you lost. Get over it. Stop whining. The UN ain't gonna hold a recount. Can't you Americans read a diplomatic situation?
posted by holgate at 4:18 PM on May 10, 2001


Well from what I can tell, the Americans are pretty indignant about this outcome.

darren, thanks for setting the tone for this thread, it was a very informative and rational discussion.

thankyou everyone.
posted by lagado at 7:04 PM on May 10, 2001


If your neighbour starts railing at you about how awful and messed up your marriage is, you won't just stand and let them criticise you without defending yourself, or at least telling them to blow it out their ear.

Does this principle apply only to foreign countries criticizing American ways, or is it equally relevant to US meddling in other nations' internal affairs?
posted by harmful at 7:37 AM on May 11, 2001


>>Really? While Sweden abolished slavery in 1335 (which is
>> really saying something, when you come down to it),

> Then you've made my point

I hope not, Diplomatic Immunity, as I went on to explain that outlawing something in words, but not in practice, is being so hypocritical as to be laughable. Look into the guild system of Sweden sometime, and you'll understand why it was abolished about the same time the rest of the western world was giving up slavery.

As to the comment about the French -- their ability to use their execution system with amazing efficiency in the past far exceeds the system in place in the Americas. The simple comparison of numbers executed should reveal that fact -- it is very difficult to actually get an execution to happen here, and it makes for major press when it does occur. Not that this is some major accomplishment, mind you; it would be wonderful to have a means of punishment that effectively reduces the crime for which death is a penalty, while at the same time being cost effective. Our system of law is so ponderous, though, that neither case (death or prison) is particularly inexpensive.
posted by dwivian at 9:04 AM on May 11, 2001


as I went on to explain that outlawing something in words, but not in practice, is being so hypocritical as to be laughable.

How about the colonization of Africa by European countries (especially the French) as a surrogate, an outsourcing of slavery?
posted by ParisParamus at 10:08 AM on May 11, 2001


ParisParamus, you're good! What a powerful way of showing the point!
posted by dwivian at 10:45 AM on May 14, 2001


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