UN Human Rights Council: Win, Lose, or Withdraw
Sometimes, the best way to get someone’s attention is to stop giving them yours. That was certainly the case in Switzerland Tuesdsay. When President Trump’s team announced that it was quitting the UN Human Rights Council, the world noticed all right. But what most people want to know is: Will the UN do anything about it?
As far as most people were concerned, America’s withdrawal was a long time coming. Every president since George W. Bush has questioned the legitimacy of a Human Rights Council full of human rights abusers. How can anyone take this body seriously when it counts some of the world’s most oppressive countries — Cuba, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Afghanistan, China, North Korea, Pakistan, and others — as members? “Human rights violators continue to serve on and be elected to the council,” Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley explained. “The world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape scrutiny.”
Back in 2006, when the UN formally changed the group’s name from “commission” to “council,” members fought over what the criteria should be for membership. Obviously, it should have gone without saying that the countries’ human rights records should have been priority number one. Instead, any commonsense test fell by the wayside, making the council’s current composition a mockery of human decency. Even President Obama pushed for membership reform — to no avail. Now, the number of HRC nations that are “partly free” (12) or “not free” (14) actually outnumber the nations that are free and democratic (21). That means that some of the world’s worst actors are now voting members on an issue of dignity that they neither value nor practice! Fox, meet henhouse.
No wonder Haley thinks “the Human Rights Council isn’t worthy of its name.” If anything, she went on, it’s a “cesspool of political bias.” Haley also accused the group of “politicizing and scapegoating countries with positive human rights records.” So, after 10 years of putting up with this farce, the United States is walking away — and taking a lion’s share of the group’s credibility with it.
“We have no doubt,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters, “that there was once a noble vision for this council.” “But today we need to be honest: The Human Rights Council is a poor defender of human rights. Worse than that, the Human Rights Council has become an exercise in shameless hypocrisy, with many of the world’s worst human rights abuses going ignored and some of the world’s most serious offenders sitting on the council itself.” Together with the Haley, the president gave the UN 17 months to clean up the council’s mess — particularly as it relates to Israel.
For most of its modern existence, the UNHRC has been the world’s favorite club to beat over the head of the Jewish state. As Anne Bayefsky points out, “The council has adopted more resolutions condemning Israel than any other country on Earth, and nothing condemning almost 90 percent of the world’s states.” Its “continued and well-documented bias against Israel is unconscionable,” Pompeo insisted. Yet, as our own Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin pointed out on “Washington Watch,” this is the same group that wants to turn every negative comment of Islam into “hate speech.”
America shouldn’t have to join an international club to prove it’s serious about human rights. President Trump has already shown that in his appointment of Ambassador at Large for Religious Liberty Sam Brownback, Ambassador Haley, Secretary Pompeo, and in his human rights admonitions to North Korea, Nigeria, and other nations. To the critics who say this decision shows our lack of sincerity on the issue, Haley fires back: “On the contrary, we take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.”
“Almost every country agrees with us that the Human Rights Council needs dramatic changes, but no other country has the courage to join our fight. … We gave them opportunity after opportunity and many months of consultations and yet they would not take a stand, unless it was behind closed doors,” she said. The U.S. “will continue to strongly advocate for reform of the Human Rights Council,” and “should it be reformed, we would be happy to rejoin it.”
Until then, we applaud President Trump for showing the kind of fearless leadership we’ve come to admire about this administration. This White House has broken every paradigm of politics, diplomacy, and policy in its young term, and America — and the world — are stronger for it.
Originally published here.
USA Yesterday vs. USA Today
Some liberals have spent the last year and a half trying to grasp the relationship between Donald Trump and evangelicals. And if Wednesday’s opinion pages are any indication, they’re no closer to understanding now than they were then.
In some cases, that bewilderment has turned to spite. Desperate to peel off some of the president’s support, they try to shame Trump’s base away, accusing evangelicals of everything from hypocrisy to naivety. One of their favorite games to play is, “What if Barack Obama had [insert something that President Trump has done]?” Jonathan Zimmerman is the latest to try it, taking direct aim at FRC in a USA Today column that compares our enthusiasm for Trump’s policies to our frustration with Obama’s.
He points out that I’ve taken North Korea to task for its heinous treatment of Christians as recently as this year. “So,” he asks, “where were Perkins and his fellow evangelical Christians last week, when President Donald Trump was lavishing praise upon North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un? They were on the sidelines, mostly, or congratulating Trump for his diplomatic coup… You’d think,” he said bitterly, “that the mass imprisonment and executions of Christians would draw unequivocal denunciations from other Christians, no matter who was president. Think again.”
First of all, FRC — and the broader evangelical movement — has been an outspoken defender of international religious freedom for decades. We, along with several other faith leaders, signed a letter calling on President Trump to bring up Kim Jong-un’s human rights abuses before his Singapore summit. And the president, as he’s done on multiple occasions throughout his first term, did raise the issue. “It was discussed. It will be discussed more in the future — human rights,” Trump said. “It was discussed. It was discussed relatively briefly compared to denuclearization. Well, obviously, that’s where we started and where we ended. But they will be doing things, and I think he wants to do things.”
President Trump didn’t shy away from the oppression of Christians in North Korea any more than he did when he called out Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to his face in the White House Rose Garden. We’ve watched the White House fast-track relief efforts through USAID and appoint Sam Brownback as ambassador at large for international religious liberty. He, the president, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have all championed international religious freedom in some of the most abusive countries on earth. And we have applauded them as we would any leaders who stand up to tyrants.
Still, Zimmerman argues, “Imagine that Barack Obama — not Donald Trump — had met with Kim Jong Un. And then suppose that Obama had downplayed the repression of Christians while applauding the dictator responsible for it.” Well, unfortunately, we don’t have to imagine Barack Obama downplaying the repression of Christians. He actually did. In one of the worst humanitarian crises of the century, the UN had to shame the president into recognizing the genocide of religious minorities in the Middle East — a fact almost every Western world power (and his own party) had already acknowledged. As if that weren’t awful enough, his administration refused to let more than a handful of Christians seek asylum in America, while unvetted Syrian refugees (or terrorists posing as refugees) streamed across the border.
President Trump applauded a few superficial things about Kim Jong-un in hopes of securing a deal that would someday bring an end to North Koreans’ suffering. Does that mean he excuses Kim Jong-un’s brutal policies? Or that we do? Of course not. Zimmerman questions whether conservatives will “hold firm to their own principles… Either religious freedom matters, or it doesn’t. Its fate shouldn’t rest on who is in the White House.”
On that, we agree. It’s a shame that Obama didn’t do more that we could applaud him for. On the rare occasion when he did do something right, we praised him. There were moments like the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden when we cheered along with the rest of America. When it came to his family, we congratulated him for setting a positive example as a father and husband — and said so. We gave Obama credit for nominating Rabbi David Saperstein to the post that Sam Brownback now holds and for signing the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act into law.
Beyond that, it wasn’t so much that conservatives were withholding applause but that President Obama was doing so little to earn it. To my amazement (and probably most conservatives’), President Trump has not only met but exceeded the high policy bar we had set. He’s done more than any recent president to advance the agenda that’s critical to making America a good and prosperous nation. And unless that changes, our enthusiasm won’t.
Originally published here.
Southern Poverty a Poor Choice for America
In a normal nonprofit, $3.3 million would take a big bite out of any organization’s bottom line. But then, there’s nothing “normal” about the $477 million-dollar Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) — including its methods, which has the “hate” labelers backing up, or crawfishing, as we would say in Louisiana.
Earlier this week, conservatives everywhere cheered the comeuppance for SPLC in its legal battle with Muslim Maajid Nawaz, who was listed — ironically enough — as an anti-Muslim extremist on the group’s website. In its suit for defamation, Nawaz and his Quilliam Foundation won, forcing the SPLC to fork over a multimillion-dollar settlement, complete with a voluntary apology. As usual, Morris Dees’ group had no real basis for the label other than its disagreement on policy grounds. Although SPLC has been forced to withdraw or retract other groups and individuals from its lists before (Dr. Ben Carson, for one), this mistake was quite public and, in many ways, quite costly.
“It’s a shame that it took impending litigation for the Southern Poverty Law Center to finally set the record straight and admit it was wrong all along,” said Nawaz’s attorney. Imagine, NRO pointed out, “if everybody whom the SPLC has erroneously smeared over recent years — the individuals, the groups, the scholars and activists — took this precedent to launch legal actions of their own?” After all, Douglas Murray went on, “The SPLC has a vast endowment of tens of millions of dollars. But going by this precedent, if everybody decided to correct the lies that the SPLC has taken upon itself to spread over recent years, then the SPLC, which failed to shut itself down when its work was done, could be shut down by the very people it has spent recent years trying to shut up. Which would not just be poetic, but justice too.”
Either way, the biggest takeaway from this week’s mea culpa should have been this: The SPLC cannot be trusted. The mainstream media had begun to suspect as much after two gunman were linked to the group (Floyd Corkins, who admitted he found FRC on SPLC’s “hate map,” and congressional baseball shooter James T. Hodgkinson, who “liked” SPLC on Facebook). Then there was the public distancing from SPLC by the FBI, U.S. Army, and even Obama Justice Department. The wagons that used to circle SPLC couldn’t drive away fast enough. Then, in an unlikely savior, came Donald Trump, whose election was a cash cow for the former civil rights watchdog. Suddenly, the group was back in the money — and liberal giants’ good favor.
Tech titans like Facebook, Google, YouTube, Amazon, and Twitter admitted they all trust SPLC to help them flag “hateful” content. But, as 48 conservative leaders are making quite clear, the time for trusting SPLC is over. In an open letter, groups like FRC are calling on the news media, social media, government agencies, and corporations to “dissociate themselves from SPLC and its ongoing effort to defame and vilify mainstream conservative organizations,” which is putting people’s lives in danger.
Editors, CEOs, shareholders, and consumers alike are on notice: anyone relying upon and repeating its misrepresentations is complicit in the SPLC’s harmful defamation of large numbers of American citizens who, like the undersigned, have been vilified simply for working to protect our country and freedoms.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.