Mythical Black Helicopters Return as Right-Wingers Attack UN
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The UN’s mythical black helicopters are back. The triumphant, reality-challenged new Republican majority in the House of Representatives imagine that they are flying in formation up the Potomac in a bid to take over the United States.
Until recently, the people who used to get so upset about the UN’s alleged plans to use their helicopters to take over America had been hunting other snarks, like the president’s birth certificate or illegal immigrants taking our jobs and going on welfare, or they'd been dressing up in 18th-century costumes at Tea Party rallies. Obama’s other sins were so absorbing that they hardly noticed when he fulfilled his predecessor’s promise and paid the UN dues on time.
But with Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) in charge of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a change is in the air. She has already declared her ambition to control the UN by cutting off its money supply. She said in her prepared remarks at a recent hearing on the UN that she wants “reforms first, pay later” and plans to push legislation that “conditions our contributions - our strongest leverage - on real, sweeping reform, including moving the UN regular budget to a voluntary funding basis. That way, U.S. taxpayers can pay for the UN programs and activities that advance our interests and values, and if other countries want different things to be funded, they can pay for it themselves.” In reality, most of the $6 billion she cites goes to peacekeeping operations supported and indeed proposed by the United States, and only the tiniest proportion goes to any items that the United States has opposed.
Audience for UN-bashing
In addition to the Tea Party movement and the know-nothing movement, Ros-Lehtinen appeals to two vociferous and powerful constituencies. There’s the Cuban American lobby, which opposes the UN because Cuba is a member and because it allowed Fidel Castro, in healthier times, to come to New York to address it. Then there are the diehard Likudnik Israel supporters who think that the UN, after having partitioned Palestine and admitted Israel, is now anti-Israel. The Jerusalem Post, for example, explicitly linked payment of UN dues to the treatment of Israel.
Ros-Lehtinen actually takes positions that are often worse than those of the Israeli government. One of her donors is Irving Moskovitz, the gambling magnate who finances settlements in East Jerusalem, and she has called for the United States to defund the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, which successive Israeli governments have appreciated because, in effect, it has shifted much of the financial burden in the Occupied Territories to the international community.
Ros-Lehtinen’s actions, in opposing multilateralism, will not likely result in a political disadvantage for the Republicans. The Obama administration pays lip service to the UN and multilateral obligations. But the failure of the Democrats after two years control of the White House and Capitol Hill to ratify crucial multilateral instruments on child soldiers, land mines, or the Law of the Sea suggests that the administration’s heart was not really in it. Certainly the chances of any of these treaties passing in the balance of this presidential term are somewhat minimal.
The Broader Attack
In the past, critics have rounded on the secretary general as the symbol of the UN. Much of the fury directed at Kofi Annan followed his admission, when backed into a corner by a BBC reporter, that the invasion of Iraq was illegal. Kofi Annan was African and radiated numinous trustworthiness, which is of course why UN opponents went to such efforts to go after him personally during the “Oil For Food” imbroglio. Significantly, Ros-Lehtinen called one of the attorneys involved in the commission investigating these allegations, Robert Appleton, as a “prosecution witness” this week in her hearing on the UN.