From its inception, the United States was intended to be a beacon of freedom and justice. It was a place where those being persecuted could seek asylum and those being oppressed could seek justice. Unfortunately, over the years, capitalistic greed has taken precedence over environmental and human rights, and American politicians have let their selfish desires dictate policy. Earlier this month, the rest of the world took a bold stand against the United States by not reinstating them into the UN Human Rights Commission. This is a positive step for the world as a whole and should be taken as a sign by the United States to shape up.

Most recent on the list of U.S. defiance is the proposed Bush plan addressing the energy crisis. This plan would rely on oil, coal and nuclear power resulting in the destruction of Alaskan wildlife. All of this follows Bush”s rejection of the Kyoto protocol, a measure intended to fight global warming. Without the United States in the mix, there is a serious threat that the protocol will fail. Although many countries are environmental criminals, we are on our own level. The effects of U.S. actions are the most threatening to the environment and the United States” environmentally disastrous proposals are only further distancing us from the rest of the world.

The United States has used its seat on the UNHRC as a way to expose the human rights violations of unfriendly countries, while closing their eyes on the crimes of allies. Israel, with perhaps the worst human rights record, is exempt from international sanctions and monitoring, all this being ensured by U.S. veto power on the Security Council. In fact, UNHRC director Mary Robinson led a delegation in November into Israel and the Occupied Territories where Israeli soldiers shot at her car. Her report was fair in its criticism of Israeli crimes and consistent with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch yet the United States rejected it. And as a result, violence and war persists in one of the most volatile areas of the world.

Bush”s National Missile Defense is nothing but detrimental to world stability. It is an unproven technology that will cost taxpayers billions over the years and in the end could possibly lead to another nuclear arms race. Our opposition to a treaty banning anti-personnel mines (Israel left 130,000 of these in Lebanon last year) and an international criminal court (a slew of Turkish officials would qualify to be tried in this court for their oppression of free religious expression) to prosecute war crimes fueled more international criticism.

There is a great chance that the United States will regain its UN seat in 2002. However, until then, we need to change our mentality and stop feeding into a downward spiral of inhumanity and environmental injustice. As a progressive and not some pansy crybaby kissing any political party”s ass, I say kudos to the international community for not bowing down to the great oppressor and I say grow up to the U.S. House which responded to this stand by voting to withhold the $244 million of back dues owed to the UN.

Fadi Kiblawi, Daily Editorial Writer

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