Anti-American Globalists “Defend” U.S. at the UN?

From the moment Barack Obama joined the United Nations Human Rights Council, observers knew an international humiliation was coming. Last Friday, the rogue nations of the world and the left-wing dregs of American society provided it before an international audience in Geneva. However, perhaps most disturbing, the team President Obama sent to “defend” the United States themselves accuse the United States of representing an “axis of disobedience” guilty of “illegal actions,” while claiming the Khmer Rouge followed “a policy of restraint.” The result was the fiasco of America’s hearings before the UNHRC last week. But those hearings may have a more permanent impact on the United States government than a momentary humiliation.

Who Defended Us before the UN?

After Obama reversed the longstanding position of the Bush administration and joined the UN Human Rights Council, it became clear one day the United States would be subject to that body’s Universal Periodic Review. Every four years, every member nation submits a report and faces a three-hour hearing before a troika of nations in Geneva. During the hearings, foreign nations and domestic non-government organizations (NGOs, sometimes referred to as “civil society” groups) may criticize that nation’s practices.

Given the United States’ leadership in world human rights, the nation would be well-served by carefully choosing officials who will forcefully defend our record before the various human rights offenders and rogue states queued up to take a shot at us. However, Barack Obama sent in a team that believed the United States is guilty of human rights abuses and that has deep ties to the very NGOs criticizing America’s record.

The United States reported its delegation would be “led by Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs; Harold Hongju Koh, Legal Adviser for the U.S. Department of State; and Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.” Who are they?

The “Transnationalist” Defends the “Axis of Disobedience”

Harold Koh headed Yale Law School before being appointed Obama’s legal adviser. Koh has long praised “transnationalist jurisprudence,” the practice of citing foreign law in place of the U.S. Constitution. That outlook is dangerous in an official who is supposed to represent his nation’s interests before the World Body. So is his outlook of our country.

In 2004, Koh wrote in the Berkeley Journal of International Law:

What role can transnational legal process play in affecting the behavior of several nations whose disobedience with international law has attracted global attention after September 11 – most prominently, North Korea, Iraq, and our own country, the United States of America? For shorthand purposes, I will call these countries the “axis of disobedience.” (Emphasis added.)

Koh’s jaundiced view of the United States can be seen by his choice of writing partners, specifically David Cole and Jules Lobel. Lobel is vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). CCR was founded by William Kunstler and Arthur Kinoy, with two fellow Marxist attorneys who wanted to use the law to keep the Left’s street warriors out of prison. Its current president, Michael Ratner, has written Che Guevara “has remained my hero” since boyhood. Two weeks after 9/11, Lobel and Ratner wrote an article describing themselves as “lawyers who have spent our professional lives trying to make the U.S. accountable for its crimes,” and concluded “the use of military force” against al-Qaeda “is inadvisable.” (Instead, they advised the UN “could apply sanctions” if the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden.) Cole is a Georgetown Law professor who serves on the board of CCR. He advocated for the constitutional right to flag burning and federal funding for obscene art, winning the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award. In a 2002 article, Cole complained federal law criminalized “support to any group blacklisted as ‘terrorist,’” although he acknowledged “Secretary of State may designate a foreign group as a terrorist organization if she finds that the group ‘engages in terrorist activity” that threatens the “security of United States nationals or the national security of the United States.’” In his mind, banning aid to groups that threaten U.S. security is a bad thing. CCR has repeatedly sued the U.S. government on behalf of Gitmo terrorists, often lying that U.S. troops were guilty of gruesome atrocities in the process. That Koh chose these people as co-authors speaks volumes of his own orientation.

In a 2008 speech, Koh took his own country to task, blasting America’s alleged “double standards in human rights” proven by “our tolerance of torture and cruel treatment for detainees” in “law-free zones like Guantanamo.” (He concluded by quoting Communist poet Langston Hughes.)

Koh is one of the foremost advocates of the International Criminal Court, although he has admitted, “We’re one of the biggest victims if the court turns sour.” Opponents worry the ICC would prosecute Americans by foreign standards of justice. Koh seems to admit as much.

Interestingly, in 1992, Koh won the Human Rights Award from the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association, which recently canceled its 2010 conference in Arizona in protest of S.B. 1070. Hauling the state of Arizona before the UN Human Rights Council was part of Barack Obama’s reason for filing the report.

Koh also sat on the Board of Human Rights First, a fact that unites him with the adminsitration’s other chief “defender.”

The “Illegal Acts” of America

Michael H. Posner has served as president or executive director of Human Rights First (HRF) for 30 years. HRF began in 1978 as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. Posner played an instrumental role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Since at least 9/11, HRF has focused much of its fire on America’s human rights record. Its “End Torture Now” campaign took aim at the United States. It claims we “undermine the rule of law” and are guilty of “illegal actions in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.” Its 2005/2006 Annual Report insisted, “the United States has disregarded the human rights of military detainees – rights guaranteed by our own Constitution and by the Geneva Convention,” although neither document grants such rights. It also claimed, “Since 2002, nearly 100 detainees have died in military custody in Iraq and Afghanistan – including at least 12 who were tortured to death. To date, no senior military officer has been held accountable.”

The same year HRF made this allegation, Lt. Gen. Randall “Mark” Schmidt and Brig. Gen. John Furlow testified before Congress to set the record straight. More than a dozen investigations into conditions at Guantanamo Bay came to the same conclusion: “No torture occurred.” However, the investigations uncovered four unpunished abuses out of 24,000 interviews at Gitmo, or 0.000167 percent of all interrogations. The offenses:

  • A male interrogator once threatened to “go after” a terrorist suspect’s family;
  • One terrorist had his mouth duct-taped shut after he refused to quit chanting; and
  • Twice detainees were briefly chained to the floor.

Gen. Schmidt prescribed a reprimand for Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller for not punishing this dreadful quartet of offenses, but Southern Command Commander Gen. Bantz J. Craddock demurred.

However, Posner’s organization has not always been so harsh against human rights violators. Cambodian genocide expert Ben Kiernan has noted the group’s 1984 report entitled “Human Rights in Kampuchea [Cambodia]: Preliminary Summary of Findings and Conclusions,” HRF declared the Pol Pot regime – which killed 1.7 million Cambodians, nearly one-quarter of his nation’s population – pursued “a policy of restraint with respect to violations of physical security.” (Kiernan has written that in later years HRF reports referred to the barbarity of Pol Pot without ever detailing its dimensions.)

HRF had domestic targets in site. It boasts its pro bono asylum attorneys weakened immigration constraints against accepting applicants who provided “material support” to terrorists and those involved in violent revolutionary movements. (The law now allows asylum applicants to claim they donated “under duress.”)

Incidentally, its donors in the period from 2005 to 2009 include George Soros’ Open Society Institute, Open Society Policy Center, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, and the Proteus Fund. HRF also receives funds from such corporate donors as HBO, The Nielsen Company, Time Warner Cable, American Express Company, General Electric, Bloomberg, the New York Mets, and JP Morgan Private Bank Law Firm Group.

During that perior, HRF sought after, and gained, political influence. HRF’s 2008/2009 Annual Report features pictures of Posner hosting a press conference alongside Sen. Patrick Leahy and standing alongside the group’s “cherished friend” Ted Kennedy. Its 2007 Annual Report noted a meeting it sponsored with several presidential candidates, including Barack Obama, on alleged American human rights violations.

The meeting made a lasting impression on Obama. He asked the group’s CEO, Elisa Massimino, to help him craft his policy for granting Guantanamo Bay detainees trials in civilian courts. Soon thereafter, 16 members of the HRF’s “military coalition” flanked Obama as he signed three executive orders to “end torture,” close Guantanamo Bay, and close “secret prisons.” And Posner, the group’s founding light, had been recruited to advise the administration.

With defenders like these, the hearings could only go downhill. They did, but not the way many believed they would.

Foreign Criticism

On November 3, before the hearings had begun, someone asked U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe ifthe fact that the United States will also be asked questions by adversaries, by people whose human rights record the United States questions very strongly, does that weaken the process? Does that undermine the process?She responded, “Not at all. In fact I would say it strengthens the process. If we’re not willing to hear criticism of others that we criticize, I don’t consider that very good role modeling.” On the contrary:

[W]e appreciate the opportunity to improve our own human rights record and we want to acknowledge up front that we do not believe that our human rights record is perfect. This is a genuine opportunity for us to engage in self-reflection and improvement with the help of civil society and other countries. We also believe that it’s an opportunity for us to role model a process through which civil society is deeply respected and viewed as a partner. And we hope that that comes through in the next couple of days.

The human rights violators and rogue states of the world lined up to give the United States much grist for “self-reflection.” China accused the United States of “excessive force against racial minorities” – though not as extreme as Beijing employs against Tibetans. Iran – then debating whether to stone or hang an adulteress – instructed us to “combat violence against women.” North Korea reportedly instructed us “to address inequalities in housing, employment and education,” and Libya accused the U.S. of systematic “racism, racial discrimination, and intolerance.”

Several commentators worried Obama’s actions would empower the UN to prosecute the Bush administration for human rights violations. In addition to complaints by foreign nations, several NGOs singled out this aspect of U.S. policy for criticism. The ACLU’s Chandra Bhat-Nagar, who attended the Geneva meeting, told international television the administration should “affirmatively prosecute perpetrators of torture.”

Given these “defenders” backgrounds, they made an interesting admission about former U.S. “torture.” Harold Koh said, “Allegations of past abuse of detainees by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo have been investigated and appropriate corrective action taken.” Moreover, “The International Committee of the Red Cross has access to Guantanamo, and an independent review ordered by President Obama found the conditions there far surpass the standards of Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions.” (Emphases added.)

Koh also rejected calls from Russia and France to abolish the death penalty, although he clearly took their proposals to heart.

He divided the foreign feedback into ten categories – some of which he rejected out of hand.

As it turned out, foreign criticism was not the problem. Read part two tomorrow to find out how Koh, Posner, and company used criticism for the administration’s ends.

And in the meantime, ponder why any president who cherishes the United States of America would assemble such an anti-American team to defend his country before hostile nations in the first place.