U. S. Disengages from World Conference on Racism?

By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh

The Perspective

August 31, 2001

There's a kind of conservatism in Washington D.C. these days that is making its marks on the nation as to how the United States deals with both domestic and international issues that confront the Bush administration. That kind of conservatism has got many to think and believe that other than attacking crucial and on-going issues head on like his predecessors, the Bush administration has opted to do the opposite by either boycotting a conference, and constantly refusing to be a signatory to treaties that will benefit mankind.

Though he ran his campaign for president in 2000 as a "compassionate conservative", Mr. Bush's strident policies have portrayed him as if he isn't the "compassionate" one he once claimed to be during the campaign, but a conservative of old in the likes of Pat Buchanan, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and others whose names are clearly identified with the kind of conservatism that tend to incite accusations of racism and xenophobia.

Those accusations have been ringing bell lately in the wake of the Bush administration's adamant refusal to send a delegation to the Indian Ocean port city of Durban, South Africa to attend the international conference on Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance - a conference that's to be attended by delegates from many nations of the world, beginning August 31, through September 7, 2001.

The reasons given by the Bush administration for shunning the convention is it unequivocal support for Israel. There is widespread speculation that Arab nations would use the occasion to denounce Israel for that country's continuous persecution of the Palestinian people and the constant occupation of their land, while equating zionism with racism.

The reasons given by the United States to boycott such convention is weak, given the fact that there is ample evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Israel, with all its armed power and might is an aggressor and an occupying force that will do anything in its power to quash the liberation aspirations of the Palestinian people.

Had the United States fully participated in the international conference on Racism, Xenophobia And Related Intolerance, and subsequently adhered to, and implemented many, if not all of the resolutions adopted, that alone would have perhaps erased any lingering doubts about America's partiality in its foreign policy, by showcasing the United States not only as the world's only remaining superpower, but a key ally to all and not Israel alone. However, that scenario seemed far-fetched, because Israel has got the United States in its pocket.

Syndicated Columnist, Charley Reese said it well when he wrote recently that "Israel is a very costly "ally" to the United States. Reese seemed to speak for many in that piece when he wrote that it is embarrassing that the government of the world's so-called remaining superpower plays the role of the tail that is wagged by Israel, a nation about the size of New Jersey.

Israel, armed to the teeth thanks to American taxpayers, continues to occupy Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese lands. It, and it alone, is a threat to peace in that region, and a regional war would inevitably affect America's real interest. Israel is the most expensive "ally" in the history of the human race. Depending on whose numbers you use, American aid to Israel has totaled $81 billion to 90 billion."

Yes, it is true that the Palestinians may have made some mistakes in their quest for freedom over the years, so are the Israelis. That doesn't give any justification for a race of people to constantly be under occupation and killed, homes bulldozed, while there is no future in sight for generations of Palestinians unborn.

However, let it be clear that when a group of people are fighting for liberation, they don't pick and choose as to which methods to use in order to measure up to public opinion polls, especially when their people are being killed and bastardized day in and day out.

And that's not all. African-Americans attending the convention will also make their case for the United States government to make reparations for slavery. Though successive U.S. administrations have tended to brush aside the idea of paying African-Americans any kind of reparation for slavery and injustice they and their ancestors encountered over the years. According to one writer, "paying African-Americans reparations is an idea as old as the republic."

Instead of sitting back only to privately criticize countries whose citizens are known to be embarrassingly intolerant to others, hoping that those nations will implement changes that will benefit their people, organizers of the conference in South Africa believed that the event will not only discuss those issues, but intend to find practical solutions that will alleviate some of the problems.

With America's painful past, and its practical experience as a model of racism, one would think that the United States would jump on board, not only to discuss its stuggles and experience with racism in public, but to show and proudly teach other nations how it managed to partially overcome racism over diversity. The U.S. could have pointed to Secretary of State, Colin Powell - the first African-American to have ever occupied said high office, as an example of the hurdles that have been crossed and the progress being made to overcome pervasive racism.

The conference in South Africa is needed, and is right on target because of that country's own painful past. Because racism and injustice tend to be divisive in most societies in this age of multiculturalism, racism, with its ugly head can also take on a violent form, eventually leaving its venoms and painful memories on generations.

However, it will be unfair to minimize the convention in Durban, South Africa to issues relating to only Israel and Palestine, and reparations to African-Americans. Other issues on the table to be discussed will be the trafficking in women and children; migration and discrimination; gender and racial discrimination; racism against indigenous people and the protection of minority rights.

Before the Bush administration decided to boycott the conference in South Africa on racism, the administration also refused to join other nations around the world to sign and ratify treaties like the Kyoto agreement and the production and use of certain chemicals that are harmful to mankind.

There are growing concerns that the Bush administration disengagement from international conventions and treaties, and its decision not to participate in this world conference on racism, pushes her into isolationism at the time when its sole superpower status is needed more that ever before when the world seemed confronted with much more difficult problems than existed during the pre-coldwar era..

The Bush administration, succumbing to pressure, yesterday decided to send a low-level delegation to represent the U.S. government at the Conference on Racism. The delegation is headed by Michael Southnick, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of International Organizations.

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