Delusional Paranoia

"The UN is coming to git us!"

“The UN is coming to git us!”

Paranoia on the right about the United Nations is nearing the point of clinical insanity.   For some reason the far right sees the United Nations as a dangerous evil organization bent on  implementing some kind of internationalist/socialist world order.  This gives rise to delusional fantasies.

This week the US Senate sought to ratify the UN Treaty on Disabilities, a treaty modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.   It failed by a vote of 61-38.   61 voted “yes,” but in the Senate you need 2/3 of the vote to ratify.   Former Presidential candidate Rick Santorum praised the vote, stating that the treaty would have given the UN power to intervene in the choices parents make about their handicapped children.


Even former Republican Senate Majority leader and disabled Vet Bob Dole’s presence (far right, in a wheel chair) couldn’t overcome Republican paranoia about the UN

The same kind of hysteria made the Senate unable to ratify the Rights of the Child Convention.    The US is joined by only Somalia and South Sudan in rejecting this effort to support children.    The US refused because a right wing group called “Focus on the Family” said that the convention would prevent parents from using corporal punishment (spanking) on their misbehaving kids.  That’s absurd, but somehow they convinced the Senate not to act.

Imagine a scene.   The UN pulls up with some jeeps and a black helicopter sweeping down to a suburban house.  Across the street a neighbor looks out the window, “looks like Ralph spanked his boy again.”    This is a level of paranoia so bizarrely irrational that it defies explanation!

We are to believe that a UN that ignored Dallaire during the Rwandan genocide want to inject itself into American family decisions?

We are to believe that a UN that ignored Romeo Dallaire during the Rwandan genocide wants to inject itself into American family decisions?

The UN can’t do any of that.   These treaties have no enforcement except through the UN Security Council.   The US has a veto on the Security Council.    And earth to self-centered American nationalists:  the treaties aren’t aimed at us!  The treaties are aimed at trying to counter problems in third world states where children and disabled people don’t have the benefits they receive here.     UN bureaucrats don’t care how you are going to deal with your disabled child or whether or not you spank your kids!

When work was done to create an International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to make it easier to go after brutal war lords who get away with atrocities in third world conflicts, the US actively sought to fight that court’s very existence.   Rather than recognizing its use in dealing with groups like the brutal LRA in Uganda or the Janjaweed in Darfur, they were scared that the ICC might arrest Americans and accuse them of atrocities.   They even passed a law in 2002 saying the US could invade the Netherlands to rescue any Americans arrested by the ICC!

Of course, there is no such danger.   Not only is the scope of the ICC limited, but it only gets involved if a state can’t or won’t prosecute its own war criminals.  The US military justice system is one of the most advanced in the world, and it recognizes as crimes the same ones that the ICC deals with.

The Small Arts treaty is aimed at preventing this, not grabbing guns in the US!

The Small Arts treaty is aimed at preventing this, not grabbing guns in the US!

The insanity continues.

After his experience in Rwanda and his struggle with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),   Romeo Dallaire has become involved in effort to end the practice of using children as soldiers in war.   Dallaire had been UN force commander in Rwanda as the 1994 genocide took place.   He had only 240 troops and pleaded with the UN to at least send supplies so he could feed the people he was protecting.   He was ignored.   He has since become an activist against the ravages of conflict in Africa.

One problem he notes is the ease in which small arms flow into combat zones from elsewhere, allowing war lords and other nefarious figures to easily get the means to create child armies.  He called on the UN to work to limit small arms trade, and now they are working on a UN Small Arms Treaty, designed specifically to make it harder to arm combatants in places like sub-Saharan Africa.

Alas in the US the reaction is predictable.   The UN is going to come for our guns!   The treaty will make it illegal to sell small arms, the treaty will undermine the Second Amendment!

The NRA's claim the UN wants to come get our guns is the height of delusion

The NRA’s claim the UN wants to come get our guns is the height of delusion

*Eyes rolling*   Sigh.  No, the UN won’t come for your guns — remember, the UN has no army and can only enforce international law through a Security Council Resolution.   The US can veto those.    The Supreme Court has ruled that any treaty that violates the constitution is invalid.   No treaty can undermine the constitution.

So while the US claims to want to do what it can to prevent children being used as soldiers, support individual rights in the third world, and bring war criminals to justice, an insane paranoia about an organization utterly impotent to do anything against the US prevents the Senate from ratifying needed treaties.

The world is in transformation and only by recognizing our interdependence and need to cooperate across borders can we solve the problems ahead.  A paranoid inward looking irrational nationalism hurts both us and the rest of the world.    The fantasized conspiracies aren’t there, but the problems we need to solve are real.

  1. #1 by Norbrook on December 6, 2012 - 20:40

    This is just one of several shameful votes on the part of the Republican Senators. All it does really is state what is already in U.S. law, the ADA. In fact, it was one of the achievements a Republican President was proud of, and signed. I find it … telling … that their “moral qualms” about this treaty didn’t extend to casting their nay votes in front of their former colleague, Bob Dole. They waited until he left the floor to do it. Cowards.

  2. #2 by Snoring Dog Studio on December 7, 2012 - 08:07

    The paranoia in the Republican party and among these senators is a virus that will destroy their party. They continue to show that clinging to their irrational ideology is all they have in the way of representing the U.S. Their party is doomed as long as people like Rick Santorum have that much control. When will the Rs get tired of people shaking their heads in disbelief and take back their party?

  3. #3 by lbwoodgate on December 7, 2012 - 08:23

    The aluminum foil cap business has excelled with the evolution of Tea Party types and religious extremists.

  4. #4 by Sarah on December 7, 2012 - 16:00

    Another lovely example of this paranoia is local opposition to ICLEI initiatives in public transportation, energy policy, and other areas related to Agenda 21 and UN Sustainable Development programs.

  5. #5 by Titfortat on December 8, 2012 - 12:36

    I dont know lots about the UN but considering it has Saudi Arabia on the CEDAW, you have to wonder about its overall legitimacy.

    • #6 by Scott Erb on December 8, 2012 - 12:42

      That’s a common mistake for people watching the UN – to see a country that violates human rights on a human rights panel or something and than use that to bash the UN. There are two reasons why that’s wrong. One, these panels have countries rotate on and off, so every country is on at times, able to represent their perspective. That’s important since there are so many perspectives on rights the only to create functional international human rights is to build agreement across cultures.

      Second, and most importantly, when a country is on such a panel it increases pressure on that country to show improvement in regards to international standards. The Saudis have a long way to go, but isolating them and not involving them in discussions and actions on women’s rights would probably make the task harder rather than easier.

  6. #7 by Titfortat on December 8, 2012 - 13:36

    The Saudis have a long way to go, but isolating them and not involving them in discussions and actions on women’s rights would probably make the task harder rather than easier.(Scott)

    Sure, that is like saying we should not isolate rapists but just “involve” them in discussions about their “bad” behaviour. Sorry, but on this one I couldnt disagree more.

    • #8 by Scott Erb on December 8, 2012 - 13:48

      Saudi Arabia is a sovereign state – we can’t judge them by our standards any more than we would allow them to judge us by theirs. That’s reality. What we can do is use the UN to try to build a set of international norms that others choose to follow. That’s the process that’s underway, and that’s the best way over the long run to improve things in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. We can act all indignant, we could invade them and try to force them to change, but neither is likely to succeed. Slow efforts at building international norms, as unsatisfying as they may be, is probably the most effective way to bring change.

      Don’t forget – we had slavery for 80 years, and women couldn’t vote for 120 after the US was founded. Go back a few hundred years in Europe and women were treated pretty much just as poorly there as now in Saudi Arabia. Cultures change slowly, but they do change.

  7. #9 by Titfortat on December 8, 2012 - 13:56

    Of course I can judge them by our/my standards. That it is why it is called a judgement. I think it is insane to have a country with their record in regards to not only women’s rights but human rights on the CEDAW. Sorry Scott, in my mind, nuts, just freaking nuts. It is not for me or my country to change their behaviour. But it is definately not right to give them any, and I mean any kind of legitimacy. This so called appointment totally gives the wrong impression/view of what the UN should represent.

    • #10 by Scott Erb on December 8, 2012 - 14:03

      Well you can, but if one is trying to build international law and consensus around international human rights it does no good. Saudi Arabia has sovereignty, that gives it de facto legitimacy. If their involvement helps those in the country who want to bring change isn’t that good? Also, would it change your mind if you were to find out that groups in Saudi Arabia who want change in the treatment of women support the UN being involved like this because it helps them leverage their cause? We have three choices: a) ignore them, b) try to force them to change, or c) try to build up pressure and convince them to change. “C” takes a long time, but I think it’s better for women in Saudi Arabia in the long run.

  8. #11 by Titfortat on December 8, 2012 - 14:16

    Actually there is a fairly quick way to change many of the middle eastern nations and their totalitarian regimes. Allow the creation of a sustainable/renewable form of energy and those countries would go belly up. Mind you, it would be a chaotic and violent switch but it would happen relatively fast. On top of that, if those nations had no available income due to oil they wouldnt have much of a military to worry about in the future. For the most part, none of us here in the West have the spine to make the necessary changes that would be most helpful to downtrodden humans in these repressive regimes. If we did, our “lifestyles” would look radically different, mine included. 😦
    The United States are where they are at because of what Eisenhower warned about in his farewell speech.

    • #12 by Scott Erb on December 8, 2012 - 14:27

      They’re running out of oil already – the Saudis are past their peak. They’ve had the greatest natural resource gift in world history, and they’re on the verge of squandering it. So both of us will be forced to change! I still think with international engagement there is a better chance for human rights to grow than without.

  9. #13 by Titfortat on December 8, 2012 - 14:27

    I just sent you an email.


  10. #14 by mikelovell on December 8, 2012 - 17:23

    Okay, so I have a few questions on this one. Had we ratified the UN policy what is the overall practical improvement to the world other than having created a document with words? What is the extent of the enforceability of such a policy? If it says the same thing as the ADA of 1990, why can’t the member countries individually enact their own model internally within their respective countries?

    Considering the overall negative impression of American forces entering foreign lands to enforce or change regimes, policies, etc, and that the overall financing and operational contingents of UN forces tend to be heavily American or American-led, why would we vote to increase what is seen as our meddlesome nature, stretch our military further, and of course negatively affect our budget woes exponentially enforcing a policy created by the UN onto other nations?

    It seems to me that the same people who want us to ratify such treaties are one and the same with those protesting our military involvement overseas. I am sure we are all intelligent enough to realize that wandering into another country to enforce such things will require military intervention and occupation for more than just a short time. After all, an army of bureaucrats couldn’t do it by themselves.

    I know that I’m clearly not fully informed on this issue and need a little help reconciling my questions with respect to the reality of the issue.

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