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OPINION | EDITORIAL: Gulags? What gulags?

On joining the bad guys February 9, 2021 at 3:00 a.m.

Elections have consequences, although the conservative press is having a time with all these executive orders signed by President Biden in the first weeks of his term. As if Republican presidents don't do the same thing. (Although maybe not at this scale.)

This is how a democracy works. Which, like a wise man once said, is the worst form of government -- except for all the others.

Speaking of all the other kinds of governments, the Biden administration seeks to join them in this United Nations farce called the Human Rights Council. Even the news columns of the Associated Press calls it the "much-maligned" Human Rights Council, which we'll take to mean that there isn't much doubt it has its problems.

The Biden administration is set to announce sometime this week that it will issue another executive order to "reengage" with the council after three years. You might remember that three years ago, President Trump withdrew from the blasted thing, and he was right to do so.

Let us count the ways that the Human Rights Council isn't much of a council, isn't much concerned about rights, and is led by the most inhumane of people:

The Trump administration left the outfit because of its long history of being an anti-Israel forum bent on issuing press releases criticizing that one country. Nikki Haley, the U.S. representative at the United Nations, said the whole council "makes a mockery of human rights."

In 2014, the Human Rights Council demanded that Israel share its Iron Dome technology -- an air-defense system that can take down not only rockets but artillery shells (!) before they can land on innocents -- with Hamas. Why, of course. Isn't every country supposed to share its defense technology with sworn enemies specifically sworn to wipe the home country off the map?

In 2010, Libya was elected to the UN's Human Rights Council. The leader of Libya at the time, you'll remember, was Moammar Gadhafi. He would respond to calls for democracy that year by mowing down Libyans.

These days, Cuba has a seat on the Human Rights Council. So does Venezuela. Try criticizing those governments, while in those lands, and see how fast the Human Rights Council will come to your rescue.

Speaking of member states, the People's Republic of China sits on the council these days. All three words in its title are swindles. That country isn't a republic, certainly doesn't represent its people, and doesn't represent all of China. The free Chinese are in Taiwan. And the country has been making international news of late by bulldozing churches and putting the minority Uighurs in concentration camps. So of course it would get a seat on the UN's Human Rights Council.

Russia also has a seat. And we all know how Vladimir the Poisoner values human rights.

This is of a piece at the UN: We remember in 2011 when the nation of Iran was appointed to a seat on the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Here's the status of women in Iran: The Iranian criminal code allows a man to kill his wife if she's unfaithful. (Thank you, Frida Ghitis, for pointing that out, in your columns, more than once.) In the Iranian courts, the testimony of a woman is "worth" half that of a man. And the forced marriages of minors remain widespread.

The Biden administration doesn't deny any of this, but suggests that working within the Human Rights Council is better than working from without. The new secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has told people that the United States wants to return to the council as an observer now, with an eye toward full membership later.

If there is an advantage in diplomacy of keeping your friends close but your enemies closer (and there is), there is also a danger of granting legitimacy to the bad guys. When the Trump administration walked away from this council, the administration's critics said the move might hurt efforts to monitor human rights abuses around the world.

That didn't happen. There are plenty of monitors -- governments and NGOs -- around the world to keep the spotlight on the various North Koreas and Venezuelas. Not to mention Cubas and Russias and Red Chinas.

The former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, probably had it closer to right when he said the UN's Human Rights Council was just a "protector of human rights abusers."

Yes, elections have consequences. President Biden is within his right to change international strategy.

But something else has consequences, too: indulging the world's villains. Donald Trump's political opponents accused him of doing so many times. Americans might have expected something different from a Biden administration.


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