I was delighted when the American delegation walked out of the United Nations Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, last Monday. Actually, we shouldn't have attended in the first place because right from the get-go, it was a farcical Kangaroo Court aimed at the U.S. and Israel.
But the worst thing about these international boondoggles is that we - the American taxpayers - pay one-fourth of the cost of such expensive fiascoes as part of our annual UN assessment. No wonder Congress is so reluctant to fork over hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to the folks who organize and sponsor these one-sided events.
Can you imagine what it cost to fly hundreds of delegates to South Africa so they could administer a verbal beating to the people who paid their airfare and expenses at five-star hotels? It's the height of international hypocrisy.
Basically, a group of African and Middle Eastern dictators, egged-on by Palestinian extremists and black racists, decided to hijack the UN conference in order to condemn American and Israeli "racism" by passing a resolution declaring that Zionism is racism, and demanding monetary reparations for slavery.
Now, I don't pretend to know much about Zionism, but I do know that I'd be pretty angry if suicide bombers were targeting my family at local department stores and pizza parlors, and I'd be sorely tempted to respond forcefully. There are no political or religious arguments that can justify the wanton murder of innocent civilians anywhere in the world.
And if anyone is going to pay reparations for slavery, African countries should take the lead because rich Africans have been selling poor Africans into slavery for hundreds of years. Even today, slavery is alive and well in Sudan and elsewhere on that impoverished and long-suffering continent.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who (wisely) remained in Washington, denounced the Zionism-as-racism resolution's "hateful language," and recalled our mid-level American delegation. Powell recognized "the importance of the international fight against racism," but said delegates had failed to produce a balanced resolution. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called the episode "a lost opportunity for America and for people throughout the world who are concerned about racism."
Among world "leaders" who earned standing ovations from the assembled delegates were a pair of brutal dictators, Cuba's Fidel Castro and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, who has launched a violent racist assault on white farmers in his strife-torn African nation. But there was no mention of Zimbabwe at the conference? So it's OK to condemn white racism but politically incorrect to mention black racism.
Let's call this the Jesse Jackson Rules. The Rev. Jackson was in Durban, of course, mugging for the TV cameras and demanding reparations, although I don't know why we should pay reparations to black millionaires like Jackson, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters.
Castro sounded a lot like Jackson when he declared that "African-Americans were subjected during more than 100 years to the harshest racial discrimination, and many of its features still persist." He called for reparations "as an unavoidable moral duty to the victims of racism." He said nothing, however, about whether he favors reparations for hundreds of torture victims in Cuban prisons. Former political prisoner Armando Valladares' graphic 1986 book, "Against All Hope," documented systematic persecution and torture of those who oppose Castro's long-running Socialist regime.
On a positive note, Congress is currently considering the Zimbabwe Democracy Act, which would impose travel and economic sanctions on senior Zimbabwean officials responsible for "the deliberate breakdown of the rule of law (and) politically motivated violence ...." Writing in the Washington Post, Anna Husarska of the International Crisis Group compared President Mugabe to Serbia's ex-president, Slobodan Milosevich, who is awaiting trial before a war crimes tribunal at The Hague. Ms. Husarska endorsed the Democracy Act because it would put an end to New York shopping sprees by the 77-year-old Mugabe's young wife, and expel the children of Zimbabwe's corrupt elite from private schools in the U.S. by canceling their student visas.
For his part, Post columnist Jim Hoagland asserted that "Mugabe has turned his once pleasant and relatively prosperous agricultural nation into an African nightmare" and condemned "his persecution and brutal dispossession of white farmers." He accused Mugabe of "running a laboratory case study ... on the political uses of racism" and predicted that the United Nations would lose credibility if it turned a blind eye toward Mugabe and Zimbabwe but unfortunately, that's exactly what happened in Durban.
Meanwhile, Castro and Mugabe were received like conquering heroes by Third World delegates to the Racism Conference. They had every right to express their obnoxious opinions, of course, but we shouldn't have paid for the podium. As Time magazine observed, the UN conference was "less about dialogue than about the race to place one's grievances on the record, preferably at the expense of one's adversaries." That's all well and good; just send the bill to someone else.
Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.