In The Wall Street Journal today, John Bolton — the “Glenn Beck of foreign policy,” in Dan Drezner’s words — demonstrates once again his uncanny ability to pen ludicrous partisan blindsides and convince major editorial boards to give him the spotlight. His targets this time include former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, the older (and vastly distorted) demon of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism (“Durban I” in conservatives’ no-holds-barred teleology), and, naturally, the entire UN itself.
Mark, citing Matt Yglesias, has already capably dismissed the alleged “furor” over President Obama’s decision to award Robinson a Presidential Medal of Freedom (a thought: leave it to self-avowed freedom-fighting neoconservatives like Bolton to invest such a symbolic honor with such life or death significance). As human rights commissioner, Robinson’s job was to criticize abuses of human rights. Some of these occurred in one of the UN’s 192 member states that is particularly sensitive to criticism: Israel. This meant that Mary Robinson on occasion criticized certain policies of the Israeli government. In the blinkered view of rabid pro-Israel hawks like Bolton, this means no less than that Mary Robinson was unabashedly anti-Israel — no ifs, ands, or buts. (Marty Peretz, unsurprisingly, goes even further off the deep end, disgustingly calling her “a real bigot.” Bolton relegates his ad hominem attacks to deriding her “ceremonial” position as first female president of Ireland.)
This is, quite bluntly, utter hogwash, as intellectually dishonest as it is factually untrue and insulting. Bolton’s criticism of Robinson for her role in the Durban conference fares little better. As High Commissioner for Human Rights, one of Robinson’s responsibilities was to chair the Durban anti-racism conference. She bears no more responsibility for the inexcusably anti-Semitic or anti-Israel antics that did occur there than does Colin Powell, who led the U.S. walkout that Bolton so admiringly cites. In lampooning Robinson’s characterization of the conference’s outcome as “remarkably good,” Bolton nowhere recognizes the reality that the overwhelming majority of the Durban outcome document had nothing to do with Israel. While NGOs did produce an unrelated document (which Bolton misleadingly conflates with the official one) that was indeed deeply offensive to Israel, Bolton does he mention the fact that Robinson refused to even touch this loathsome piece of juvenalia.
One of Bolton’s objections to Mary Robinson receiving a Presidential Medal of Freedom is — I kid you not — that she once uttered the words “civilian casualties are human rights victims.” When a former high-ranking U.S. official is boisterously claiming that protecting human rights undermine national security, the extent of his fall (and of the country’s rise) is all too apparent.