May 4, 2001 marks the day when the US was voted off the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The decision should have provided the superpower with a much-needed wakeup call. Instead, it just became more reckless on the global stage.
With the benefit of hindsight, there was no loss of irony about Washington losing its seat on the body for the first time since the panel’s founding in 1947. That’s because, as far as America’s track record on human rights was concerned, the ‘best’ was yet to come. In a few short years, the United States would rewrite the book for inhumane behavior in its decades-long War on Terror. And while that is something nobody could have predicted in May 2001, perhaps the feeling that America had lost its moral compass was already in the air.
One of the stated reasons for the Geneva-based organization voting out the global power was its increasing frustration with Washington balking on its commitment to international treaties, such as the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. In direct opposition to the opinions of its European allies, George W. Bush withdrew Washington’s tentative support for the measure, arguing it would cause “serious harm to the US economy.”
Another cited reason for the Americans being ousted from their chair was due to the relentless support of Israel over the latter’s perennial conflict with the Palestinians. In March 2001, following non-stop episodes of violence and killing, with the Palestinian side suffering the brunt of the casualties, the UN Security Council attempted to pass a resolution that would have created “an appropriate mechanism to protect Palestinian civilians, including through the establishment of a United Nations observer force.” Predictably, the United States was the only member to deliver a thumbs down on the motion, with four abstaining. In fact, nearly all US vetoes cast since 1988 blocked resolutions aimed at Israel, because, as the US claims, Palestinian terrorist groups were not adequately condemned.