A Model United Nations?

“He’s a very driven man, a very moral man. He’s very concerned about his country. He’s selfless in that way.” With these words, director Oliver Stone praises the subject of his HBO documentary “Commandante,” Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Yet as a network spokeswoman phrased, “in light of recent alarming events in Cuba,” HBO is postponing the airing of the documentary, originally slated for this month. These “recent alarming events” the spokeswoman refers to are more than merely alarming. A little more than a month ago, three men hijacked a ferry in hopes of escaping to freedom in America, but after running out of gas, were apprehended by the Cuban Coast Guard. In a secret and swift trial, the three were deemed “terrorists” and executed by a firing squad within several days. That same week, the Cuban government arrested 75 dissidents, allegedly for conspiring against the Communist country and its leader; each received a sentence in prison ranging from 20 years for Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, “guilty” of inviting an American diplomat to her home, to 28 years for Luis Enrique Ferrer, “guilty” of organizing a petition for democratic reform that garnered 11,000 signatures. Such events provoked anger among many in Washington, including Democratic senator and presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, who announced, “We will not rest until this regime falls, and the Cuban people rise to enjoy their freedom.” But in Hollywood, 160 self-proclaimed “intellectuals” signed a declaration supportive of Castro’s regime and critical of the United States. The two-paragraph body proclaims, “A single power [The U.S.] is inflicting grave damage to the norms of understanding, debate and mediation among countries… We only possess our moral authority, with which we appeal to world conscience in order to avoid a new violation of the principles, which inform and guide the global community of nations.” Is this “moral authority” the authority to condone the murders and prison sentences of citizens on account of peaceful political objection to a brutal regime? Or is it the authority to condemn a country willing to take measures to ensure justice and freedom to not only its citizens, but also to those of others around the world? These 160 “intellectuals” are not the only ones to pardon Cuba’s actions. Only three weeks after Cuba sentenced the 75 dissidents, the country was reelected to the United Nations Human’s Rights Commission. White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer described the disappointment and outrage of the Bush Administration: “This is a setback for the cause of human rights. Cuba does not deserve a seat on the Human Rights Commission. Cuba deserves to be investigated by the Human Rights Commission. … The Human Rights Commission wanted to send investigators into Cuba and Cuba said ‘no.’ And yet today, Cuba gets re-elected to the Human Rights Commission. It raises troubling issues, and that’s why the United States is speaking out about it.” Sichan Siv, who sat as the American representative during the Commission’s meetings, attempted to rally support for the removal of Cuba, but walked out, finding his attempts futile. “It was an outrage for us, because we view Cuba as the worst violator of human rights in this hemisphere,” a frustrated Siv observed. But Fleischer puts things into perspective: “You have to keep in mind that Libya is the chair of this committee. There are some things that happen at the United Nations that are very hard for anybody to explain.” Indeed there are. Libya is widely known for its long list of human rights violations, a fact true of many others on the committee such as Saudi Arabia, China, Vietnam, and Sudan. The irony does not end with the Human Rights Commission; Iran is a part of the Commission on the Status of Women. In January of this year, after months of refusing to cooperate with the U.N. Weapons Inspectors, Iraq was scheduled to chair the Conference on Disarmament. So while many insist that we should not take action in post-war Iraq “unilaterally,” but instead with the help of the U.N., examples such as these raise the question of the body’s legitimacy.