by Molly Ivins
when a politician flip-flops on some issue, we all boo and hiss. The pleasant thing about President George W. Bush is that his original positions are so frequently buffleheaded, it's quite encouraging when he changes his mind.
The latest triumph of Bushian diplomacy is that his refusal to negotiate on reducing offensive missiles and his refusal to negotiate on the missile defense plan have now given way to linking discussion of both issues and negotiation on both with Russia. This is dandy news, and shows the flexibility we all hope for in our leaders. Besides, those who made fun of Bush for saying he could "look into Putin's soul" just don't know a soul when they see one.
One must quibble, however, with those who conclude the recent "stunningly successful" anti-missile test moved the Russkies. I've never looked into Putin's soul, but I bet he's smart enough to have read the third paragraph of all those articles describing the anti-missile test as a monumental achievement. What is so charmingly called the "kill vehicle" managed to hit the target missile because the target had a radar beacon telling the other guy exactly where it was located. This is known as a "cooperating target," and even the Spice Girls could hit one.
Unfortunately, the Bushian tendency toward knee-jerk unilateralism survives on other fronts. In the first of two unhappy cases, we just blew a chance to get something good done at the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons. Unfortunately, there is no question that the United States killed any chance to do something meaningful about the illicit trade that causes more than 1,000 deaths a day around the world. (I know: "Guns Don't Kill People." But I suspect they have something to do with it. If you point your finger at someone and say, "Bang, bang, you're dead," not much actually happens.)
As we are finding increasingly often, the second- and third-tier appointments in this administration are right-wing ideologues and the guy Bush named undersecretary of state for arms control and international security is John Bolton, a former lobbyist for Taiwan. (He says he got paid $30,000 in the mid-'90s for writing research papers for Taiwan, but that he testified twice on behalf of Taiwan in front of Congress out of the goodness of his heart.)
Bolton is the guy who was doing the Charles Heston impersonation at the UN Conference, opposing an effective weapons trafficking treaty on the curious grounds that it might somehow affect the Second Amendment in the United States. Come on, this is black helicopter bull, this is conspiracy-nut country.
The UN is looking at about 500 million illegally acquired guns and light weapons -- from pistols to grenades to light missiles -- around the world. These weapons are in the hands of everyone from child soldiers in Sierra Leone to drug traffickers in Columbia. You may recall it was rocket-propelled grenades in the hands of warlords that brought down the Blackhawk helicopters we lost in Somalia.
From Harper's Index: "Number of the UN's 21 human rights agreements that have been ratified by the United States: four. Number of the UN's 31 global environmental agreements that have been: 10." Does this make us a rogue state?
And now comes word from Physicians for Social Responsibility, which shared the Nobel Prize in 1997 for its work on landmines, that the Bush administration, as part of its quadrennial defense review, is fixing to toss out the presidential directive keeping us on the same timetable as other nations that signed the landmine agreement in Ottawa. The fact that we haven't ratified the treaty is one of the reasons we got kicked off the UN Commission on Human Rights.
All of Europe save Serbia has signed the treaty, and Serbia has indicated it will do so. The mines kill about 20,000 a year, one-third of them children. Their use as weapons is entirely problematic -- our own mines killed many Americans in Vietnam. Retired Lt. Gen. James Hollingsworth, who is nobody's idea of a liberal, leads a group of retired generals opposed to landmines on the excellent grounds that they aren't very useful.
Much as I hate to call on the shade of the late Princess Diana, who should rest in peace, she worked very hard to make Ottawa possible.
July 25, 2001 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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