Accuracy in Media

With the Hurricane Katrina disaster still unfolding, events at the United Nations might not seem of much consequence. But if resources are truly in short supply in dealing with domestic problems, it is worth noting that a major push is underway to force the U.S. to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on the rest of the world through a global tax.     

In a September 2 editorial, The Washington Post has weighed in on the subject, basically saying that the U.S. should go along with a controversial U.N. World Summit document that would commit the U.S. to spending $845 billion, over and above what the U.S. is already providing in foreign aid. Why pick a fight with the U.N.? It’s not worth “going to the mat” over such matters, the paper insisted in its editorial. In an apparent reference to proposals in the document for global taxes on the American people, the paper says these may be “vaguely annoying” but other countries support them so why put up a fuss. Finally, the paper expresses the hope that the State Department will stop U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton from objecting to such controversial provisions in the document. 

But the Post editorial was itself vague. The paper never explicitly stated that the summit document endorsed global taxes. To do so would raise far-reaching questions about the hidden agenda of those running the U.N. and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) supporting it. The paper also never mentioned the $845 billion figure, which is what Annan adviser Jeffrey Sachs indicates it would cost the U.S. to meet the U.N.‘s Millennium Development Goals.

Since the paper was not honest with its readers about the U.N. agenda and what it would cost the American people, it was easy for the Post to pretend that there is nothing worth fighting about in the document, and that the U.S. should just let the U.N. have its way. In the editorial, entitled “UNdiplomatic,” the Post said that most of Bolton’s complaints were “insubstantial.” The editorial made a brief mention of the antics of Sachs, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s top adviser on foreign aid, who has been publicly criticizing the U.S. position.   

Now for the rest of the story.

The editorial appears to reflect the thinking of Sebastian Mallaby, a Post editorial columnist and former fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. It turns out that Mallaby participated in an August 31 conference call with Sachs, arranged by the pro-foreign aid group Results, to discuss what Mallaby called Bolton’s “intervention” in the negotiations over the summit document. This is a curious use of that term. The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. takes a role in negotiating changes in a controversial document that President Bush is supposed to endorse at the U.N. meeting next month and this constitutes “intervention.” This terminology reflects the mindset of those who believe the U.S. belongs to the U.N. just so we can fork over billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars and say nothing about how the money is spent. Actually, the tone of the session was set by the moderator, Joanne Carter, the legislative director of Results, who complained that Bolton was “seeking to massively rewrite” the flawed document.

Mallaby was the first of several journalists asking questions of Sachs during the session. A transcript shows Mallaby wondering if Bolton is “freelancing” in stating objections to the document and whether Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will put a stop to it. We see that thinking reflected in the Post editorial.

An honest review of the transcript of the conversation with Sachs demonstrates that it is Sachs who is out of control. But Sachs is an official spokesman for Annan and the U.N.

In the discussion, Sachs charged that the U.S. is trying to “gut” the summit document and that “?millions of people are dying this year because the United States is not acting” to spend more on foreign aid. Sachs cited no evidence for this sensational and irresponsible charge. He also griped about the U.S. spending too much money on the military.

The transcript shows that Joe Lauria, the U.N. correspondent for The Boston Globe, wondered if the U.S. had an economic policy based on access to “cheap resources and cheap labor” and wanted “to keep these countries down.”

This was a revealing question, demonstrating the mentality of the reporters covering the U.N. The U.S. is supposedly the problem because we don’t spend enough on foreign aid. And the process undertaken by Bolton of raising questions about how the aid is being spent and whether it is doing any good reflects a hidden imperialist agenda.

The questions and answers in this discussion, available at, demonstrate the poor quality of mass media reporting on the United Nations. Not one reporter asked about proposals for global taxes in the summit document. Not one reporter asked Sachs about his proposal for a global energy tax to pay for increased foreign-aid spending.

Because he wrote a book, entitled The End of Poverty, and seems to believe the answer to poverty is more government spending and higher taxes, he is considered an “expert” by the liberal press, not to mention the U.N. itself.

In taking a firm stand in favor of the interests of the U.S. and the American taxpayer, Ambassador Bolton is exposing their agenda and finding himself made into a villain on the global stage.

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