Blow to anti-racism efforts

Conference: Low-level U.S. delegation left before the heavy lifting began.

September 07, 2001

THE WHITE HOUSE took the easy way out of the World Conference Against Racism.

The Bush administration never embraced, never engaged, never really entered the international talks.

It seemed the White House was looking for an excuse to bail out all along, and one was readily presented by Arab and other Islamic nations sounding the anti-Semitic chord against Zionism.

A real U.S. presence at the Durban, South Africa, conference could have countered the rhetoric, which Secretary of State Colin L. Powell aptly described as "hateful." But Mr. Powell wasn't there.

And by leaving the conference, the United States won't have to participate in meaningful discussions about other contentious issues, mainly reparations for slavery. How convenient.

Conference planners, led by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, had worked hard to make the event wide-ranging and not focused on one country, but got no help from Washington.

The conference ends today -- but the debate won't go away. The United States -- and this administration in particular -- still has a lot of heavy lifting to do before race can be wiped from our collective agenda.

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