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Brute force

While the so-called mainstream media depicted the Bush administration as mindlessly bowing to "special-interest groups" in cutting off cash to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, writer J. Bottum tells a different story in the Weekly Standard this week.

On Sunday, the New York Times editorial page and David Broder, columnist for The Washington Post, dismissed Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's assertion that, "Regardless of the modest size of UNFPA's budget in China or any benefits its programs provide, UNFPA's support of, and involvement in, China's population-planning activities allows the Chinese government to implement more effectively its program of coercive abortion."

However, Mr. Bottum writes: "The UNFPA ... is not an admirable bureaucracy that just slipped up on China. Amidst all the hyperventilating about the supposed indecency of the United States, very little attention was paid to the damning report issued last week by the Peruvian government about UNFPA's collaboration in the ruthless - and racially motivated - sterilization of 300,000 rural and Indian women in Peru during the 1990s. Begun by President Alberto Fujimori with special legislation when he assumed dictatorial powers, the program officially registered UNFPA as its 'Technical Secretary' for organizing what it called 'ligation festivals.' ...

"Indeed, the UNFPA's record through the years shows an institutionalized bias in favor of brute-force measures. Though official UNFPA policy prohibits the promotion of abortion, over 17 percent of the fund's annual spending is passed through to nongovernmental organizations that have no such restriction. Such organizations, the former director of UNFPA, Nafis Sadik, has explained admiringly, 'are willing to take risks that governments certainly won't, even U.N. organizations won't, but [national governments and the U.N.] can finance.' As all parties to this debate well understand, the UNFPA is part of an interlocking directorate of national and international organizations devoted to abortion, contraception and sterilization."

Marching orders

The New York Times, in an editorial on Sunday, called on Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to "throw a tantrum or two" to win his way over such "sharks" as the vice president and the secretary of defense, among others.

The latest reason for the liberal newspaper's ire was the Bush administration's decision to cut off U.S. financing for the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, although it also cited "issues ranging from North Korea to Iran to strategies for renewing Mideast peace negotiations."

"Mr. Powell has been bested on a number of important issues in recent months by more conservative and ideological figures in the Bush administration," the newspaper said. "Like the good soldier and loyal adviser that he is, Mr. Powell has swallowed the defeats, defended the party line and turned to the next crisis. The administration, and the nation, would be better served if Mr. Powell's views prevailed more often. The time has come when he should not be so accommodating. He might even throw a tantrum or two. ...

"The sharks circling around Mr. Powell include Vice President Dick Cheney; Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; and the White House political director, Karl Rove. Mr. Rove is especially eager to bend policy to placate the Republican right."

The newspaper seemed to suggest that Mr. Powell might do better if he would occasionally threaten to resign.

'Culture gap'

In an analysis of the Democratic Party's political health, Al From, chief executive officer of the Democratic Leadership Council, and pollster Mark Penn gave a sobering assessment yesterday of where the party stood with the voters, with a little more than three months to go before the elections. …