Suppose you disagree with someone about a debt. So you compromise. You agree to pay more than you think you owe; he agrees to accept less than he thinks you owe. You shake on it.
Now suppose that you decide to fulfill your obligation only if he supports your application to join a club from which you had been ejected and only if the other members also support your application. Furthermore, you stipulate that you will pay only if the club gives you blanket immunity from its code of conduct.
Most people would say that you are moving the goal posts. They would be correct. That, in effect, is what the United States is doing with regard to the millions of dollars in back dues that it owes the United Nations.
The United States and the United Nations have a deal. Last year, they agreed that the United States would pay $926 million over three years and that the United Nations would, in return, undertake certain reforms. The United Nations implemented those reforms, and the United States made its first payment of $100 million.
But the second U.S. payment of $582 million is stalled. That's because the House of Representatives amended the bill authorizing payment. The controversial amendment would bar U.S. cooperation with the proposed International Criminal Court and deny military aid to any non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally that ratifies the court treaty. If the Senate disputes the amendment a likely prospect the United Nations may not receive the money in time for President Bush's address to the General Assembly on Sept. 24.
It gets worse. The House added another amendment that would withhold the final payment unless the United States regains its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
A deal is a deal. The United States should not set new conditions for payment because of the unfortunate loss of its human rights seat. Neither should it use the bill that would authorize payment to insulate itself from the court. It should pay its debt and spare Mr. Bush the embarrassment of having to explain why a country that exalts contracts is going back on its word.
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