The Human Rights Litmus Test
The 2013 edition graphically outlines all the terrible stuff that’s going on around the globe, a catalogue of affronts to human kindness and decency. Unilaterally murdering American citizens (not to mention civilians of numerous nationalities) with CIA drones, and thereby obliterating the increasingly archaic concept of “due process,” is nowhere mentioned. But there’s plenty of other nauseating stuff.
Anti-gay legislation, some with potential death penalties, in 80 countries. Russian and Chinese outrages against civil liberties. And, of course, the ongoing disrespect for life and dignity on display in Syria.
The report also details horrendous human rights abuses in place like Turkey, Qatar and Egypt. Our allies. Our “friends” in the region. These repressive regimes are the beneficiaries of American “foreign aid,” an Orwellian locution to describe bribe money paid to local warlords in exchange for “strategic interests,” which usually means a place to park our weapons and trained killers we call “soldiers.” In July, when the Egyptian military deposed a democratically elected President that they (and many Egyptian civilians and probably the State Department) didn’t like, we, the Leaders of the Free World, steadfastly refused to call what happened a “coup.” This was necessary because of our strategic interests.
Remember what those are? Yes, our interest in having our destroyers and bombers nearby so that our other interests in whatever resources and profits we can extract may proceed unfettered, with the profits flowing uninterrupted, like the oil pipelines your tax dollars subsidize.
Torture. Suppression of media. Censoring of political opposition. Executions without due process. None of these things is OK, except when they are. When there’s money at stake.
So while the State Department notes an uptick in “egregious atrocities,” we might ask ourselves in whose name are these atrocities being committed?
We might ask why we use our military might, built on the lives of mostly poor people, to protect our financial interests but not our human interests?
We might ask why we accept a remarkable portion of our national treasure being spent to concentrate power in the hands of our military, yet that military stands idly by while one genocide after another ignites within our global reach? Answer: They aren’t standing by idly; many of them are busy doing other stuff, like walking around Kabul getting attacked.
Many of our progressive sisters have already voiced unqualified support for the not-yet-announced candidacy of Hillary Clinton for President. Sure, it would be awfully swell to have a female President of the United States, now that we’ve successfully broached the “person-of-color” barrier and can move onto the next step in our evolving experiment in democracy. But what our forward-thinking friends have trouble acknowledging is that Hillary Clinton – and every other potential nominee in both of the main Money Parties — represents more of the same.
More of the same State Department irony. More killing and maiming in the name of all that’s holy (or profitable) while decrying the condition of Human Rights around the planet, including in the countries we call our friends.
If you’re an American who truly values this amorphous concept we call Human Rights, the basis of what used to be known as civil society, perhaps a litmus test is in order. Maybe before you vote for a candidate for any office, you might have a qualifier, a condition they must meet before you’ll support them. Maybe we need to ask our leaders to sign a pledge that they will respect Human Rights at home and abroad, in stated policy and observable actions.
We already know where Clinton stands on the issue. You may recall that last year, the one that was especially grim for humans everywhere, particularly Pakistani civilians, Afghani civilians, Yemeni civilians, and American citizens with dangerously big mouths and no recourse to be removed from Kill Lists — she was the Secretary of State.
How about someone who thinks we should close our foreign military bases, shrink our forces to levels sufficient to protect our Homeland, and begin to rebuild our democracy on the principles of Human Rights, not strategic interests?
That would be change we could believe in.