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A weekend spent bending paperclips into the shapes of US ordnance..., 2003-03-30 23:56:13 | Main | Abroad for a week..., 2003-04-01 05:15:28

Operation Support Tyranny:

"Worrying about the life and safety of the Iraqis is all very commendable, but the commission, I believe, should first and foremost concern itself with human rights abuses in Korea."

So says South Korean ex-expat Cho Se-hyon, and he's right. Human rights begin at home, if you care about such things look no further than your own government to find myriad positions that run counter to the interests of liberty. Needless to say it's easier to deal with your own problems than those of your neighbor, but like fussbudgeting quidnuncs who spend all their time fuddling with their neighbors' problems the pro-war crowd doesn't come across as terribly interested in doing anything about ours. On the holistic scale the situation is rather the opposite.

While the world is focused on Iraq US forces in Afghanistan are focused around a pipeline route, placing security into the hands of past human rights abusers rather than expanding the international peace-keeping force. Aid from the US, as widely reported, is only impressive on a scale of seriously diminishing expectations. Meanwhile the dramatic rise of the drug trade from Afghanistan is affecting the rest of Central Asia, with increasing rates of opiate addiction leading to increased rates of HIV infection.

Among the Coalition of Weakness supporting the US campaign in Iraq there are numerous countries that hardly rank better on human rights issues than Iraq does. Uzbekistan is among the the worst of the lot, and receiving generous support in return for its symbolic contribution to a pathetic PR campaign. Between this and the 'war on terror' the US has lifted restrictions on military aid to Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan, all three of which are run by autocratic governments.

Accompanying the State Department's recent condmenations of their human rights records the 2004 budget appropriates military aid, much of it dramatically increased from years previous, to numerous Central Asian autocracies, openly indulging atrocity. Goodbye to the old, meet the new friendly dictators:

This is accompanied by larger sums in economic aid, all likewise stringless, allowing these autocrats to spend more of their nations' money on keeping themselves in power. So it goes.

The new friendly dictators are all engaging in the violent repression of political dissent and varying degrees of religious prosecution. US policy towards Africa during the Clinton administration (not that Bush's is any different) bears many similarities to our policies towards these Central Asian autocrats - marred by neglect for human rights, accompanied by lofty rhetoric, and driven largely by corporate interests. After national security, then corporate security, then regional stability, maybe we'll consider considering human rights. As a fourth tier demand everywhere else it's impossible to take seriously the administration's rediculous focus on it with regard to Iraq. Like always there are plenty of people willing to take the bait - but they need to consider this proposition seriously, it's almost impossible to find anywhere else where human rights aren't being subordinated to some other list of interests: even the budget proposals themselves list them last. Unless there's a regime we're trying to topple there's no focus on human rights abuses, and among regimes we're supporting there's numerous ones worse than the regimes we're trying to topple. Aid should be strongly linked to human rights reforms from the start, if it's given at all. Far from combatting terrorism we are openly supporting it when we give unconditional aid to abusive regimes.

In any case one need look no further than the war on Iraq to see the US again holding human rights in disregard, almost as though human rights abuse were some kind of crazy opiate for the powerful: using cluster munitions; possibly using cluster bombs; using depleted uranium (the effects of which remain largely unknown and increasingly suspect); enflaming repression everywhere else; and, really, simply waging the war in the first place over other alternatives because it was the only option that has the side effect of extending American power.

It's supposed to be "liberty or death", not "liberty and death".

Needless to repeat, but just to grind the point further into the ground, the Iraq invasion isn't being accompanied by reversals in US opposition to the International Criminal Court, the international ban on landmines and cluster munitions, inexpensive anti-AIDS drugs for Africa, the Convention on Disappearances, or much of anything else wreaking of American hypocrasy. Nationalism wins out over justice everytime with the small-minded, as lofty rhetoric continues to accompany policy utterly divorced from the rhetorical goals. What does any of this have to do with defending the freedoms and rights of others? Is it any wonder that US diplomats continue to steadily tender their letters of resignation?


:: posted by buermann @ 2003-04-01 03:25:45 CST | link





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