On June 4, 2009, I wrote a post bemoaning how the media always focuses on how China treats its citizens, but ignores far more brutal countries such as Egypt, Libya, and Yemen (among others). I entitled the post, “I’m Sorry, But US Hypocrisy On Human Rights Is Continuing Apace Under Obama. China Is Exhibit A” and in it, I bemoaned American naivete on these issues. Man did I call it. Here’s my post again, but with the portions highlighted that really make me look like I knew whereof I was speaking:
1. I love my country — the United States.
2. Of course I believe in human rights.
3. The US should strive to be a beacon on human rights.
4. When appropriate, and in ways that are appropriate, the US should encourage other countries to maintain human rights as well. Not in an idiotic Jimmy Carter sort of way, but in a sophisticated Henry Kissinger/Bill Clinton/Ronald Reagan sort of way.
5. I supported Hillary Clinton for president up until the very last minute.
But Hillary (and Barack), would you please get a damn clue on human rights, would you please stop embarrassing my country, would you please stop being such hypocrites, and would you please stop using human rights as a way to advance your popularity at home. I am referring to the US (on today of all days) blasting China for human rights violations that mostly took place 20 years ago. I say today of all days because today is the day that President Obama is making nice to Saudi Arabia while touting his next day speech in Egypt. I am not saying that Obama should not be engaging in diplomacy with those two countries, but they are about as far from paragons of human rights as one can get. As we lawyers like to say, let’s look at the evidence:
1. Saudi Arabia is a country which denies the most basic of human rights to more than half of its population. Women are second class citizens and non-Muslims and homosexuals are denied virtually any rights. Criminals are not just executed, they are beheaded after their execution. And does anyone seriously doubt that highly placed Saudi governmental figures funded 9/11 and continue to fund terrorism and extremism around the world?
2. President Mubarak is a bit more sophisticated than the Princes who control Saudi Arabia, which means only that he wears nice suits while imprisoning, torturing, or killing anyone who questions his authority or his health or his age or his autocratic lifetime rule or his passing on his “throne” to his son. This country too represses all its non-Muslims, having already driven most of them out and now working very hard to do the same with the rest. To the extent Egypt looks good, it is only because those striving to take over would probably be even worse.
If you are female, where would you rather be, Egypt/Saudi Arabia or China?
If you are a homosexual, where would you rather be, Egypt/Saudi Arabia or China?
If you are practice a religion other than Islam, where would you rather be, Egypt/Saudi Arabia or China?
If you are against the government in power, where would you rather be, Egypt/Saudi Arabia or China?
If you are going to be charged with a crime, where would you rather be, Egypt/Saudi Arabia or China?
If you are a journalist, where would you rather be, Egypt/Saudi Arabia or China?
We all know China is the answer to every single question set out above.
I am not condoning China but I do think that public denunciations of it are counterproductive in terms of effecting positive change there and I think they make us look downright stupid when we make no such denunciations of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
I would prefer that we talk human rights with China in private, not in public. And if we are going to talk human rights a la Jimmy Carter, can we at least start the conversation with Iran, North Korea, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Zimbabwe Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, or Iraq (yes Iraq, which though our “close ally” is really just your standard Middle East thugacracy). If we did that, the world might actually believe we are doing so because we care and not to gain political advantage at home.
Let’s get a human rights policy in place and stick with it, people. Near as I can tell, we still have none.
What do you think?
What I find so amazing about recent events in Libya is how the United States has rushed in to condemn Ghaddifi for doing what he has always done, which is to murder and brutalize his own people. I cannot help but view this as a case of the United States (and the world) not caring until they are embarrassed when the killings show up on CNN. I do not agree with those in the United States and elsewhere who are talking about putting American troops’ lives at risk to intervene in Libya’s civil war.
The world did not want American intervention a few months ago and the world should not want it now. If anyone is going to stop the now public killings in Libya, it should be the Arab League (has that group ever actually done anything?), if it so chooses. The United States should and must stay out. And if the United States has the impulse to assist groups opposing their own government, I suggest it start with Iran, because at this point it is not clear that the fighting in Libya is that between a dictator and democrats as opposed to one part of the country fighting with another over oil.