Cutting through the bullshit.

Sunday 14 January 2007

US credibility undermined

On Friday, Human Rights Watch released its World Report 2007,

With US credibility undermined by the Bush administration’s use of torture and detention without trial, the European Union must fill the leadership void on human rights, Human Rights Watch said today...

So what’s wrong with this picture?

For one thing, this is the same organization that just last month was forced to retract it’s 22 November statement criticizing Palestinian non violent resistance. Although Norman Finkelstein and others called them on their innocent mistake, I thought Jonathan Cook offered the most cogent critique.

It’s going to take a lot more than a retraction to clean their tarnished image. They have made a pretty good start by debunking the Qana ambulance hoax myth. And they have more recently criticized the trial and execution of Saddam Hussein. But I think it’s worth examining the mentality they had to adopt to condemn nonviolent resistance in the first place. And I think it’s obvious where it comes from.

First of all, groups like HRW and Amnesty believe that they have to maintain an ‘apolitical’ appearance. It would be ‘political’ to assert that there is no symmetry between the violence of the oppressor, the occupier, the coloniser...and the resistance. So they have to adopt the fallacious 'even handed' approach.

In a more recent example, in the media release for the new report itself,

Israel launched indiscriminate attacks in Lebanon and littered southern Lebanon with cluster bombs during its war with Hezbollah. For its part, Hezbollah attacked Israeli cities without distinguishing between military and civilian objectives.

They start off by accepting Israeli claims at face value, as if it weren’t patently obvious that Israel’s war was not against Hizb’allah, but Lebanon. And they must immediately follow their criticism of Israel with criticism of some Arab entity. According to all reports, Hizb’allah, using comparatively primitive rockets that are difficult to target, somehow managed to hit military targets with considerably more consistency than the Israeli military, equipped with all the latest gadgetry. Unless the Israeli military are really quite exceptionally incompetent with all their toys, it seems that the attacks they launched were not indiscriminate at all. They deliberately targeted civilians. And ambulances. And those fleeing at the Israelis’ own behest. As for the cluster bombs, there is no doubt who they were intended to harm.

At a more venal level, these organisations rely a great deal on donations. I believe they are rather acutely aware of what happened to the American Civil Liberties Union in 1977, when they defended the Nazis' right to march through the predominantly Jewish Chicago suburb of Skokie and lost some 25% of their membership and a third of their funding base. Arieh Neier, now president of the Soros Foundation of all things, was then the ACLU boss. He went on to found and direct...guess what...HRW.

Obviously, there is no real parallel between Nazis with an ideological principle of exterminating Jews and Palestinians fighting for the most basic rights against an implacable colonial oppressor. But Zionists have spent the last six decades trying, with considerable success, to create the widespread impression that the Jewish people and the Jewish religion are indistinguishable from the Zionist state, and that any threat – even mild criticism of a specific policy – is tantamount to a new Holocaust. So human rights groups concerned to retain their existing levels of donations are probably prudent to adopt the pretense of ‘balance’. And we are absolutely right not to let them get away with it.

So the first question is who the hell are these hypocrites to get up on a high horse and evaluate not just the human rights performance of individual states – and non state actors, when they feel the need – but also which states provide ‘leadership’ on human rights issues.

The second question is where on earth did they get the impression that the US has ever been in a position to provide such leadership? Leaving aside such little matters as the brutal ‘white man’s burden’ Philippine war and the Indian wars and stuff that they carried out before the invention of human rights in 1948, it takes considerable imagination to place the mantle of human rights leadership on the country that oversaw, just to take a few examples, the Pinochet dictatorship, the counterinsurgencies in Guatemala and El Salvador, the Contra war against Nicaragua…the genocidal sanctions on Iraq. HRW seems to think that the US could provide human rights leadership by training the hemisphere’s torturers at the School of the Americas – now renamed to the innocuous sounding ‘Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation’ (WHISC) – since 1946. And now, all of a sudden, the victims of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib have blotted the US’s copybook. The victimization of Jose Padilla is a human rights issue that has deprived the US of the credibility it retained while victimizing Mumia abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier?

The third question is: the EU? Wasn’t the EU one of those unscrupulous and hypocritical mobs who, along with Russia and the UN, signed on to Bush’s bogus ‘road map’? Isn’t that the same EU that has cut off funding to the PA on the grounds that the electorate voted for the wrong candidates, making their very own little contribution to starving the Palestinians into submission? And they have the credibility to provide ‘leadership’ on human rights? Yeah, right!

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