Archive for the 'Human Rights' Category

Progress for same-sex rights in Cuba

Today marked a great victory and the promise for substantial future progress for our gay brothers and lesbian sisters living in Cuba.

https://paulitics.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/cuba-same-sex-marriage.pngAP reports that:

“Cuba‘s gay community celebrated unprecedented openness — and high-ranking political alliances — with a government-backed campaign against homophobia on Saturday.

[…]

“Cuban state television gave prime-time play Friday to the U.S. film “Brokeback Mountain,” which tells the story of two cowboys who conceal their homosexual affair.

“Prejudice against homosexuals remains deeply rooted in Cuban society, but the government has steadily moved away from the Puritanism of the 1960s and 1970s, when homosexuals hid their sexuality for fear of being ridiculed, fired from work or even imprisoned.

“Now Cuba’s parliament is studying proposals to legalize same-sex unions and give gay couples the benefits that people in traditional marriages enjoy.

“Parliament head Ricardo Alarcon said the government needs to do more to promote gay rights, but said many Cubans still need to be convinced.”

The significance of this move from a political perspective should not be overlooked. There is not a single Latin American country that recognizes same-sex marriages due to the high religiosity of the Latin American culture.

Thus, when we look at the recent good moves on this file in Cuba in concert with the multiple attempts by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to make Venezuela the first country on the face of the planet to explicitly recognize same-sex marriages in the text of the constitution, it is clear that socialism, when done right, is a way forward for everyone.

There’s still a lot of work to be done throughout Latin America for the GLBT community, and we should especially make sure not to let the governments — even allied socialist governments — guide the agenda. But, I think, there is very good reason for optimism given these developments.

Two more now confirmed war crimes to add to Bush’s tally

Despite a complete media blackout on the story in Canada, the U.K. and the United States, the dean of the U.S. White House Press Corps, Hellen Thomas, recently received a great deal of online attention for daring to state the obvious.  By most accounts, the attention began on the popular social networking site reddit.com, which managed to raise several thousand dollars to send Ms. Thomas flowers for what was seen as her daring question for White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

The ‘obvious’ thing that Thomas pointed out is, of course, that revelations of evidence (both photographic and otherwise) of the use of WWII-era torture techniques as well as evidence that U.S. President George W. Bush personally signed off on approving torture, necessarily means that President Bush lied when he said the U.S. does not torture.

However, even this somewhat subdued (yet obviously true) fact, has been met with a virtually complete media blackout.  One could even push the envelope even further in this matter though, and if North America had a critical press, Ms. Thomas’s question would not have been seen as either particularly extreme or controversial.  Rather, on the contrary, if Ms. Thomas wanted to be even more accurate, she could have also pointed out — with equal confidence — that these recent revelations on torture means that George W. Bush is, by definition, a war criminal and that this is but merely one of two items which came to light in the past two weeks which constitute war crimes on the part of the U.S. President.

The other revelation, which was covered somewhat in the mainstream press, was the revelation that U.S. President Bush blessed (and assisted through military aid) the expansion of the illegal Jewish settlements in Palestinian occupied territory.  Of course, acquiring lands through conquest constitutes not only a war crime but constitutes what Robert H. Jackson, chief prosecutor for the United States at the Nuremberg Trials, claimed was the “supreme” war crime.  This latter fact, yet again, was not mentioned in the mainstream media in North America or the U.K..

So, if you’re keeping track:  that’s two war crimes revealed in as many weeks.  The press has not only glossed over both revelations, but to the extent that Helen Thomas’s rather subdued and tame question about lying (rather than war crimes) has been addressed online or elsewhere, it has been treated as somehow radical.  Don’t get me wrong: Thomas deserves the utmost credit for posing her question in a forceful manner, but let’s not kid ourselves here — the lying is nowhere near as bad as the war crimes.

Holy red-baiting, Batman!

I recently submitted an essay in my academic life on the topic of the imperialism of ‘humanitarian’ intervention.

Unfortunately, my paper’s length went way over the maximum page allottance, so I had to cut out this section which critiques an absolutely incoherent attack on MIT linguistics professor Noam Chomsky from a paper published in 2003 by LSE professor, and part time professional red-baiter, Chris Brown.

Normally, I don’t let these sort of conservative anti-Chomsky attacks anger up the blood so much when I encounter them on the internet, but this sort of argument bothers me immensely when the author is able to get his or her work accepted by a peer-reviewed academic publication when even the most basic standards of decency show that this work is both fallacious and an ad hominem against another academic.

Thus, I have decided to reproduce selected quotes from this paper by Chris Brown along with my critiques of each quote.  I must apologize in advance for the lack of footnotes or endnotes because for some reason WordPress strips them out (although if anybody would like the specific citations I use, you can feel free to ask and I’d be happy to give them). 

The work being critiqued is:

Brown, Chris. ‘Selective Humanitarianism: In Defence of Inconsistency.’ In Ethics and Foreign Intervention. Edited by Chatterjee, D.; Scheid, D. Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 31-50.

—————————–

At the outset of his work, Brown writes that:

“[A] second preliminary point that needs to be acknowledged is that many of those who charge the interveners with inconsistency actually have agendas of their own which are unconnected to this issue.  Chomsky, for example, clearly would oppose any exercise of power by what he regards as the American Empire, and the charge of inconsistency is for the most part a rhetorical device designed to appeal to those who, while not accepting his wholesale critique of American society, are, nonetheless, concerned by the way in which American power is sometimes deployed.”

It is important to emphasize here that insinuating that one ought to discredit those who charge American ‘interveners’ with inconsistency (ex. intervening in Iraq for ‘humanitarian’ reasons whilst assisting in the US-sponsored Ethiopian invasion of Somolia currently underway or ignoring the crisis in the Darfur region of the Sudan) based on the existence of putative “agendas” is fallacious in three ways:  firstly, it constitutes an ad hominem attack on the character of the author in question based on political beliefs without consideration of the merit of the argument presented.  Secondly, it assumes that it is merely Chomsky et al. who have ‘agendas’ when it could just as easily be said of Brown’s work that it is no more and no less animated by ‘agendas’ (i.e. an anti-Chomsky ‘agenda’ or a pro-Wilsonian interventionist ‘agenda’ et cetera), than could be found in Chomsky’s work.  Thirdly, the word ‘agenda’ itself is a weasel word intended to connote nefariousness or duplicity and thus is not suitable for academic discourse.

Brown goes on to offer a moral explanation or defense of inconsistency in US intervention policy.  This argument states that:

“There is one possible answer to this question that would preserve the notion that the interveners where behaving consistently in accordance with some moral rule, and not simply selecting the case where they would intervene on the basis of non-moral criteria. Very crudely, it might be held that this particular case was chosen because it represented the most serious current violation of human rights or the situation where the most serious humanitarian disaster would follow from inaction — but this is, indeed, rather too crude because it ignores altogether issues of practicality. Better would be some notion of ‘triage’; thus, one might divide the world’s trouble spots into three categories — those where the difficulties are sufficiently minor such that forcible intervention would most likely always do more harm than good; those where the difficulties are of such magnitude that action would almost certainly be ineffective, either because of the scale of the problem (as, perhaps, with civil wars in the Congo) or because they are caused by states who have the power to turn any external military intervention into a full-scale war (as with Chinese depredations in Tibet, or Russian in Chechnya). [emphasis added]”

This argument is both morally coherent and extremely important.  Indeed, if this formulation were true, and if the United States’ inconsistent interventionism was motivated along the same lines as ‘triage’ then not only would this justify inconsistency in humanitarian intervention, but it would actually go much further and make it so that it would be immoral for the U.S. not to behave inconsistently. If, in a ‘triage’ situation, you frivolously waste the limited medical resources available on just any patient, then you potentially cause significantly more suffering and fatalities than if you limited your attention to the cases where the limited resources can be of most benefit.

This formulation is also relatively simple to test.  If it is true that a humanitarian ethics of ‘triage’ and efficacy is what animates the U.S.’s decision to intervene in a given crisis and not another, then there would be two factors which could explain specious arbitrariness both of which fall under Brown’s moral rubric of ‘triage’: First would be the scale of disaster, the second would be ease of remedy. So, if Brown’s ‘triage’ model holds up, one would expect that U.S. intervention to end human rights violations are avoided in situations which are likely escalate into a full-scale war against another hegemon such as China or Russia, and one would expect the actual cases of intervention to have occurred in situations which are easier to remedy and with less threat of an expansion of hostilities.

This ‘Ease of remedy’ notion — central to any ‘triage situation’ — can be interpreted in many different ways. It can have several factors, for instance:

-Geographic location (is the nation close to other co-operative allies?)
-Does there exist a definitive and coherent polis or political community that is being crushed by oppressors which, if left on its own, could establish itself as a viable state under international law’s so-called “principle of effectiveness”?

A cursory overview of the long history of U.S. interventionism clearly demonstrates that U.S. foreign action is not animated by any notion of ‘triage’.

Case studies to this effect:

#1) The U.S. decided to intervene in Kosovo despite massive Russian and Chinese opposition and eventual Russian land-based counter-intervention, thus greatly risking confrontation with at least one other major global hegemon.

#2) The U.S. decided to intervene in Panama at the dawn of the 20th Century and sever it from Columbian control, thus artificially creating a polis which did not exist previously and which was most certainly neither coherent nor viable under the ‘principle of effectiveness’. Indeed the evidence for this utter lack of its viability rests in the necessary presence of foreign (U.S.) battleships at port in Panama City for the declaration of independence and the outright mention of the United States as a protector and ally of Panama in state’s the new constitution — which, to my knowledge, is the only time ever in history that third party country other than victor and the country being declared independence from, is actually mentioned in such documentation.

Conversely,

#1) The U.S. chose not to intervene in Indonesia’s slaughter of the East Timorians which, between 1977 and 78 alone (although the oppression continued on into the 80s and for a majority of 90s as well), resulted in at least 200,000 dead, despite the extreme proximity of key U.S. ally Australia. Moreover, East Timor, by every account, meets the second criteria of a definitive and coherent polis which could achieve viability if left on its own.

#2) The U.S. chose not to intervene in the Kurdish regions of Turkey during their oppression, despite the extreme proximity of key U.S. allies Israel and Greece and the remarkable linguistic and social cohesiveness (not to mention territorially cohesive and contiguous) of the Kurdish regions.  Moreover, on this subject, Miller writes that:

“In Turkey, in the fifteen years prior to the bombing of Serbia, the death toll of a conflict over Kurdish autonomy and suppression of minimal expressions of Kurdish identity (including Kurdish names and cassettes with Kuridish songs, much less Kurdish-language schools), was 35,000, according to a Human Rights Watch estimate…. in the southeast there are 2 million people left homeless. The previous year, the UN Committee on Torture endorsed an Amnesty International allegation of widespread and systematic use of torture.”

Lastly, in both of these two aforementioned cases it wasn’t just that the U.S. callously gave a proverbial triage RTS (Revised Trauma Score) score of zero to the East Timorese and Kurds of Turkey.  The final blow to the ‘triage’ model is that during both of these crises, the U.S. actively engaged in assisting Turkey and Indonesia before, during and after the human rights violations in question.

Brown later goes on to give the most logically incoherent portion of his work when he poses the question:

“If to behave morally it is necessary to follow a non-arbitrary moral rule, then humanitarian interventions appear not to fit the bill — such is the charge made by critics to the evident discomfiture of supporters…. [But] is it always and necessarily wrong to be inconsistent or arbitrary in applying a moral principle?”

The context of this exerpt is extensive, but in this section, Brown is (correctly) making the argument that his critics hold the belief which, expressed using formal logic symbolism, would hold that:

moral behaviour → consistent behaviour
(“if moral behaviour then it must be consistent behaviour”)

However, Brown takes this logical formulation and attempts to deconstruct it by showing examples of inconsistency in US and UK tobacco, alcohol, drug and cannabis policy as a akin to US humanitarian interventionist policy.  Thus, what he is attempting to demonstrate using the example of US and UK policy in this area is:

 (¬ consistent behaviour ≠ ¬ moral behaviour) → opponents’ argument is flawed
(“if not consistent behaviour does not equal not moral behaviour, then the arguments of his opponents is flawed”)

However, the error Brown makes is that he assumes that ¬ moral behaviour = immoral behaviour in the same way that ¬ consistent behaviour = inconsistent behaviour.

In actuality, ‘not’ moral behaviour does not equal immoral behaviour since behaviour is not dichotomously moral or immoral.  There are any number of examples wherein a person can behave inconsistently and still be neither moral or immoral.  For instance, if, on the vast majority of days, I prefer to have sugar instead of sweetener in my coffee, my inconsistency one morning in asking for sweetener in my coffee is certainly, as demonstrated mathematically above, not moral behaviour, but it is also obviously also not immoral behaviour. My decision here would have been a pragmatic one — perhaps sweetener is less appetising, but also irritates my stomach less than real sugar — and thus was completely outside the dichotomy of moral and immoral behaviour.

Thus, what is clear is that inconsistent behaviour can be ‘not moral’ or outside of the realm of morality — which would fit within the formulation of Brown’s opponents.  But inconsistent behaviour cannot be moral behaviour unless this inconsistency is itself morally justifiable.  And, as the example of Brown’s ‘triage’ model demonstrates, Brown’s attempt to moralize the inconsistency of U.S. intervention simply does not coincide with reality.

U.S. and Tanzania best at clawing back women’s rights

According to the 2007 annual report on the global gender gap, the United States and Tanzania have had the most success at clawing back women’s rights amongst the top-teir (top 35) of the ranked countries.

The World Economic Forum has just released its 2007 annual report on the global gender gap and, in addition to the data on the United States and Tanzania, the report illustrates some interesting trends.  Obviously the World Economic Forum is not exactly stacked with socialists, but interestingly enough, its data goes a long way towards showing that the countries which chose to be animated by socialist values (even though they may retain a capitalist system) tend to be the best places for women’s equality.

From the Associated Press:

“Women in predominantly Muslim countries are struggling to compete for jobs, win equal pay and hold political office, falling behind the rest of the world in eliminating discrimination, according to a report issued Thursday by the World Economic Forum. 

Nordic countries, by contrast, received the best overall grades for gender parity in education, employment, health and politics, according to the review of 128 countries.

[…]

Overall, Canada’s score on the categories studies improved slightly, but that wasn’t enough to prevent the country from slipping to 18th from 14th spot in the world rankings. The United States finished in 31st spot down eight places from last year.

Sweden, which has more women than men holding high political office, topped the list, followed by fellow Nordics Norway, Finland and Iceland.

[…]

Ex-Soviet states with a Muslim majority, such as Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan, were in the middle of the field, but nearly all countries in the Middle East placed in the bottom third.

[…] [W]omen in Sri Lanka, South Africa, Cuba and Lesotho all fared better – relatively speaking – than women in industrialized countries such as Japan, Switzerland and the United States.”

The top 35 country standings are:

womens-inequality-ranking-2007-table.png

This is Cuba’s first year being ranked in the report yet already women in Cuba are ranked a full 9 places higher than women in the United States (as well as women in Japan and in Switzerland where women only got the right to vote in the last Canton in the 1980s).

Among the top-tier 35 countries, the countries with the greatest relative decreasing standard of living for women are:

#1: Tanzania (women’s global standing decreased by 8 places)
#2: The United States (women’s global standing decreased by 6 places)
#3: Macedonia (women’s global standing decreased by 5 places)
#4: Moldova and Canada [tied] (women’s global standing decreased by 4 places)

You can access the entire (lengthy) .pdf document on the gender gap, including the table included above, here.

12 reasons same-sex marriage will ruin society [funny]

Hat tip to the brilliant writers at the Gator Gay-Straight Alliance based out of the University of Florida for this fantastic work!

12 reasons same-sex marriage will ruin society

1. Homosexuality is not natural, much like eyeglasses, polyester, and birth control are not natural.

2. Heterosexual marriages are valid because they produce children. Infertile couples and old people cannot get legally married because the world needs more children.

3. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children because straight parents only raise straight children.

4. Straight marriage will be less meaningful, since Britney Spears’s 55-hour just-for-fun marriage was meaningful.

5. Heterosexual marriage has been around for a long time, and it hasn’t changed at all: women are property, Blacks can’t marry Whites, and divorce is illegal.

6. Gay marriage should be decided by the people, not the courts, because the majority-elected legislatures, not courts, have historically protected the rights of minorities.

7. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are always imposed on the entire country. That’s why we only have one religion in America.

8. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people makes you tall.

9. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage license.

10. Children can never succeed without both male and female role models at home. That’s why single parents are forbidden to raise children.

11. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society. Heterosexual marriage has been around for a long time, and we could never adapt to new social norms because we haven’t adapted to cars or longer lifespans.

12. Civil unions, providing most of the same benefits as marriage with a different name are better, because a “separate but equal” institution is always constitutional. Separate schools for African-Americans worked just as well as separate marriages will for gays & lesbians.

Top 13 dumbest comments on the Iraq War ever… and other awards

As most of you will probably be aware, I made a post last week comparing the U.S. to Al Qaeda which generated nearly 450 comments and 14,000 hits.

However, the bulk of these comments were spread out over this blog, facebook, reddit.com and digg.com.  So, since I just finally got aroud to reading all of the comments now (my girlfriend and I have been apartment hunting together, so I haven’t had time to blog lately), I figured I’d have some fun and take all of the comments from all websites and come up with a series of awards for the comments generated by this post.

I’m calling it the Paulies and the categories are: Dumbest commentBest commentThe greatest one-post response to a previous comment and, lastly, the greatest overall exchange.

Much like the Oscars, yes, the Paulies are also political (and rigged so that Martin Scorsese can’t win).  And, also like he Oscars, the Academy for the Paulies (i.e., me) considers it an honour just to be nominated.

So, in the first category: greatest overall exchange, the nominees are:

#1)  The exchange between harlon57 and pointman on reddit.
#2)  The exchange between RPJ and Armando on paulitics.wordpress.com
#3)  The exchange between Scheissen and hagbardceline on digg.com

And the winner is…..

The exchange between Scheissen and hagbardceline on digg.com! [music]

by Scheissen on 5/28/07 – 4 diggs
Bullshit. This is pure sensationalism propaganda from a socialist (he even has a link to about Marxism!). The United States didn’t and couldn’t cause 1.6 million deaths in seventeen years. And yet that person believes all killing is terrorism. I may have to bookmark this site just to laugh at it.
In recent news,
“U.S. frees 42 al Qaeda kidnap victims in Iraq”
http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/05/27/iraq.main/index.html

by hagbardceline on 5/28/07 + 3 diggs
Ok, so what number would be acceptable then?

by Scheissen on 5/28/07 – 3 diggs
How about not an imaginary inflated number? Let me guess, you’re the same person that believes the U.S. cause 600,000 deaths in the Iraqi war and not the 60,000 number.

by hagbardceline on 5/28/07 – 2 diggs
Don’t take any guesses, you don’t know me.
Way to dodge the question though, sparky. You can try again now.

by Scheissen on 5/28/07 – 2 diggs
???
Who the fuck even said there was an “acceptable number.” Thanks for assuming.
kthxbai

by hagbardceline on 5/28/07 + 1 digg
Aww that’s cute. You’ve taken a position you can’t quantify. Adorable.

by Scheissen on 5/28/07  – 3 diggs
You fucking moron, you insult me because I was “guessing” you and you made an assumption question for me to answer when it wasn’t even outlined in my post.

by hagbardceline on 5/28/07 + 1 digg
It’s an easy question man, since we are in a thread that addresses it, I thought it might be relevant.
WHAT NUMBER IS ACCEPTABLE?
“You fucking moron, you insult me because I was “guessing” you and you made an assumption question for me to answer when it wasn’t even outlined in my post.”
Since that is your submission for a credible thought, no less distinct english, I’ll go ahead and treat your further posts as if it were from a monkey with language.

In the second category: The greatest one-post response to a previous comment, the nominees are:

#1)  EntropyMan on Digg.com

by wintermd on 5/27/07 – 7 diggs
Dems have a plan for Iraq yet?. They have been in power for how long? No plan yet?

by EntropyMan on 5/28/07 + 4 diggs
There’s wintermd, on queue, with the only words he knows how to say. Is it a keyboard macro at this point? F6 = spout bullshit?

#2)  xTRUMANx on Digg.com

by wildone on 5/28/07 – 2 diggs
Our boys and girls are over there fighting a war with the SOB’S who took 2 air planes and crashed them into the world trade center. Before we got there the women of the country had no rights to anything education, voting, and any other right we Americana’s take for granted everyday. We are not terrorist we are the defenders of freedom. If you cant tell the deference them move your but over there and live in the middle east and see how great the locals are!

by xTRUMANx on 5/28/07 – 2 diggs
Actually, I’ve lived in the mid-east for 17 years. And I don’t stay in the U.S. so your argument of, “If you cant tell the deference them move your but over there and live in the middle east and see how great the locals are!” makes you look stupid, which makes your country look stupid (no offense americans, but that guy is making you look dumb). My family and I have enjoyed our stay in the mid east and we have never complained about women’s rights, not that we’re afraid, but we’ve accepted it. I know it may look like people have no rights (to you), nor am I saying there aren’t people in the mid east who want a more western like life, but most of us there enjoy life there and don’t appreciate foreign nations trying to stuff their values down our throats.
As for your boys and girls, whom you say are, “over there fighting a war with the SOB’S who took 2 air planes and crashed them into the world trade center” aren’t doing that in fact. America didn’t go to Iraq over Al-Qaeda and it’s obvious that you have been fed bullshit as to why your “boy and girls” are over there.

#3)  Schwallex from reddit.com

Jewjr -2 points 6 days ago
The guys mixing apples and oranges comparing terrorism to America. Actions that a government makes are far different then those of a terrorist. The main difference is a government should and can be held accountable for its actions.

Schwallex 11 points 6 days ago
Wait a minute. So, if Osama bin Laden and his followers founded a state of their own, if would be perfectly okay for them to come over and kill 655,000 Americans? You know, they could pretend to bring democracy to your country. And to get rid of your WMD, which you actually have.
“Actions that a government makes are far different then those of a terrorist.”
Well, that’s the entire point. Actions that the current U.S. government makes are not “far different then those of a terrorist”. You haven’t been following the news in the recent years, have you?

#4)  conundri from reddit.com

(responding to multiple comments that I was deliberatly misconstruing the term ‘terrorism’ to further my ideological/rhetorical/communist goals.)

conundri 3 points 6 days ago
Let me take you back in time, to when the word Terrorism was first coined… It began as government intimidation during the Reign of Terror in France (1793-1794), from the French word terrorisme.
“If the basis of a popular government in peacetime is virtue, its basis in a time of revolution is virtue and terror — virtue, without which terror would be barbaric; and terror, without which virtue would be impotent.” [Robespierre, speech in Fr. National Convention, 1794]
At the time, the French government was routinely using public executions with the guillotine against almost random citizens to perpetuate the state of fear that had brought the new government into power…
Simply redefining a word to not include yourself, or your own group’s actions does not change reality. A government can be terrorist in nature. Some examples might include Tiananmen Square, or even our own Kent State massacre, and I would argue that it is not even necessary for people to be killed in a terrorist act. Mass arrests for political purposes / imprisoning dissidents, or the taking of hostages would be examples of terrorist actions on either side of the line of government that don’t necessarily involve death.
Hope this sheds some light on the discussion from another vantage point…

And the winner is…..

#1)  EntropyMan! [music]

Continue reading ‘Top 13 dumbest comments on the Iraq War ever… and other awards’

Reality Check: What you’re not supposed to think about

“655,000 Iraqi civilians have died. Who are the terrorists?”
-Rosie O’Donnell from The View comparing U.S. activities with Islamic terrorism

Since Rosie O’Donnell has recently “got quit” from her job on The View (or rather, had her pre-existing plans for departure greatly accelerated) because of uttering this sentence, it is worth taking a second to explore the veracity of Rosie’s statement.

If we take the total confirmed attacks by Al Queda against the West (broadly understood) we have 5 acts of terrorism in total.  The 1993 WTC Bombing which killed 6. The 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole which killed 17. The September 11th attacks which killed 2974. The 2004 Madrid bombings which killed 191. And, lastly, the 2005 bombings in London, England which killed 52.

So, Al Qaeda has claimed a total of 3240 fatalities in the West.

Now America’s activities abroad are far too numerous to either delineate or to quantify, so, for simplicity’s sake, let’s limit it only to US involvement in the country of Iraq since the enactment of UN resolution 667 in 1990 up to the present.

The Gulf War and the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq throughout the 90s up until 2003 killed a total of approximately 1,000,000 (source).  And, from 2003 up until the present, according to the best and most thorough statistical project undertaken the U.S.  has killed approximately 651,000 in the Iraq War.

reality-check-us-versus-al-qaeda.pngSo, the U.S. has claimed a total of 1,651,000 (approximately — interesting how we don’t bother to count their fatalities isn’t it?).

Keep in mind this figure pertains only to the fatalities since 1990 and that this pertains only to fatalities the U.S. caused in the country of Iraq.  We could have just as easily included U.S. involvement in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Argentina, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, The Philippines, Iran, Lebanon, Somalia, South Africa, Cuba, Venezuela, Columbia, Brazil, and a host of other countries which undoubtedly would have made the data more interesting, but I think this makes the point.

Let us put this into perspective another way.  If a U.S. politician stood up and said that he’d kill 100 Iraqis for every one U.S. soldier killed, he would be considered a moderate since the U.S. has killed on average over 500 Iraqis for every one Westerner killed by Al Qaeda.

Now this isn’t intended to get into a debate over motivation or reasons for engaging in these horrible killings.  Everybody has reasons for the things they do and anybody can justify their actions (at least to themselves).  But, objectively, it is more than obvious that Rosie O’Donnell statement was actually conservative and an underestimation.

But, there are some things we (the people who are hated for our freedoms) are not supposed to think about and this, apparently, is one of them.

Who’s afraid of human rights? Conservatives apparently

amnesty-international.pngI recently came across Sam Carson’s fantastic posts (available here) on the 2007 Amnesty International Report (available here).  If you haven’t taken a look, it’s well worth the read.

In his post (actually it’s a series of posts) Sam draws attention to the sad criticism of Amnesty International by right-wing figures and organizations such as Alan Dershowitz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and the U.S.-based Capital Research Center.

I’ve always found Dershowitz et al‘s claims that Amnesty International is biassed to be disingenuous at best and I think Sam’s done a great job bringing this issue to the fore.

Specifically, the intellectually dishonest position of Dershowitz et al needs to have a better airing amongst true progressives so that the absurdity of the right’s claims that Amnesty International is a “political organization” with a bone to pick against the US and is biassed against them by focussing on their human rights abuses — can be once and for all discredited.

This task of discrediting the right-wing’s claims that Amnesty International focusses unduly on the US should be fairly to demonstrate for anybody who has ever read AI’s reports for three reasons.

First, even if there was more material on human rights abuses in the US and the West, this does not negate the validity of actual findings of their reports.  I don’t think anybody (even Dershowitz) goes so far as to claim that AI just makes this stuff up.  So complaining that AI is a political tool with an axe to grind against the US is a little bit like a child who steals a chocolate bar from the corner store, gets caught and then complains that he got spanked when the boy down the street has done worse.  The fact that the boy down the street has done worse has no impact whatsoever on whether or not the first child deserved what he got.

Second, the way Amnesty International has ALWAYS structured their reports — and, come to think about it, the way virtually all NGO reports are structured — is to lead with and emphasize places with the newest and biggest developments in human rights abuses and then, understandably, merely update information on already well-documented, long-standing human rights abuses like those in China or Columbia for instance. 

So since the US is the one creating most of the new and interesting ways to infringe upon human rights since 2002, what the hell do they expect??

Lastly, as Noam Chomsky is fond of saying, ‘whenever you hear something said with great confidence, it’s always a good idea to check first and see whether it is true’.  So, to recap, the claim by the right is that there is undue focus on the United States by Amnesty International and that the US is used as a ‘political punching bag’ by what constitutes an ultimately partisan organization.

If we take a look at the main body of the report (the country by country report) we see the following breakdown in the pages devoted to some key countries.  Out of 242 total pages, Afghanistan takes up about 2 pages, Algeria approximately 3 pages, Bosnia and Herzegovina about 3 pages, China around 3 pages, and the United States — which supposedly has so much undue focus — is tied with Columbia in taking up approximately 4 pages each.

Wow, I guess Amnesty International must really have an axe to grind against the US, eh?

(Oh, and if you think that maybe America is focussed on unduly in other countries’ reports, you’re wrong again.  The word “US” is mentioned approx. 150 times in the 242 page report — excluding the section devoted to the United States — but the vast majority of these occurances are attributable to either the phrase “US-led invasion of Iraq” or to occurances of figures for currency [GDP, foreign aid etc.] which are always given in US dollars.)

So who’s afraid of human rights?  It appears the answer is the United States, Russia, China, the Congo and the Taliban and conservatives.

Well, I guess they keep good company.


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