The misuse of the concept of human rights by the U.S. State Department to further U.S. Government interests is pretty blatant: tyrants who side with the Pentagon and Wall Street are OK; everyone else is bad. Of course, if we examine the record of the United States itself, there would be few contenders for worst perpetrator of abuse of international human rights law, but that isn’t on Secretary Clinton’s mind when issuing the annual report demonizing America’s enemies and whitewashing America’s pals.
Knowing American media will uncritically leap on any press releases she issues condemning supposedly rogue or miscreant states, Hillary has little fear of exposure for such vast hypocrisy. Having been long reined in and embedded, the domestic Fourth Estate will not even bother to examine these reports for accuracy. With PR firms in tow, Secretary Clinton can outsource propaganda to suit the occasion, confident it will be on the front page of the New York Times or on CNN tomorrow.
While a few independent monitors of human rights situations publish online, the big international NGOs are often corrupted by the power and prestige of rubbing elbows with state and corporate underlings, and have recently become more compliant with the US hegemonic project. Given this scenario, we need to look at some of the facts associated with US aggression toward international human rights law since its outset.
Initially, the U.S. Government countermanded efforts by the fledgling United Nations to establish a human rights regime at all. Later it found it could be a tool to attack their foes from a position of moral superiority it assumed as the victor in the recently ended world war. Even as the US adopted a global agenda to undermine national sovereignty during the Cold War, it dressed its foreign policy in the cloak of human rights for domestic consumption.
While much was made of the United Nations decision to establish a Human Rights Council in 2006, those who’ve witnessed the evolution of this institution are well aware that the UN was designed by (and functions to serve) the interests of modern states and their supplicants, not the Indigenous nations they rule. For those attached to charitable organizations like Human Rights Watch and other pashas of the piety industry, this is a bitter pill to swallow.
Looking at Israel — a state created by the UN — and its ongoing human rights abuses toward the indigenous peoples of Palestine, we can see how the UN has actually been an obstacle to peaceful political development. By acceding to American demands for crippling economic sanctions against Palestine, the UN has undermined their ability to manage their own affairs, in turn creating the desperation and humanitarian crisis to which cynical NGOs often cater.
Not mincing words in his commentary, Dr. Rudolph Ryser — Chair of the Center for World Indigenous Studies — stated,
The UN Human Rights Council stands as one of the significant obstacles to dynamic political development in the Fourth World. Many individuals and the peoples they represent in the Fourth World have come to believe that the UN Human Rights Council will relieve their pain from the violence of colonialism. It cannot, and it will not.
In 2007, when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the US was one of four countries in the world that opposed it. Along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the US had to be embarrassed into even a half-hearted, duplicitous endorsement years later.
Using another example, three countries in the world have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child: Somalia, South Sudan, and the United States of America. As David Swanson recently reported, the UN concerns about the U.S. military recruiting, killing, imprisoning, and torturing children leave little room for hedging.
As with other aspects of international human rights law, the US has been a hindrance rather than a leader. As it continues to attack guarantors of Indigenous human rights like the plurinational state of Bolivia, it is up to unembedded journalists and activists to see that US hypocrisy is not rewarded.
While the US and the UN leave a lot to desire in their performance on human rights compliance, they remain integral to the international human rights regime. If we are ever to see human rights observed in practice rather than on paper, we will first have to bring them to heel.