Thursday, May 29, 2008

Not Like the Others

A favorite show from my childhood had a sing-along game that asked the musical question, "Which of these things is not like the others?" Feeling a bit of whimsy, I will apply this question to the Amnesty International's latest "State of the World's Human Rights" report. To wit, which of these countries is not like the others: Russia, China or the United States.

Sadly, this is not a rhetorical question. As they have in the past, this year's AI report lumps America in with the worst of the world's human rights violators. The U.S. comes in for opprobrium because of alleged denial of habeas corpus to GITMO detainees, the death penalty, "disparities in law enforcement" directed toward minorities, and violence against women.

That no one at AI is willing to make distinctions of degree between the U.S. and other nations is indeed sad but not entirely surprising. For years now the United Nations - Amnesty's fellow traveler in denigrating Western-style democracies - has issued dozens of Security Council resolutions against Israel.
Many of the resolutions either "condemned", "censured" or "deplored" Israel or its actions, with the UN not concerning itself at all with the barbarity Israel's sworn enemies in the region.

All of this is troubling for a number of reasons. Both organizations seem to see themselves as voices in the wilderness speaking against occidental hegemony. But if AI - and by extension, the UN - cannot differentiate between nations that establish a right to habeas corpus to begin with, versus the continental concentration camps that are China and Russia (or even more virulent regimes such those in Cuba, Iran, North Korea or Zimbabwe), then neither organization can reasonably be trusted to serve as a guardian of individual rights.

Moreover, by attempting to indict the U.S. and/or Israel as their own whimsy strikes, both outfits actually serve to absolve culpable nations; if everyone is equally guilty, than everyone is equally innocent. They also trivialize the true suffering occurring in Darfur, Lebanon, Myanmar, Syria, Tibet, Turkmenistan, Venezuela and elsewhere. Indeed, the fact is that most of the world is shrouded in a Stygian darkness unmitigated by any basic human rights whatsoever. Amnesty's report suggests that the darkness of the human condition is compounded by Amnesty's own moral opacity.

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