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Two Short Paragraphs that Summarize the US Approach to Human Rights Advocacy

By       Message Glenn Greenwald       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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In his excellent article on the unique guilt-by-association standard being imposed on newly elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, my colleague Jon Schwarz references a passage from a 2013 Washington Post article that I want to highlight because of how illuminating it is. That Post article describes the Obama administration's growing alliance with human-rights-abusing regimes in Africa, which allow the U.S. to expand its drone operations there, and contains this unusually blunt admission from a "senior U.S. official" (emphasis added):

"Human-rights groups have also accused the U.S. government of holding its tongue about political repression in Ethiopia, another key security partner in East Africa.

"'The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass,' acknowledged a senior U.S. official who specializes in Africa but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution. 'Whereas other countries that don't cooperate, we ream them as best we can.'"

The Post article went on to note that the Bush administration "took the same approach" and that while "many U.S. diplomats and human-rights groups had hoped Obama would shift his emphasis in Africa from security to democracy ... that has not happened." In fact, "'there's pretty much been no change at all,' the official said. 'In the end, it was an almost seamless transition from Bush to Obama.'"

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The italicized portion of the quote explains the crux of feigned U.S. concerns for human rights abuses: it's never genuine, never anything more than a weapon cynically exploited to advance U.S. interests. The U.S. loves human-rights-abusing regimes and always has, provided they "cooperate": meaning, honors U.S. dictates. On human rights abuses, such compliant regimes "get at least a free pass": at least, meaning either passive acquiescence or active support. The only time the U.S. Government pretends to care in the slightest about human rights abuses is when they're carried out by "countries that don't cooperate," in which case those flamboyant objections to abuses are used by U.S. officials as punishment for disobedience: to "ream them as best we can."

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Glenn Greenwald is one of three co-founding editors of The Intercept. He is a journalist, constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times best-selling books on politics and law. His most recent book, No Place (more...)
 

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