Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What are they thinking?

“Secretary of State Clinton announced yesterday that for the first time ever, the United States is imposing sanctions against Iran-based individuals for human rights abuses. She said that President Obama signed an executive order on Sept. 28 that sanctions eight Iranian officials who have been involved in "serious and sustained" human rights violations since June 2009's disputed presidential election. Under these officials' watch, Iranians have been "arbitrarily arrested, beaten, tortured, raped, blackmailed, and killed," Clinton said.”

This news item appeared in yesterday's newspaper; you can also find it on the Internet.

I find this news completely astonishing. If your house is dirty are you going to criticize your neighbors’ house keeping? Surely not. Is our conscience is clear that we do not commit human rights abuses and do not support  governments that do? If not, it makes no sense for us to criticize the human rights abuses of other countries.

According to our Constitution everyone has a right to a speedy trial, to being promptly arraigned, and to be tried by a jury of their peers. But prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have been held for many years without being accused of any definite crime. Some of them have been tortured in secret CIA prisons.

We support governments that commit human rights abuses every day. As I mentioned in a recent blog,  our government has decided to sell $60 billion worth of advanced air craft to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia does not recognize religious freedom. Women's lives are carefully circumscribed; only 5% of the workforce are women. Women are not allowed to drive automobiles. Some women are allowed to pilot planes but they must be driven to the airport by a man.

Is that the sort of country that champions of human rights should support?

Our record on human rights is, unfortunately, not spotless. (Readers who know their history may remember Sacco and Vanzetti and the Rosenbergs) We are not in a position to punish other governments for their human rights violations.

Young American men and women are fighting and dying in Afghanistan trying to "win the hearts and minds" of the Afghani population away from the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Does our government really think that they are helping this effort by being grossly hypocritical about human rights in our country as well as abroad?

The condemnation of Iranian politicians and ministers may have been deserved but the people who decided to make a public spectacle of that -- the Secretary of State and the President --  have stopped thinking about America's role in the world. Otherwise they would have realized that they were making a laughing stock of America.