Human Rights

HUMAN RIGHTS….Instapundit has a post up right now ? I think it’s about the 500th in a series ? asking why “they” complain about Guantanamo but not about the much worse conditions of Saddam’s prisons. I assume “they” refers to human rights organizations in particular and perhaps liberals in general, but either way this trope has gone way past tiresome.

To start with, human rights groups do complain about wretched conditions in Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe, and dozens of other hellholes around the world. What’s more, they even try to do something about it. They don’t have the resources of the 101st Airborne at their disposal, but they do what they can, and they do it all the time, not just when it’s politically convenient.

Second, as conservatives know perfectly well, everyone complains about conditions in their own country more than they do about conditions in other countries. Partly this is because ? well, because it’s their own country. And in democracies like America, interest groups have a reasonable belief that pressure on the government has some effect, whereas they know perfectly well that isn’t true in a dictatorship like Iraq.

Simply saying that human rights groups “don’t launch major PR offensives” about things like prison conditions in Iraq doesn’t make it true. In fact, it isn’t true: they do launch PR campaigns about this kind of stuff, and not just in Iraq, but everywhere. And you know what? They get ignored ? or worse, labeled terminally naive ? by the same foreign policy hawks who are criticizing them now. These guys would prefer that human rights be ignored in countries that are temporarily friendly to our interests and condemned only whenever it suits our needs. And Gitmo? They just shake their heads. Why would any group actually try to pressure its own country into acting more humanely? It’s almost beyond belief, no?

But the United States should be held to higher standards than countries like Iraq. The day that stops being the case is the day that America stops mattering as a country.

POSTSCRIPT: At this moment, the Amnesty International website is highlighting the following causes: making sure that evidence of Iraqi atrocities is preserved so that perpetrators can be brought to justice, their opposition to the death penalty, human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, imprisoned children in the Philippines, mass detentions in Cuba, and a stoning case in Nigeria. Is there anything wrong with this particular list of issues?

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