Obama’s Human Right Failure


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The White House says human rights “will be on the agenda and will be tremendously important” during President Barack Obama’s summit with President Hu Jintao of China. If so, it’s about time.

As Jackson Diehl observes in a thoughtful piece in The Washington Post, the Obama administration has not only been quiet on human rights and democracy, but has conveyed a “deeply ingrained resistance to the notion that the United States should publicly shame authoritarian regimes or stand up for the dissidents they persecute.” When it comes to speaking up for democracy and speaking out against dictatorship, Diehl writes, “The U.S. voice remains positively timid—or not heard at all.”

This is one of the regrettable consequences of Obama’s desire to be the anti-Bush, and it’s good that people are finally taking notice.

Some of us have been expressing concerns about this shift away from promoting democracy and toward a kind of agnosticism on human rights and democracy-building for a long time (see here and here).

Indeed, there were early indications of this long before this year, even before the election of 2008. Back in July 2007, for example, during Obama’s endless campaign for the White House, AP pointed out that “Presidential hopeful Barack Obama said…the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems.”

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Presidents from both parties have used military force to address humanitarian problems and affronts to human rights. Indeed, contrary to what the isolationists and realists tell us, this is deeply ingrained in American foreign policy:

• In the 1840s, when Ireland was ravaged by famine, the U.S. response included “two sloops of war, four merchant ships, and two steamers” full of aid, as Robert Bremner writes in American Philanthropy.

• TR observed that in the face of “crimes committed on so vast a scale and of such peculiar horror,” even when “our own interests are not greatly involved, strong appeal is made to our sympathies.”

• Truman launched the Berlin Airlift for a mix of humanitarian and strategic reasons.

• Ford deployed military forces to rescue orphaned Vietnamese babies and children.

• The elder Bush dispatched U.S. forces to help the friendless Kurds and the starving Somalis. Clinton did likewise in the Balkans. The younger Bush followed suit in Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Africa.

In short, answering when the forgotten and the oppressed cry out for help is part of what America does.

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  • http://www.chick.com Raymond

    Obama the destroyer is NOT interested
    in "human rights." The truth is, much evil
    has been done under the banner of
    so-called human rights.

  • aspacia

    Truman's air lift was a strategy to halt Communist expansion more than human suffering. This strategy is what pulled us into the Korean and Vietnamese conflict.

    • ajnn

      The US policy was twofold: (i) supporting allies and promoting democracy and (ii) containment of the expansionist / imperialistic Soiet/Chinese axis.

      As Americans, we can be proud of this policy pursued at great risk and cost in pursuit of human dignity and freedom.

      • aspacia

        Was Truman aware of the communist massacres? I am unsure regarding this. Also, many historians argue that we used Fat Man and Little Boy as a ploy to intimidate Stalin.

        Do not misunderstand, I do believe Truman was correct using the A bombs to prevent a million allied casualties. Communism is a threat to our capitalism, and Truman was a habadasher who strongly believed in capitalism. I do not believe his only intention was altruistic. At the moment, we send millions in foreign aide to many lands, including many corrupt Middle-Eastern, human rights violating dictators, for our strategic interests, not our interest in preventing human suffering.

  • StephenD

    "There were also hints of Obama’s ambivalence toward human rights…."  Hints? I'd say it is blatant when he allows our tax dollars to continue to support regimes that, in violation of OUR LAWS, employ child soldiers. Specifically he has allowed a wavier for Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Sudan to continue to receive aid from us while using children as soldiers. Why do you think these countries? Could it be that Muslim Sudan was about to face a vote by the southern Christians to form their own country? Do you think they would use children?  All these countries would have no compunction to using children since the ends justify the means. His speech in Tucson about the loss of a 9 year old girl "seemed" heartfelt. IF he really cared for children or human rights, why on earth would he allow for this wavier at all? Someone should call him on this hypocrisy.

  • gerard okofo

    In DR Congo, A country were people were naturally friendly toward USA ( Gospel influence), Bill Clinton then, and now Obama are backing an impostor Joseph Kabila(criminal) who is a Puppet of Kagamé… The united states Helps Uganda and Rwanda to instal a governement puppet in Congo to the damn of congoleses people strife for real democraty. Joseph kabila with his mentor Kagame of rwanda have committed a genocide in the Congo(well documented).. No body cares as long as nations are looting Congo natural resources at the misery of the populations..

    • ajnn

      Thank you for pointing this out.

      It is an outrage and an affront to the values and history of the United States that our government behaves in this unconscionable way.

      Please make these points not just here, but on every internet space that you can find.

  • flameofjudah

    Everyone should accept that as far as Obama is concerned, he is a completely empty suit. A bad actor who is learning on the job how 'to act' presidential. Unfortunately for all enslaved and burdened people of the world, there is no "there" there…

    Pity …

    • http://www.mysapce.com/freddawes1776/ Fred Dawes

      thank you listen to savage nation

  • camp

    Obama believes in totalitarian regimes, descent is to be ridiculed or ignored, he is doing the same thing here. This administration doesn't want to encourage descent or revolution in countries they admire and seek to emulate.

  • http://www.mysapce.com/freddawes1776/ Fred Dawes

    Human right are in fact a tool being used on us all, it is a tool to keep people in line and to murder millions.

  • Yoshi11

    In order to understand why Obama has been AWOL on the question of human rights, we need to understand his position on Islam — which is not even hinted at in this article. Obama is doing everything politically possible to advance the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood and to appease Moslems and the Islamic world. It is not secret that the entire Islamic world — all the Moslem-majority countries plus the leaders of the Moslem communities in non-Moslem countries reject the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Instead, they all subscribe to the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam which asserts the legal superiority of Islam over all other religions, and which makes all human rights subject to Sharia law. These two declarations of human rights are totally incompatible with one another. Obama knows that any move to defend human rights will strike at the heart of Islam and the Islamic world. Since his avowed purpose is to appease the Islamic world, he will never push human rights. Instead of pushing human rights in Saudi Arabia, for example, he bows to the king of Saudi Arabia.

  • hijinx60

    Obama's dismal failure on human rights can be seen in the fact that he listed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Comission over the passage of AZ's SB1070. I haven't been able to find out, but I would bet that it is the first time that a nation has been reported by its' own leader.