Human Rights Groups Against Human Rights


Recently, best-selling author Chris Hedges announced his resignation from PEN, a prominent international writers’ organization. That resignation was partially motivated by the fact that while PEN purports to speak on behalf of dissidents, it’s been completely silent regarding the US government’s imprisonment, torture, and abuse of military whistleblower Bradley Manning.

Hedges’ resignation was also in response  to PEN’s appointment of former US State Department official and Amnesty International USA director Suzanne Nossel as its executive director. As Hedges explains, Nossel “had been one of the most fervent cheerleaders for the Iraq War, indeed had written in support of the war in Foreign Affairs, had embraced the administration’s policy, whether that’s drone attacks, the assassination of U.S. citizens, the curtailment of civil liberties, had not spoken out against torture.” Nossel is also often credited with coining the imperialist Newspeak phrase “smart power.”

At Amnesty, she spearheaded a campaign glorifying the US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan, urging NATO to “keep the progress going” for Afghan women and girls. She evidently cared little for the human rights of innocents murdered by NATO’s night raids in Afghanistan, or for the opinions of women’s rights activists who actually live in Afghanistan. The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, far from seeing the war as “progress” for women, sees it as aggression that exacerbates violence against women.

PEN and Amnesty aren’t the only human rights groups complicit in state aggression. “Mainstream” LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights groups have a sordid history of supporting war, empire and incarceration. Dean Spade documents [PDF] many instances of LGBT rights being used as propaganda cover for state violence and repression, a phenomenon known as “pinkwashing.”

Spade writes, “The term ‘pinkwashing’ is most frequently used to describe the explicit strategy Israel has undertaken in recent years to market itself as a human rights leader based on its stances on same-sex marriage and LGBT military service,” even as it institutes policies of apartheid, burns civilians to death with white phosphorus, steals land, imposes dire poverty through its Gaza blockade, and perpetrates a litany of other human rights abuses. But with a bit of “pinkwash,” the Israeli state re-brands itself as a beacon of freedom.

While largely associated with the Israeli state, pinkwashing has also been deployed in support of state aggression by the US, with the full complicity of mainstream LGBT rights groups. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) celebrated passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which added sexual orientation and gender identity to federal hate crimes laws. But this law was not passed on its own. Instead, it was an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 Department of Defense Authorization. As Spade explains, “The bill set aside the highest amount of money ever provided to the Department of Defense in U.S. history. The increase in funding to the Department was made to cover the expense of Obama’s 100,000-person troop surge in Afghanistan.”

HRC celebrated the financing of violence abroad to prevent homophobic and transphobic violence at home. But there’s little evidence that hate crimes laws actually prevent violence, and lots of evidence that they strengthen America’s violent police and prison systems, which disproportionately harm members of the LGBT community.

More radical LGBT groups like the Sylvia Rivera Law Project reject hate crimes laws. But for groups like HRC, expanding the prison-industrial complex is just fine, and not just in the name of stopping hate crimes. HRC gives “private prison” and immigration detention center investor Wells Fargo top marks on its “Corporate Equality Index.” It presented an Equality Award to Jane Marquardt, Vice Chair of the Management and Training Corporation, the third largest operator of for-profit prisons in the country.

Human rights organizations shouldn’t be in the business of  handing out awards, accolades and executive positions to human rights abusers. Kudos to Chris Hedges for dissociating himself from such behaviors. Resistance to war, occupation and mass incarceration includes opposing organizations that falsely claim to fight for human rights.

Nathan Goodman is a writer and activist living in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has been involved in LGBT, feminist, anti-war, and prisonersolidarity organizing. In addition to writing at the Center for a Stateless Society, he blogs at Dissenting Leftist. He is a member of the Prison Divestment Project.

Nathan Goodman is the Lysander Spooner Research Scholar in Abolitionist Studies at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS.org). He blogs at Dissenting Leftist.

Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000
John Feffer
Mouths Wide Shut: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Paul Craig Roberts
The Impulsiveness of US Power
Ron Jacobs
The Murderer as American Hero
Alex Nunns
“A Movement Looking for a Home”: the Meaning of Jeremy Corbyn
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Xanthe Hall
Nuclear Madness: NATO’s WMD ‘Sharing’ Must End
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Uri Avnery
Abbas: the Leader Without Glory
Halima Hatimy
#BlackLivesMatter: Black Liberation or Black Liberal Distraction?
Michael Brenner
Kissinger Revisited
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Halyna Mokrushyna
On Ukraine’s ‘Incorrect’ Past
Jason Cone
Even Wars Have Rules: a Fact Sheet on the Bombing of Kunduz Hospital
Walter Brasch
Mass Murders are Good for Business
William Hadfield
Sophistry Rising: the Refugee Debate in Germany
Christopher Brauchli
Why the NRA Profits From Mass Shootings
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
Pete Dolack
There is Still Time to Defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Marc Norton
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
David Rosen
If Donald Dump Was President
Dave Lindorff
America’s Latest War Crime
Ann Garrison
Sankarist Spirit Resurges in Burkina Faso
Franklin Lamb
Official Investigation Needed After Afghan Hospital Bombing
Linn Washington Jr.
Wrongs In Wine-Land
Ronald Bleier
Am I Drinking Enough Water? Sneezing’s A Clue
Charles R. Larson
Prelude to the Spanish Civil War: Eduard Mendoza’s “An Englishman in Madrid”
David Yearsley
Papal Pop and Circumstance
October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?