FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Human Rights Groups Against Human Rights

by NATHAN GOODMAN

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.

More articles by:
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 20016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
Andrew Levine
Why Not Hillary?
Paul Street
Hillary Clinton’s Neocon Resumé
Chris Floyd
Twilight of the Grifter: Bill Clinton’s Fading Powers
Eric Mann
How We Got the Tanks and M-16s Out of LA Schools
Jason Hirthler
The West’s Needless Aggression
Dan Arel
Why Hillary Clinton’s Camp Should Be Scared
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Flunks Decontamination
David Rosen
The Privatization of the Public Sphere
Margaret Kimberley
Obama’s Civil Rights Hypocrisy
Pete Dolack
We Can Dream, or We Can Organize
Chris Gilbert
Corruption in Latin American Governments
Dan Kovalik
Colombia: the Displaced & Invisible Nation
Jeffrey St. Clair
Fat Man Earrings: a Nuclear Parable
Medea Benjamin
Israel and Saudi Arabia: Strange Bedfellows in the New Middle East
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail