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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
CounterPunch News Service
Bloody Buffalo Billboards
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail