The Human Rights Hypocrisy of the West
“…while the undermining of the rule of law, the normalization of war to advance national interests and the hollowing out of the human rights idea in order to justify “humanitarian interventions” might seem to be beneficial in the short term, the people of the world who have been slowly liberating themselves from the conceptual myopia of colonization see very clearly the hypocrisy of the West’s supposed commitment to universal human rights, democracy and the rule of law… “ (War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity: The Story of U.S. Exceptionalism in Iraq)
In a surreal replay of the Iraq debacle, the U.S. along with Britain and the “socialist” government of France are preparing another violation of international law with their plans to attack the sovereign state of Syria. The justification for this breech of the United Nations Charter is based on the dubious claims made by an insurgency, armed and trained by those same western powers and their regional allies, that a chemical attack was launched by the al-Assad government. An attack that illogically and irrationally took place at the precise moment the Syrian government was clearly winning the war against the so-called rebel forces and when United Nations inspectors were already in the country.
In a move that can only be seen as bizarre and came just as the UN inspectors who were invited to investigate the alleged attack by the Syrian government were starting their work, the U.S. asserted that it was too late for the inspectors and called for them to be withdrawn.
This forceful reaction stands in stark contrast to the feeble response to the slaughter of more than 1,000 demonstrators by the Egyptian generals over the last few weeks. With Egypt, the U.S. administration did not have to violate international law to express its opposition to the wanton violation of the rights of demonstrators to peacefully assemble. It could have condemned the coup and withdrawn its economic support, but chose to do neither.
Clearly there are two standards operative in the world today: one for the vast majority of nations and another for those comprising the dying but dangerous collection of European colonial capitalist nations that have decided to use military means to maintain their global hegemony.
U.S. criminality seems to be completely out of control. The U.S.-based peace and anti-imperialist movements continue to be in disarray, despite the fact that the majority of the population in the U.S. continues to oppose military intervention in Syria. During the Obama era, other progressives and radicals who traditionally have seen through the crude propaganda of the U.S. government have found themselves on the same side as the U.S., the dictatorships of the Gulf Cooperation States, Israel and the collection of second-rate European powers regarding Israeli attacks on Gaza, Libya, Egypt and Syria.
And Western-based human rights organizations continue to either provide intellectual cover for this rampant militarism with racist notions of “humanitarian intervention” or respond to these blatant violations of international human rights law with the most tepid and technocratic positions imaginable.
The merging of neoliberalism and militarism over the last decade coupled with the weak and often accommodationist positions of many Western-based human rights organizations demonstrate in graphic terms why a new “people-centered” human rights movement must be built, a radical human rights approach that is anti-imperialist and committed to systemic change in order to bring about social justice. A movement that is grounded in one ethical standard related to the conduct of States.
Until we build an independent human rights movement, we will continue to have Western hypocrisy posing as a “universal” norm, and the blood will continue to flow.
Ajamu Baraka is a long-time human rights activist, writer and veteran of the Black Liberation, anti-war, anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity Movements in the United States. He is currently a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C.