FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Know Your Dictator

by NADIA HIJAB

As the United Nations General Assembly convenes this week, a high-level parade of actual and aspiring dictators arrives in New York City. This is a good time for people of conscience to reflect on how to deal with dictators.

The U.S. government appears to have found a way that works for it: Libya is a case in point. Having long treated it as a pariah high on the terrorist list, the United States began to rehabilitate Colonel Muammar Qaddafi after 2003, when Libya agreed not to seek nuclear weapons and to pay compensation for its implication in such crimes as Lockerbie.

The world will be seeing a lot of Libya this week. It was elected to hold the presidency of this year’s General Assembly and will preside over the high-level meetings. Qaddafi will participate in the historic Security Council summit chaired by Barack Obama. Yet there are few perceptible reforms within Libya itself as he celebrates his 40th year in power.

Many of us may find it difficult to know what’s right and what’s wrong in such situations. How far should human rights advocates push their governments? Who decides when to protect a population, how, and at what cost? In the month leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, many well-intentioned people, even those who expressed doubts about the Bush war objectives, said, “Saddam Hussein is a terrible dictator; we owe it to the Iraqis to do something.”

Those who still think so should probably take a moment to read the eloquent statement by Muntadhar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw a shoe at Bush and who was just released from prison. Iraqis were well aware of the oppression they lived under, he said, but the invasion and occupation has “divided one brother from another …. It turned our homes into never-ending funeral tents. And our graveyards spread into parks and roadsides. It is a plague.”

Clearly, invasion and occupation are not the way to deal with dictatorship. So what can ordinary citizens do?

Well, first, define your dictator. Respectable human rights organizations — ones that are not seen as Western-funded or guided — should come together to compile a citizen’s Good Government Index and rank governments accordingly. There are, of course, “freedom indices” that rank states based on some civil and political rights. The GGI would be broader and cover issues like corruption as well as progress in achieving development goals.

No country would score full marks. For example, accusations of fraud in elections would apply not just to Iran and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but also to the United States and George W. Bush. Similarly, the Arab world is not the only region where leaders pass power on to sons while people remain fairly powerless.

A state would not be allowed to claim the mantle of democracy if it privileges some ethnic or religious groups or is responsible for prolonged violations of human rights through occupation, as is the case of Israel. Acts of rendition and torture would count for something too.

Second, narrow the dictator’s reach. States that do not score above 60 per cent on the GGI should not be considered for election to the Human Rights Council or to lead other world bodies. Concerned citizens would need to lobby to ensure that their countries vote only for states that rank higher on the index.

States really value international recognition. For example, in the heated race to head UNESCO, the U.N.’s educational, scientific, and cultural organization, Egypt is bringing its full weight to bear behind its former minister of culture. Arab press reports even claim that Egypt is promising to be “neutral” on settlements just to get Israel to withdraw its reservations.

Third, do business, but not as usual. No amount of internal repression will stop governments and corporations from doing business with non-democratic regimes. What concerned citizens should do is limit normal business dealings partly through citizen boycotts and partly by lobbying and media outreach. At a minimum, there should be a push for an arms boycott against repressive states.

For the GGI to work, citizens need to be better informed about foreign policy on an ongoing basis, not just when their country launches an invasion in their name. While there is more information available than ever, the realities of daily life intrude. That’s where a well-designed index produced by respected organizations would help. There have been some attempts to produce such an index. Since the number of dictators is growing, these attempts are worth pursuing.

NADIA HIJAB is an independent analyst and a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies.

 

More articles by:
February 21, 2018
Cecil Bothwell
Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear
Ajamu Baraka
Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire
Edward Hunt
Treating North Korea Rough
Binoy Kampmark
Meddling for Empire: the CIA Comes Clean
Ron Jacobs
Stamping Out Hunger
Ammar Kourany – Martha Myers
So, You Think You Are My Partner? International NGOs and National NGOs, Costs of Asymmetrical Relationships
Michael Welton
1980s: From Star Wars to the End of the Cold War
Judith Deutsch
Finkelstein on Gaza: Who or What Has a Right to Exist? 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
War Preparations on Venezuela as Election Nears
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Military Realities
Steve Early
Refinery Safety Campaign Frays Blue-Green Alliance
Ali Mohsin
Muslims Face Increasing Discrimination, State Surveillance Under Trump
Julian Vigo
UK Mass Digital Surveillance Regime Ruled Illegal
Peter Crowley
Revisiting ‘Make America Great Again’
Andrew Stewart
Black Panther: Afrofuturism Gets a Superb Film, Marvel Grows Up and I Don’t Know How to Review It
CounterPunch News Service
A Call to Celebrate 2018 as the Year of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois by the Saturday Free School
February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail