Thursday, June 16, 2005



Speaking up for human rights is now "working against the US"

American Republicans are claiming that the Red Cross has lost its impartiality and is working against the USA by (for example) advocating that prisoners of war be treated humanely and according to the Geneva Conventions and that civilian populations not be targetted in times of war. According to Dan Fata, a prominent Republican policy advisor, these actions are "activism" and go beyond the Red Cross' mandate for emergency relief. Which really makes you wonder whether he actually knows anything about the organisation he is criticising. The "activism" that Fata condemns stems from the Red Cross's role as the guarantor of the Geneva Conventions and guardian of international humanitarian law. In fact, we owe the existence of the Conventions themselves to the Red Cross's "activism" - they were established in response to advocacy from the Red Cross' founders. Since then they've pushed for more general human rights protections, as well as bans on weapons from chemical and biological weapons to landmines, as part of their basic, humanitarian mission.

For the Republicans to condemn the Red Cross as "biased" shows exactly what sort of people they have become and what sort of place they are turning America into. They are seriously beginning to sound like a third-world torturing despotism. The Red Cross' "problem" is not bias, but its absence - like Amnesty International they will advocate for human rights and criticise human rights violations even when they are perpetrated by the USA. And I guess to a certain type of American, who believes that America Can Do No Wrong, that is simply intolerable.

4 comments:

Gee, with the response to the AI report and now this, it's starting to look remarkably like a trend isn't it? Yikes. What I wonder is, do Americans know this is going on? Do they know what this administration is little by little turning their country into? If not, why not? And, if so, why are they standing by and allowing it to happen?

Great piece I/S. Well said.

Posted by BerlinBear : 6/16/2005 04:01:00 AM

a lot of us would like to think we're not, but when you're dealing with a hegemon and a series of pliant clients like australia, you have to wonder if they really will get away with whatever the hell they like.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/16/2005 07:47:00 AM

I/S - I think you may even be giving this part of the Republican party - sadly the dominant part these days - too much credit: they have always been leery of anything internationalist, e.g. the UN, the ICCPR, and the ICC.

Now with the "war on terror", this friction has amplified to the point that international law and international humanitarian law has a built in "except when we do it" proviso. So, for example, the US can insist its soldiers not be put on TV (a violation of Geneva) and yet violate Geneva wholesale themselves. (I should add that the US view of Geneva is based on a fundamentally disingenuous mis-reading of the Conventions.)

Finally, I can tell you that Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib etc was not an election issue during the 2004 US election - buried in the Administration's spin.

Posted by John : 6/16/2005 02:02:00 PM

This was disturbing:

"In some cases, ICRC actions and statements "have run contrary to the interests of the American taxpayer, the ICRC's single largest donor," he said."

To say it so blatently, that they want a Red Cross that is going to take into account of the American taxpayer. Still, you pay the piper, you call the tune.

Posted by muerk : 6/17/2005 10:22:00 PM