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The lucrative politics of human rights

The lucrative politics of human rights

Bereket Gebru  04-12-18

I am one of those people who always bemoan the end of the bipolar international system as it exuded balance of power. The presence of two superpowers on either side of the political spectrum provided states a suitable condition to maintain their own stands regardless of the efforts by the blocs to lure them. A threat from one of the superpowers was easily rebuffed as it would provide the other bloc with an incentive to support the state under threat. Although there were proxy conflicts in various parts of the world, the period was at least identified as the ‘cold war.’    

The unilateral action by the only superpower to invade any nation, it deems ‘undemocratic’ or a ‘threat’ to its national security has given it absolute power in the international system. With 737 military bases around the world as far back as 2006, the United States is in a position to strike any point on the globe from a combination of its numerous outposts. Despite the repeated propaganda claims by the U.S. that these military outposts are to ensure security around the world, the rest of the world is concerned as to whose security they are talking about. After all, when a superpower stations its troops and aircraft carriers in or near another country, it is clear that the security in question is that of the other nation. With intelligence posts and military brigades located at your steps, the period is more like a ‘warm war.’

The U.S. uses economic and military ‘diplomacy’ as its major tool of promoting its foreign policy. In an unbalanced international economic system that largely favors the rich, trade relations are generally debt ridden for the poor. The problem of balance of payment is the identifying character of developing countries. The U.S. government is at the helm of such highly skewed trade relations.

Even when states come up with national policies that favor moves of protectionism, the U.S. and its satellite states and international organizations are there to make sure such measures don’t go through. In case the leaders insist on implementing those measures, they will be branded tyrants by the international hegemonic gang and the media it uses to promote its interests. Opening up their economies, devaluating their currencies (for poor states), lifting subsidies and following other neo-liberal policies are presented as the only option for developing states.

Non-adherence to the neo-liberal policies of the U.S. are followed by economic and military sanctions. Taking into account the numerous countries the U.S. has imposed economic and military sanctions against, it is quite clear that it doesn’t get along with a large number of countries around the world. Some of the countries it has imposed sanctions on include: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Serbia, Montenegro, Belarus, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Crimea, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Lebanon, Libya, Myanmar, Russian Federation, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan (North), Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

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Despite glaring records of the U.S. as the coercive power behind most of the conflicts in the world, it daringly presents itself as the guardian of international peace and human rights. For a nation whose politicians are easily regularly bought by lobbyists, law making is a lucrative business that generates lots of income for all involved. Under such conditions, international peace and human rights have no place for consideration. That is why Americans and their weapons are killing thousands around the world on a daily basis. However, as far as the U.S. government is concerned, their weapons uphold peace and human rights.  

Against its role as the devil in international relations, the U.S. insists on being the guardian of morality in the world. Representing the biggest economy in the world, the U.S. is the richest country out there. However, with 1% of its population in ownership of nearly half of the country’s economy, the remaining 99% is working hard to add to the already inflated riches of these selected few.

That means the economic rights of 99% of its population have been infringed in favor of a handful of people. As the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights consists of both economic and political rights, the infringement of economic rights weighs heavily against U.S. human rights records. The state of education and health services the majority of the people access in the U.S. is far lower than its economic stature. Therefore, including the state of economic rights in gauging human rights would bring out the shortcomings and brutal nature of American neo-liberalism.

As a result, the U.S. focuses only on political rights in determining the state of human rights across the globe. Even in that respect, the killing of blacks and other minorities by Police, co-optation of law makers, the systematic suppression of other political parties to make room only for the two parties with barely any difference in their political agenda and the invasion of other states and killing of their citizens at will are raised as notable problems. That actually does not matter because the U.S. government has only got eyes for the problems of others.

The H.RES.128 Resolution recently passed by the U.S. congress on “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia” is another one of the numerous bills put forward to the U.S. Congress by corrupt representatives of the people. Honestly, these people don’t care whether Ethiopia perishes or flourishes. They are just in it for the money as every other representative in U.S. politics does all the time.

The resolution called on the government of Ethiopia to take some measures. Most of these propositions deal with the investigation and punishment of those responsible for the killing of Ethiopians the unrests in the past couple of years. Most of the measures needed to ensure accountability are already being processed by the government and I don’t think the Ethiopian government needs a bunch of corrupt politicians from the U.S. to remind it that justice needs to be upheld. I don’t actually understand what gives these people the mandate to order other states around. It might just be the old American traditions of arrogance and bullying.

A couple of things surprised me about the document. The first was the part that called for open and transparent consultations of citizens regarding the displacement of people from their land. It has repeatedly been reported that the Ethiopian government consulted locales about the “villagization” program and that it was carried out voluntarily. However, the corrupt officials who prepared the document have paid no attention to the need for verification in echoing the voices of those who paid them. For a country that displaced and killed half a continent of people, telling others not to displace their own people for developmental purposes requires a staggering amount of arrogance.

Another point is the way they managed to squeeze in the issue of repealing the charities and societies proclamation. The 2009 proclamation prohibits charities and NGOs from exceeding a specified level of foreign funding as that resource could be used by the donor to promote its own political agenda apart from the strictly charity activity designated to it. As demonstrated in other countries and also in Ethiopia during the 2005 elections, NGOs are used to promote the political agenda of foreign forces. Although the issue was mainly about last year’s unrest, the Americans have managed to relate it with revoking the proclamation.    


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