Monday, June 26, 2006

CROCODILE TEARS

By William Fisher

If you’re into black humor, you might find it amusing that two of the countries with some of the world’s worst human rights records are making international propaganda hay out of America’s performance in prisoner abuse and civil liberties.

For example, Saudi Arabia’s Arab News, the largest English language newspaper in the Middle East, weighed in on the arrest of the seven Miami men accused of conspiring to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago.

In an editorial, the newspaper uses the arrests to observe that, post 9/11, “Many Americans may overlook the increasingly draconian security measures being applied in their own backyard as part of the war against terrorism.”

The paper asks: “Will history record that Osama Bin Laden succeeded after all against his real enemies — liberty and freedom?”

The editorial laments the “ugly and uncompromising authoritarian tendencies” unleashed by the shock of 9/11, noting that in “normal times” these tendencies would be fiercely resisted by many in “The Land of the Free.”

It adds, “Among 70 new measures just announced by the White House is a new domestic spy service within the FBI. Why should such an organization be necessary in addition to the FBI itself, the communications work of the NSA, the Secret Service, the Justice Department and peripherally, the work of the CIA? It has also emerged that throughout the US, financial dealings are being monitored extensively in the hope of tracking the movement of terrorist funds. It is also thought that e-mail and telephone calls are now being widely tapped.”

It then asks two questions: “Who can be sure (these actions) will be discarded when Bin Laden is dead and the scourge of Al-Qaeda finally destroyed?” and whether the Bush administration “can be trusted with such sweeping powers?”

These questions don’t sound at all unfamiliar. I’ve asked them of our government countless times. But look at which pot is calling the kettle black.

Saudi Arabia, now a member of the UN’s new Human Rights Council, has one of the most repressive regimes on earth. Its jails are filled with dissidents. Evidence of death and torture in detention is widespread – the U.S. military is reluctant to repatriate Guantanamo’s Saudi prisoners for fear that they’ll be tortured. The desert kingdom is used as a stop on the itinerary of the CIA’s rendition excursions. Saudi women are treated as third-class citizens or worse. Saudi school textbooks are filled with anti-West and anti-Semitic hate. Hundreds of websites are blocked by massive use of some of IT’s most sophisticated technology. There is no freedom of religion, press, assembly, or much of anything else.

It is worth noting that the Desert Kingdom is also the country that supplies about 15 per cent of our imported energy and one that is routinely hailed by the Bush Administration as our stalwart partner in the “Global War on Terrorism.”

The Arab News editorial obviously wasn’t meant for a domestic Saudi audience. Rather, it was written for the English-speaking expats who live in the Middle East and at the West’s mainstream press, which often quotes editorials from foreign papers.

The second piece of hypocrisy is even arguably even more bizarre. It comes from another bastion of liberty, Iran, a theocracy where the people elect a president but where the mullahs call all the shots worth calling.

As in Saudi Arabia, sounding off against the government can be harmful to your health. Very harmful. Iranian jails are filled with dissidents ranging from renowned scholars and intellectuals to bloggers. Human rights organizations have repeatedly produced evidence of torture in these jails. Iran executes children and women accused of adultery. Its God Squad – the religious police – are hated and feared. Iran even removed Nobel prizewinner Sherin Ebadi from the bench because it said women were not fit to serve as judges.

So it has to be with a tad of skepticism that we assess Iran’s outrage at America’s “shameful human rights violations at Guantanamo Bay.”

According to the official Iranian news service, the IRNA, “the so-called advocate of human rights, the U.S. administration, violated human rights of several hundred individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism since its occupation of Afghanistan in 2002 when it built Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

Quoting reports from Amnesty International and other human rights groups – bodies that can’t get access to Iranian jails – the IRNA writes that “The situation in the detention camp and the arbitrary detention of the suspects have led to international criticism. ..And the question is whether the U.S. administration which introduces itself as advocate of human rights and democracy honors its commitments to those principles?”

Well, lots of Americans and real democrats from many other countries are asking the same questions. And getting the same non-answers and disinformation from the Bush Administration.

So why not Saudi Arabia and Iran?

Because they’re not democrats. Not even close. They haven’t earned their bones speaking truth to power. They haven’t earned the right to criticize the U.S.

They’re faux democrats crying crocodile tears.