US’s double standards on rights
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Its self-righteousness is back on full display even though it would fail dismally against Cuba on a scorecard of abuses
Shannon Ebrahim is the Foreign Editor for Independent Media
PRESIDENT Donald Trump’s big policy reversal on Cuba last week sent a strong message to the world: Human rights is not a consideration in US foreign policy, unless you are the tiny island nation of Cuba, which is always the exception to the rule.
If you detain and torture your citizens, refuse them the right to express themselves and fail to hold democratic elections, Trump will support you without asking questions or lecturing you on human rights. When Trump visited Saudi Arabia recently he said the US would not be lecturing the Arab world on human rights.
Cuba will always be the exception. The reason being that the US will never let Cuba get away with maintaining independent domestic or foreign policies from within its backyard. Successive US administrations since 1960 felt the need to punish such defiance with every means necessary, until President Barack Obama tried to dilute American arrogance to some extent.
But US self-righteousness on human rights is back on full display, coming just a month after Trump declared his intent to disregard the human rights abuses of some of the world’s worst governing culprits.
The irony is mind-boggling – Cuba is depicted as an egregious human rights abuser, while it is the US that maintains an illegal military base on the island, where it has perpetrated some of the worst human rights abuses imaginable. The people who the US military has tortured and abused in Guantanamo Bay have never had the opportunity to defend their innocence in a court of law.
If one were to draw up an objective human rights scorecard of the US compared to Cuba, the US would not come out on top. The evaluation would have to take into account the rampant racial discrimination of American officialdom, the prevalent abuse of African Americans, discrimination against Muslim refugees, domestic wage inequality and the fact that with Trump’s dismantlement of Obamacare, 23 million Americans will be left without health insurance.
On the issue of torture, was it not Trump who defended previously sanctioned US torture tactics and had his officials produce a draft executive order to bring back torture? That draft order was published by The New York Times. Torture was a key part of Trump’s national security platform as a presidential candidate. Republican Senator John McCain, a torture survivor, responded to Trump’s statements by saying: “The president can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the US.”
Cuba, on the other hand, does not publicly defend the right to torture its citizens or those of other countries. It guarantees the right of its citizens to healthcare, education, social security, food, peace and development. When the US criticises Cuba for harbouring a fugitive of American justice, Trump is referring to the asylum Cuba gave to American black activist Joanne Chesimard in 1984. She had been convicted of killing a white American policeman. Trump is calling for her extradition.
The human rights scorecard would also have to take into consideration the foreign involvement of both countries around the globe. America would score dismally, considering its illegal military intervention in Iraq based on lies presented to the international community about weapons of mass destruction.
It would also look at the human rights abuses its forces committed in Abu Ghraib detention facility, as well as the countless black spots where it carried out rendition in order to torture people in secret with impunity. Then there are the countless killings of terror suspects by US drones and bombs – none of the victims had the chance to defend their innocence.
As Cuba stated in its reaction to Trump’s policy reversal, Cuba is party to 44 international instruments on human rights, while the US is party to about 20. Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez couldn’t have been more accurate in his depiction of Trump’s policy statement as a “grotesque spectacle straight from the Cold War”.
It is almost laughable that Trump said his policy position could be subject to negotiation if Cuba adhered to US demands to end the abuse of dissidents, release political prisoners, refrain from jailing innocent people, institute political and economic reforms, and extradite Chesimard. Surely the list should be the yardstick with which Trump should evaluate his own country’s human rights abuses? As Cuba said: “The US is not in the condition to lecture us on human rights.”
Why should South Africa care if Trump engages in the usual American double standards on Cuba? As our foreign policy is based on progressive internationalism, we have a responsibility to raise our concerns about the glaring injustice in America’s international relations.
HYPOCRITICAL: President Donald Trump’s policies continue to depict Cuba as an egregious human rights abuser, while it is the US that is behind some of the worst human rights abuses, says the writer.