Nadim Koteich

America Undermines Human Rights the Most

Because of the degree to which the United States’ behavior on human rights is politicized, it often seems like no other country has dealt more blows to this matter. It does so firstly through its excessive moralistic and public emphasis on the issue. Secondly, it makes too many deals with violators of human rights and is obliged to overlook violations because of its many complex interests. These two excesses- that is, the moralistic and idealistic stringency (sometimes disingenuous) of successive American administrations and cold hard pragmatism, even towards “evildoers-” undermine the credibility of human rights advocacy more than anything else. Let us admit that the United States is the beacon of freedom in the world, regardless of the valid criticism of the American liberal project’s pitfalls or the crises facing democracies around the world today.

It seems that human rights, at least as it is now being discussed, is a political issue before being a question of rights. I discuss it here as a matter that is first and foremost political. As for the occasion that compelled me to write about it, it is the discrepancy I saw in the way that two leaders were treated at the COP 27 Climate Change Conference. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said “intensive consultations” regarding human rights were held between his president Joe Biden and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Sharm El-Sheikh. Meanwhile, the cameras at COP 27 recorded former US Special Envoy for Climate and former Secretary of State John Kerry and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro shaking hands, making jokes, and having a laugh.

Mr. Maduro is on the worst US lists. He is accused of an array of crimes that have pushed America to offer up to 15 million dollars to anyone with information that could help capture him. The “unplanned interaction” between the two men, as the US State Department put it, was undoubtedly more than a coincidence. This is clear once we account for the fact that the White House has sent all kinds of messages to Venezuela in its attempt to turn the page between Washington and Caracas.

We are looking at an exemplary case in point of how the US compromises at the expense of human rights to further its political interests. Venezuela impacts two critical items on the agenda of the White House. Firstly, the White House wants Venezuelan oil sold on global markets after loosening the sanctions imposed on Madura in light of the global energy crisis. Secondly, it wants to reboot Venezuela's economy in order to contain the mass exodus from the country, as most of the 700,000 people fleeing Venezuela on average each year end up in America!

We are looking at two contradictions then, as well as remarkable leniency and appeasement. The fates and rights of those Washington accuses Maduro of having killed, imprisoned, or displaced are met with laughter!

Here, an obvious question comes to mind.

Where are the zealots excited about inflated human rights bubbles being blown here and there in the Arab world? What have they said and done about Mahsa Amini’s right to life, not just freedom of speech, since the young woman was murdered by the morality police in Iran, igniting the ongoing popular revolt? What did we hear from Congress, the White House, and the agencies of the American administrations more broadly regarding Masih Alinejad, the young Iranian woman whom the IRGC followed to the window of her apartment in New York?

In fact, Mrs. Alinejad has been informed that the FBI would stop protecting her because of rising costs, and no human rights organization was recruited to advocate her human rights or raise awareness about what she has gone through.

All of this can be placed under the category of undermining the question of human rights to achieve political ends. This is done either through playing up some matters or systematically overlooking documented violations. These decisions always end up undermining the credibility of the noble goal of advocating human rights. It also pushes the targeted governments to double down, especially since the enemies of stability immediately pounce on the opportunity to exploit this issue in order to further their own agendas.

The opportunism with which human rights are addressed internationally are a gift to all the enemies of stability in our region. This explains the skepticism with which this matter is addressed, not as a question of rights, but of national security. The Muslim Brotherhood's 11/11 went by peacefully. But the future is less certain.

It is a long battle. In it, Washington has taken clashing with allies lightly because it is reassured of the strength of its relationships with them. Meanwhile, it takes overlooking the actions of its adversaries lightly when it wants to win them over.

The first victim of this behavior is the progress it seeks, whether genuinely or not, regarding human rights.