Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The China Daily came out with a full two-page response to the U.S. State Department human rights report. In the past, this has always amused me, not because I didn't think China had a point, but because they usually missed it. For example, they always make a big deal about the way women are treated in America. This is laughable. I have known of Chinese women selling their bodies to get to America. And their report this year says that the United States is the only country in the world where former inmates are not allowed to vote. That's not quite true. Former inmates in China are not allowed to vote, either. In fact, no one in China is allowed to vote. So China's criticism of the State Department human rights report has not really been taken very seriously in the past.

This year, however, there has been a rather strong response from quite a number of countries. Especially in the light of the human rights issues created by the Iraq war, there has been lots and lots of criticism of the Americans from many corners of the world. And much of the criticism is warranted. The horrific treatment of prisoners on Guantanamo, where many, many prisoners are kept in small cages without the benefit of counsel, and without ever having been charged has upset human rights groups the world over.

America, which used to be seen as the guardian of human dignity, is gradually beginning to be viewed by many as one of the main violators of human rights, especially the rights of the powerless. America's moral authority has been tarnished by the atrocities at Abu Graib. Americans sometimes react to criticism of those human rights violations, because, after all, the perpetrators were apprehended and punished. Their reaction is, of course, justified in that sense, and since the perpetrators have been punished, the Americans can argue that these atrocities were an aberration. But for the prisoners of Guantanomo, there is no such excuse. Holding prisoners indefinitely without charge goes against everything the Americans claim to believe in. And that appalling abuse is clearly officially sanctioned. More and more, the State Department's pontifications about human rights are being regarded with a growing measure of disgust by the nations of the world.

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