In a staggering example of in-your-face hypocrisy the United States has quit the UN Human Rights Council, calling it “a cesspool of political bias” and criticising all nations who continue to be members because “no other country has had the courage to join our fight.”
In explanation of its exit, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Hayley, declared that “When a so-called human rights council cannot bring itself to address the massive abuses in Venezuela and Iran . . . the council ceases to be worthy of its name.”
To be sure, the Human Rights Council has some member nations with appalling human rights records, such as Saudi Arabia, about which the State Department highlights numerous human rights violations, including “unlawful killings, executions for other than the most serious offenses and without requisite due process; torture; arbitrary arrest and detention, including of lawyers, human rights activists, and anti-government reformists; political prisoners; and arbitrary interference with privacy.” Further, there is a major difference between its system of governance and that of much-vilified Iran, because Iran’s president is elected by the people whereas Saudi Arabia, as described by the State Department, is “a monarchy without elected representative institutions or political parties.”
So why is Saudi Arabia not named by Washington’s Nikki Hayley as a country that indulges in “massive abuses” of human rights?
The State Department makes it abundantly clear why Washington is perfectly happy with Saudi Arabia’s abuses of human rights, because “the United States and Saudi Arabia enjoy a strong economic relationship, as the United States is Saudi Arabia's largest trading partner, and Saudi Arabia is one of the United States’ largest trading partners in the Middle East.”
So the Saudis’ absolute monarch, the dictator King Abdullah, can continue with impunity and without the slightest criticism by Nikki Hayley and her ilk to indulge in “torture, arbitrary arrest and detention.”
Which brings us to instances of arbitrary arrest and detention rather closer to Washington, involving pitiable and wretched would-be immigrants to the United States.
The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour, gifted to the American people by France in 1886, has the inscription “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” It used to be an example of national compassion and understanding to the rest of the world.
But Trump Washington and many millions of Americans are passionately opposed to immigration. They believe that their Golden Door should remain firmly closed against people beckoned by the lamp. President Trump leads them in his hatred and last month declared that would-be migrants “aren’t people, these are animals” and tweeted that they want “to pour into and infest our country.”
The message from the Trump Administration is clear and revolting — and even clearer and more horrifying is the manner in which these “animals” who want to “infest our country” are treated by those who enforce the law inside the Golden Door.
One of the latest displays of repulsive callousness by the Trump Administration involves separation of migrant children from their parents. A description of how this was effected on the border with Mexico, where there are so many refugees and migrants, was provided by a US Member of Congress, Representative Pramila Jayapal (herself of Indian origin) in a barely credible account of ice-hearted cruelty.
She recounted that in detention camps she met 174 women of whom 30-40 percent “came with children who had been forcibly taken away from them. None got a chance to say goodbye to their children — they were forcibly taken away. One said she was deceived, because they were in detention together. Then the Customs and Border Protection officials told her she was going out to get her photograph taken. When she came back, she was put in a different room, and she never got to see the child again. Some of them said they could hear their children screaming for them in the next room.”
Can you imagine what goes on in the mind of a person who could do this to a mother and her child? What sort of man or woman could remove a tiny child from a mother? It happened in Hitler’s concentration camps, of course, but most of us thought we had moved on a bit since then. The New York Times summed it up in an Editorial by saying that “It may be hard to believe that this is happening in the United States in 2018, that hundreds of children are being snatched from their parents, frequently under false pretences, often screaming . . . The parents often don’t know where their children are, or when they will see them again.”
A Washington Post reporter visited a detention centre in Texas where “They divided the young children who had been separated from their parents, placing 20 or more in a concrete-floor cage and providing foil blankets, thin mattress pads, bottled water and food. The migrant children, some confused or expressionless, watched as uniformed officials led reporters on a brief tour … of a processing centre and temporary detention facility.”
Try to imagine what sort of person willingly carries out orders to separate little children from their mothers. Reflect on the report in the Washington Post that scores of these little children were “screaming ‘Mami’ and ‘Papá’ over and over again, as if those are the only words they know.” Then, unbelievably, “the baritone voice of a Border Patrol agent booms above the crying. ‘Well, we have an orchestra here,’ he jokes. ‘What’s missing is a conductor’.”
Can you comprehend the mindset of this man? This trusted government official, this representative of a country that prides itself on representing all the virtues, was actually joking about the noise being made by terrified and defenceless little children who had been torn from their mothers. The New York Times reported children at a detention camp as saying “they were beaten while handcuffed and locked up for long periods in solitary confinement, left nude and shivering in concrete cells... Children as young as 14 said the guards there stripped them of their clothes and strapped them to chairs with bags placed over their heads.”
These evil cruelties are taking place in a country whose representative to the world, its ambassador to the United Nations, declared that “for too long the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias.”
On 18 June the UN spoke out, and its “top human rights official... cited an observation by the president of the American Association of Paediatrics that locking the children up separately from their parents constituted ‘government-sanctioned child abuse’,” so it is not surprising that the following day the US slouched out of the Human Rights Commission with a blasting fanfare of insults.
As Amnesty International observed, “Once again, President Trump is showing his complete disregard for the fundamental rights and freedoms the US claims to uphold. While the Human Rights Council is by no means perfect and its membership is frequently under scrutiny, it remains an important force for accountability and justice.”
But an Administration that is based on hatred and intolerance pays no attention to accountability and justice. Human rights hypocrisy snarls from the twisted lips behind the Golden Door to Washington.