Of the beam in one’s own eye

The U.S. Department of Defense on Monday delayed its annual report on the state of human rights worldwide, but still released it at an inopportune time

In view of the growing criticism of U.S. human rights policy, it is a rather thankless task to present the annual report of the U.S. Department of Defense on the human rights situation worldwide. This is especially true this year: While new pictures of abused Iraqi prisoners of war are published almost daily, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Richard Armitage presented the paper in Washington on Monday. The publication was originally planned for the 5. had been scheduled for May. However, because of the torture scandal in Iraq, Washington decided to postpone the decision.

Armitage was therefore left with nothing to do on Monday but go on the offensive. "I am pleased to present this report at a time when the whole world is looking at what is happening in Abu Ghraib", said the diplomat. After all, this attention exists "quite rightly". When President George W. Bush had expressed his dismay at the abuses in Iraq, he said, this was not just the reaction of a "principled man" been, "it was also the reaction of the president of a country that is committed to the highest standards of domestic and foreign policy", said Armitage.

However, it is doubtful that this strategy will help the Bush administration out of its credibility crisis. This is particularly evident in the example of Iraq. The situation after the U.S. intervention a little over a year ago is described as positive in the report required by law from the U.S. Congress. After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, abuses are said to have been committed "unimaginable abuses" have been unearthed. The world public had "striking evidence of a totalitarianism and a boundless brutality of" seen.

The number of opponents of the regime buried in mass graves is estimated at around 300.000 victims. With this summary account, the document points in the same direction as Colin Powell’s rhetoric when he recently reiterated that thanks to the war the "Torture chambers" Saddam Hussein had been closed down and the mass graves "are no longer waiting for their victims".

The memo also warns President Bush of the possible negative consequences of not granting al-Qaida and Taliban fighters prisoner-of-war status and not subjecting them to the Geneva Conventions (GPW). Thus, the U.S., for its part, could not demand compliance with the Geneva Conventions, there could be condemnation by other states, other states could feel emboldened to likewise disregard international agreements, and the "militaristic culture" of the U.S. Armed Forces would be endangered. Much, especially the last point, has been adjusted.

In parallel with the publication of the report, it is becoming clear that double standards of human rights are being applied in Washington after the 11. September 2001 are more than ever an integral part of the political. Newsweek magazine published a memorandum from the chief White House counsel, Alberto R. Gonzales, from January 2002. Gonzales denies POW status to captured Talibn fighters in it. This could be justified by the "War on Terror", which is a "new kind of war" than the one referred to in the IIIrd amendment. The report refers to the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. The main objective is, "to obtain information from captured terrorists as quickly as possible":

In my judgment, this new paradigm (of the war on terror, d. A.) the strict provisions of the Convention on the Execution of Hostile Prisoners and makes some other provisions seem downright strange.

After such reports, however, one refers in Washington unperturbed to the splinters in other eyes. A total of 101 states are criticized in individual country studies. Special attention is paid to the usual suspects China, North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Burma. The report’s underlying principle of religious freedom is used to criticize the government in the case of the Falun Gong movement, which is persecuted as a cult in atheist China. Freedom of the press is threatened in countries such as Cuba and Iran, according to the report. But also friendly states are criticized in the report. This is how the Israeli government "excessive violence" against Palestinians. The situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank was "".

The U.S. government’s human rights report received widespread media coverage earlier this week. The reason for this was probably not only the bizarre contradictions between the claim and reality of US foreign policy. It is almost certain that some of the "Country study" be used in the coming months to justify aubenpolitische restrictions against smaller states. It is almost as certain that the attention paid to the human rights situation in Washington will be proportional to the country’s natural resources or strategic importance.