How's That Bush-Lite Taste?

For citizens living in the Ayn Rand Republic of Glenn
Beckistan, what the U.S. State Department is asking for is only further
evidence of the liberal plot to destroy America. Uncle Sam is soliciting
public comments as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), "which
involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member
States once
every four years."

From the State Department website:
"In
the pursuit of a transparent and effective UPR process, the
Department of State is encouraging the American public, including
non-governmental organizations and civil society more broadly, to
provide input
regarding human rights in the United States."

In the mind of Beckistanians, human rights is code for
"world socialism," even though we are signatories of the UN Charter
and the U.S. Constitution says "all Treaties made...under the authority
of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land." For the
rest
of us, UPR is understood (at least in theory) to be a tool to "assess
the
extent to which States respect their human rights obligations set out in
the UN
Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Candidate Obama talked a good game about
"change" and how he was going to restore America's credibility in the
world by renouncing the contempt for international law and the torture
of
suspected terrorists that was part and parcel of the Bush doctrine.
Remember his
inaugural address when he said he rejected as false "the choice between
our safety and our ideals?"

So the State Department invitation gives us a chance to
help the President translate his rhetoric into reality. Here's my top 5
human rights concerns Obama needs to address (unless he really does
intend to
just be an eloquent spokesman for Bush-lite).

5) Re-think the "war on
drugs."
That the United
States has 5% of the world's population but 25% of
its prisoners is largely due to a militarized supply-side focus on the
drug
trade, which has helped finance right-wing dictators in Latin
America for decades. For starters, the Obama administration should
order a review of the Bush-era policy of certifying the Colombian
military's compliance with human rights benchmarks attached to U.S.
military
aid. The reality, human rights organizations report, is that Colombia
has
"an ongoing atmosphere of impunity for the soldiers and officers
responsible for widespread extrajudicial executions."

4) Accelerate Afghanistan
exit strategy.
In the meantime, while the Obama
administration has shown itself willing to publicly criticize President
Hamid
Karzai's government, it has not distanced itself from Karzai's
younger brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, a heavy-hitter in Kandahar
reportedly on
the CIA payroll despite his well-known connections to drug traffickers;
to say
nothing of the less well-known relationship between U.S. Special Forces and
the
notoriously abusive militias in Herat and Uruzgan.

3) Push for a just peace in
the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Gen. Patraeus has
finally
acknowledged what has been obvious to any close observer for a while
now: our
look-the-other-way approach with Israel
is undermining U.S.
interests in the Middle East. Kudos to the
Obama administration for reversing the Bush policy of not participating
on the
UN Human Rights Council, which has been dominated by authoritarian
governments
since it was created in June 2007, but what's up with the hypocrisy of
poo-poohing the Council report, written by the esteemed South African
jurist
Richard Goldstone, detailing the war crimes of Israel and Hamas during
the
invasion of the Gaza Strip?

"The (anti-Goldstone) move was particularly
unfortunate because the report broke new ground for the council by
criticizing
an Israeli adversary, Hamas," notes Human Rights Watch Executive
Director
Kenneth Roth.

2) Prosecute suspected
terrorists in
federal courts and end the Bush-era policy of indefinite detention of
suspected
"terrorists" without due process.
On this front,
the Federation of American Scientists
asked the State Department "to turn its attention to those cases where a
resolution of alleged human rights violations has been barred by the
government's use of the state secrets privilege."

"There are innocent individuals who have been
swept up in U.S. Government counterterrorism operations, wrongly
detained,
'rendered' surreptitiously to foreign countries, subjected to
extreme physical and mental stress, or otherwise wronged. In some cases,
like
those of persons such as Maher Arar and Khaled el-Masri, efforts to seek
legal
remedies have been blocked by the Government's invocation of the state
secrets privilege..."

"If the judicial process in such cases is
foreclosed by the state secrets privilege, then an alternate procedure
should
be created to rectify the wrongs that may have been committed."

1) Investigate and
prosecute those who
ordered or committed torture.
This one speaks for
itself,
though it was Obama who articulated why holding torturers accountable
should be
at the top of the list. America,
he said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, should not "insist that
others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them
ourselves."

The State Department website says "those
interested in providing their views, comments, proposals and
recommendations....can send an email to upr_info@state.gov." The
comment period ends June 15. That's plenty of time for you to fire off
an
email and tell the State Department what you think about Bush-lite.

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