On March 4, the US State Depart-ment released its annual human rights report. Apart from criticizing the "axis of evil" countries for abusing human rights, it also listed abuses in several countries that are members of the anti-terrorist alliance.
What is most interesting about the reports is the section on Israel. Since Israel suffers from terrorist attacks, the report says, it has been forced to take counter-terrorism measures, making its rights abuses understandable. What's more, post-Sept. 11 restrictions in the US on entering and leaving the country and on air travel, as well as measures curbing the civil rights of accused persons, are not discussed at all.
The report is generally quite frank and its wording strong, but it proposes no corrective action. Consolidating the anti-terrorist alliance and expanding the war against terror are overshadowing concerns about human rights. In exchange for support for its war on terror, the US is tacitly agreeing to ignore abuses by other members of the anti-terror coalition. The most glaring examples are Russia's suppression of resis-tance to its rule in Chechnya, China's suppression of independence advocates in Xinjiang and the Falun Gong movement, and Israel's treatment of Palestinians. US activities, meanwhile, show no sign of promoting the universal values of democracy, human rights and peace.
Six months have passed since Sept. 11 and the focus of US anger has turned to countries that have been labeled "rogue nations" and members of an "axis of evil." The US anti-terrorist alliance has become the embodiment of two-sided justice. "If you're not with us, you're against us." The human rights report poses a substantial challenge to the US interpretation of good and evil.
Put simply, what we are seeing is the naked pursuit of US interests. No one who has ever studied realist political science will find this surprising. To earn legitimacy, however, US interests must be made to appear just. Even though almost all military mobilizations in history have been motivated by notions of good versus evil or of orthodoxy versus unorthodoxy, efforts to present the naked pursuit of US interests as a battle of good versus evil reflect a lack of understanding and tolerance. Demonizing the enemy will guarantee that peace will not be gained through war.
The report expressly points out that, "It is extremely easy for terrorists to find supporters in countries where human rights are not respected and where individual freedom is repressed." To prove that human rights are important ammunition in the battle against terror, then, the US must attack terrorism to make human rights matter to these countries.
If, however, US President George W. Bush still believes in the supremacy of human rights, he must not forget the breeding ground for terrorists that exists within the anti-terrorist alliance. The US is planning to extend military aid to several countries in the alliance to enable them to root out terrorists without using US forces. Such wishful thinking risks making the US an accomplice in the destruction of human rights.
If the US, which claims to be the world's policeman, is incapable of looking beyond US interests or of practicing the universal values of human rights, democracy and peace, then shouldn't the international community reconsider the role played by the UN, or learn from the way the European parliament works? After all, compromising between the interests of many different countries is much better than succumbing to the interests of a single country. It is also an approach better suited to the new century and its increasing international diversity.