Saturday, January 16, 2016

The right to suppress human rights: 2 case studies

Today on All Things Considered / Barbershop: guests congratulate themselves for their sympathy for Nikki Haley (who does not use her Indian first name) in the face of "racist" demands that she take up Indian-American issues. They assert their liberalism by defending her right to ignore Indians - much like she can ignore the rights of women, despite being one, and perhaps you would be a sexist for demanding she support women's rights, as the representative of them in her state. This is the new social liberalism - your right to be a part of racism and sexism, because those are "free thoughts" even as policy.

There is another common form for this social liberalism - the idea that committing war crimes is a protected liberty. When the Kunduz MSF hospital was bombed for an hour, the US asserted that there were active Taliban fighters in the facility, and Afghan forces had requested the strike (initially, they said it was to defend US forces).

Once the internal "investigation" was completed a month later, it was determined that the strikes were a mistake, and that the US would "never intentionally target" such a facility. In fact, the very crew members who carried out the attack questioned its legality at the time - a fact that seems to contradict the investigation's findings, that instrument and intelligence failures led to the "mistaken identity" of the facility.

Here, military commanders and news agencies were fully prepared to assert the right of the US military to target noncombatant, medical personnel. Key evidence proving that the AC-130 crew were aware that the bombing was illegal, the cockpit recordings at the "center" of the investigation, have never been released to the public. Moreover, intelligence operatives were investigating the facility prior to the strike - further indication that the initial story, that of a deliberate strike on protected persons, is fact:

"The AP also reported on Thursday that, before the bombing, U.S. special operations analysts had been gathering information on the hospital compound because they believed it was being used by a Pakistani operative to coordinate Taliban activity during the battle for Kunduz. It’s not clear whether the crew on the plane or the commanders who ordered the attack were aware that this intelligence was being gathered, but it is further evidence that the site was known to U.S. forces as a hospital."
-Joshua Keating, Slate
 Yet one more example rests in this passage - the "uncertainty" surrounding the crew's knowledge of such intelligence. This level of benefit-of-the-doubt, plausible deniability, and more broadly the right to act criminally, with impunity, reveals a philosophy of human rights obsequious and defensive of one class of people: the government and military of the US.

Of course there is no need to determine if the crew was or wasn't privy to an investigation which might lead to an illegal bombing on the MSF facility. That is the kind of responsibility-buffer that was rightly dismissed in the Nuremburg trials of Nazis who took part in genocide. Where there is evidence of collusion and direction from administrators, their curation of that evidence should be treated as untrustworthy. When the media covers potential abuses by the military, and they are given two conflicting stories of an illegal attack, they should be treating the military as unreliable and questionable.

Instead, we have the rights of the powerful as the only determinate factor in the agenda of the news, as well as the standard for prosecutorial bodies which are responsible to hold the military to account. The notion that a newspiece should defend the rights of a military to plausibly justify killing civilians, or the notion that anti-Indian and anti-women policies can be justified as a freedom of Nikki Haley, are slaps in the faces of victims of war crimes, immigrants and women. It means the prosecutors and media in question do not work for these groups, but only to defend attacks on them. Further, it is a level of sensitivity to rights which is quite extreme - extending freedom of conscience to representative/executive bodies - and, crucially, applied to the very group which has a responsibility to *not* abuse their power - whose sexism, racism, or criminality is much more than words, but even deadly.

In politics, it is right to demand that women, minorities, and civilians be protected where they are at risk. No ethnic makeup of a politician, or military maneuverability needs, can free them of their responsibility to represent a pluralist society, and act lawfully.

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