GilmerFreePress.net

At Home and Abroad, Trump Abandons Human Rights

The Free Press WV

In January 1941, with the prospect looming of US involvement in another European war, President Franklin Roosevelt spoke of America’s purpose in the world: to protect and promote “four freedoms.” FDR drew a clear link between US security and the fulfillment of human rights at home. “Just as our national policy in internal affairs has been based upon a decent respect for the rights and the dignity of all of our fellow men within our gates, so our national policy in foreign affairs has been based on a decent respect for the rights and the dignity of all nations, large and small.” In another speech he underscored the point: “unless there is [human] security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”

Among the extraordinary backward steps Donald Trump is taking America, none is more shameful, than his disregard for—in fact, his calculated trampling on—human rights at home and abroad. To my mind, the two are interrelated: A government that does not respect the human rights of its own citizens will also show no respect for human rights in other countries—and will help other governments that seek to repress their citizens’ rights.

Undermining Rights at Home

On the home front, two survey sources show how the US has declined as a repository of human rights, in particular adherence to political rights and civil liberties. These sources are the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index, whose ranking is based on 44 indicators of lawfulness; and Freedom House, which makes annual assessments based on implementation (not claims) of rights enumerated in the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The WJP ranks the US 19th of 113 countries surveyed. Among the weakest dimensions for the US are labor rights, effective correctional system, discrimination, respect for due process, and accessibility and affordability of the legal system. For comparison sake, note that Germany (6th), Canada (9th), and Britain (11th) all rank higher than the US. Freedom House ranks the US 86th of 100 countries; Canada (99), Germany (94), and Britain (94) again rank higher. Trump’s corruption, evasion of legal and institutional norms, and low regard for certain human rights help account for a lower Freedom House ranking of the US than in previous years.

I recently discussed a report by Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur for extreme poverty and human rights on poverty in America. Before Trump, the rich-poor gap was already wide and the number of people, especially children, living in poverty was pitifully large. The UN report detailed how, under Trump, those people are even more vulnerable because they are being deliberately targeted for political advantage. Human security and basic human rights are under assault in other ways: by reducing government responsibility for the health and welfare system; putting energy interests and private profit ahead of action to address climate change and respect scientific findings; subjecting immigration policy to outright racist priorities, such as by denial of due process, separation of families, and blatant disregard for the rights of children (the US is the only country in the world that has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child); moving away from support of public education; and undermining the right of labor to organize. The Supreme Court, now with a far right-leaning majority thanks to Trump appointees, is a handmaiden of his attack on labor, women’s, gay people’s, and immigrants’ rights.

Trump’s immigration policy is especially notorious. UN human rights special rapporteurs from various countries have condemned it, pointing out that his Muslim ban and rejection of legitimate asylum requests based on “a well-founded fear of persecution” violate international and US law and conventions. (A US district judge on July 3 slammed the administration for ignoring its own regulations on asylum seekers, and ordered that these detainees be either freed from detention or granted asylum.) Trump’s executive order of June 20, 2018, according to these UN experts, “does not address the situation of those children who have already been pulled away from their parents. We call on the Government of the US to release these children from immigration detention and to reunite them with their families based on the best interests of the child, and the rights of the child to liberty and family unity. Detention of children is punitive, severely hampers their development, and in some cases may amount to torture. Children are being used as a deterrent to irregular migration, which is unacceptable.”

“State-sanctioned child abuse” is the way Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) put it on MSNBC on July 5.

Of course such criticism is meaningless to a president who touts “America first” and believes a harsh immigration policy is the key to his reelection. He has already withdrawn the US from the UN Human Rights Council and rejected the critique of poverty in America by the special rapporteur, with US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley deriding it as “patently ridiculous.” These actions, along with reduced US contributions to the UN budget, put the US on China’s and Russia’s side. Beijing and Moscow likewise want to force major reductions in the human security side of the UN budget, including peacekeeping missions and protection of women and children from sexual exploitation.

Dancing with Dictators

Meantime, the Trump administration has continued the sordid US practice of supporting authoritarian regimes, making the US party to repression of human rights abroad and, on occasion, a collaborator in crimes against humanity and war crimes. The usual pretext for such support is to maintain “stability,” counter terrorism, or align against some other equally authoritarian regime. Vietnam reflects the latter case: Washington, backing Vietnam’s territorial case against China, hasn’t said a word about repression of dissent and trials of human-rights activists there. “Support” often takes the form of selling arms, as in the cases of Turkey despite widespread repression, Saudi Arabia in its bombing campaign in Yemen, and the Philippines despite its unrestrained drug war.

Israel should be added to this list, since the far-right Netanyahu government receives about $1.5 billion annually in arms that give it license to violently suppress Palestinian protests. Not surprisingly, the equally far-right US ambassador to Israel has said Israel should be exempt from US law that requires a State Department report on whether or not US-supplied weapons are being used to repress human rights. “Israel is a democracy,” Amb. David Friedman said, “whose army does not engage in gross violations of human rights.”

Even when serious violations of human rights are occurring in adversarial countries that have something to benefit Trump, such as China, North Korea, and Russia, expect very little comment from him. Yes, he said he had brought up human rights when he met with Kim Jong-un, and insisted that US missile attacks in response to Assad’s use of chemical weapons were motivated by concern about Syrian children. But does anyone take those assertions seriously? After all, Trump has publicly excused Kim, Xi Jinping, Putin, and other authoritarian leaders he considers great friends for their bad behavior, noting that they have a tough job and that there are “bad guys” in all political systems. Trump’s beef with China is about trade; human rights has yet to get a hearing. And how about Russia? While several of Trump’s top officials have criticized Putin over arbitrary arrests and even assassinations of critics, Trump has been silent. (Remember how he ignored the advice of his national security council—“Do Not Congratulate”—when he telephoned Putin on his reelection?) Or Poland and Hungary, where Trump-like leaders are busy burying democracy?

Trump reserves his professed concern about human rights for antagonistic rivals, notably Cuba and Iran—the very countries, not coincidentally, that Obama successfully engaged. Those countries are important either because of their domestic political value (Cuba) or (for Iran) because of Trump’s ties to Israel and Saudi Arabia. But aligning against Cuba and Iran only worsens human rights conditions. In a word, the more antagonistic US policy becomes—imposing sanctions and promoting regime change—the more are human rights threatened, because hard-line elements in Cuba and Iran have ammunition to increase repression in the name of national security.

In the spirit of forming “a more perfect Union,” please consider contributing to a group that is fighting for human rights.

Mel Gurtov, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.

Pat’s Chat

The Free Press WV

This Chat is being written and sent to the newspapers a little late to be published by some, but I decided this is important and I want to share it.

Harry (Sonny) Wiant, Jr. (my brother who will be 86 on November 04) had what they called a “mild stroke” over a week ago and it was scary for a while since he is our healthiest sibling, it seemed.  I sent out urgent requests for prayer and in a very few days he was back mostly to himself.  That was a relief to us and we are still praying that he will be able to go back to his wonderful Aljoya condo in Mercer Island, WA.

My point to writing today is to hopefully give some insight to those who feel it is somehow a denial of faith to go to the doctors, to use treatments or to take medicine that God has provided through doctors and scientists to alleviate pain and illness.  The following reading will show that the Bible does not teach this.

“King Hezekiah falls ill, and unusual events accompany his healing.  [Read 2 Kings 20].  You will notice in this case the promise of healing came at once, even before the prophet Isaiah had time to get out of the palace, and that the king was instructed by the prophet of God to cooperate in the work of heling by putting a plaster or poultice of figs on the boil which was afflicting him.  This showed no lack of faith.  It was ordered from the same source that gave the promise of recovery.

The Free Press WV


“Let us continue to study Christ’s ministry of healing power.  And let us not forget that it is not a denial of our faith to make use of the remedial agencies available—-the things that God has provided to alleviate pain and to aid nature in her work of restoration.  God could have cured Hezekiah instantly, but specific directions were given regarding natural treatment in his case.  On one occasion Jesus anointed a blind man’s eyes with clay.  The cure was wrought only by the power of Christ, yet He made use of simple agencies of nature.  When we have prayed for the recovery of the sick and have asked God’s blessing on the means which He Himself has provided, we can work with all the more hope and energy and thank God for the privilege of cooperating with Him.

“After we have prayed, let us have faith in God, whatever the outcome.  If bereavement comes, let us remember that the bitter cup is held to our lips by our Father’s hand.  Should health be restored, let us not forget that the person healed is placed under added obligation to the Lord.  He is healed to help; he is saved to serve.  His added days of life and health are for a purpose, and that purpose is to glorify God and to do good to others.”  (Walking through the Bible with H.M.S. Richards, Day 197, page 210)

When my husband, John Ridpath, was ill seven years before he died, we made arrangements for him to go the Wildwood Lifestyle Center and Hospital in Wildwood, Georgia, (which you can look up online).  Their price was very reasonable and their care included doctors, therapists, healthful food and lifestyle.  He had several issues, but after about 28 days there, he was off all his prescriptions except one, if I remember right, took several supplements they had suggested, had lost several pounds, had an arsenal of healthy recipes, including John Ridpath’s Famous Chili, walked daily, and did very well (as long as he stayed on the regimen they suggested).  There are several such Centers across the country which help people using natural remedies along with prescriptions if their doctors see that they need them.  They are what in Adventist circles are Self-Supporting Institutions (not part of the Seventh-day Adventist system).  A man in our SDA church at Braxton had a relative who was about to lose his leg to diabetic problems.  He was convinced to go to Wildwood, and they healed the leg with natural remedies in a relatively short time and gave him back his life!

Maranatha

Coarse culture resurgent racism

The Free Press WV

From calling Mexicans rapists and animals to calling the one African American at one of his rallies “my African American,” to endorsing and appointing proven racists, to defending confederate statues, to encouraging violence by his base at his never-ending rallies, Donald Trump is taking page after page from the rise of Hitler in Germany in the 1930s to the populist Roman empire nostalgia of Benito Mussolini.

Name-calling tweets. Body-shaming insults. Mocking disabilities. Kneejerk juvenile retorts. Grade school pejorative nicknames. Trump returns again and again to target people by their identities—e.g. religion, country of origin. He scorns democratic dissent even as his alt-right brown shirt followers claim “free speech” as their right to scream hate at gays, Muslims, and those who don’t toe the Trumpline. Trump endorses torture and calls for killing noncombatants in a warlord tear at the very fabric of all international humanitarian and rules of engagement as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Facts are his enemy; another accurate label for his utterances and tweets is pathological lying.

Don’t dare compare? We must. The Nazi rise in Germany only happened because ‘good’ Germans kept their heads down and enjoyed the relief from the starvation and extreme poverty of the 1920s that Hitler brought them. He targeted, in turn and ultimately lethally, gays, Jews, communists, people with disabilities, and more.

Is Trump adding jobs and therefore helping otherwise good Americans from resisting his coarsening influence on virtually all aspects of American polity and society? We’ll see how that works out as his trade wars dump the US economy into insolvency. What will it take for Americans to put a stop to unraveling civil society, the long-time pride of America so touted by analysts ever since Alexis de Tocqueville wrote so passionately and admiringly about it in his 1835 volume, Democracy in America?

We have shown ourselves the key to combating this neo-fascism by our collective mass action against the cruel racism of separating “illegal” parents from their children. This is the very first time Trump has backed down and it was not because politicians suddenly decided to draw a line; this was civil society finally taking nonviolent collective mass action across the US.

This is how we roll back this descent into dictatorship, if indeed we want to, if we decide to in enough numbers. Because Trump controls all branches of the federal government, thanks in part to the remarkable theft of a Supreme Court seat by Mitch McConnell and his Senate henchpeople, we can only slow, stop, and reverse these lurches toward barbarism from the bottom-up.

Yes, we will have a huge chance to stem this disastrous denigration of democracy in November, but even that will be tough, given the dirty tricks done by Republican operatives in redistricting using the low tactics of gerrymandering and the purges from voter rolls made possible by overturning portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, another Republican attack on democracy.

The stakes are far beyond mere name-calling and rudeness. As the nonpartisan Freedom House report shows, the US is sliding downward in basic components of a healthy democracy, and no one except the American people themselves will fix this, if indeed democracy is still the ideal and assumed preference.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.

“Gangsterism” or “Progress”? Examining North Korea’s Latest Statement on Denuclearization

The Free Press WV

Most US news reports are suggesting that the North Koreans may be backtracking on their commitment to denuclearization, calling the US position “gangster-like” following the visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang. What the North Korean foreign ministry actually said in its statement of July 7 is far more nuanced, and speaks directly to the longstanding differences between Pyongyang and Washington.

I urge readers to judge for themselves whether or not it is a rational, reasoned statement—and then consider Pompeo’s assessment of progress in the talks with the North Koreans. Here are my brief assessments:

• The North Koreans believe Trump promised “a new way” to deal with US-DPRK relations and denuclearization, namely, step by step. Their view is clear: denuclearization comes last, not first—a longstanding position. Instead, Pompeo brought only renewed US insistence on the old US position: CVID (comprehensive, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization).

• In the North Koreans’ mind, the joint US-DPRK statement out of Singapore laid out three priorities (and in this order): creating a “peace regime” on the Korean peninsula, improving relations, and denuclearization. But the US is riveted on the last, they say, and has offered nothing on the other two.

• What does a “peace regime” mean? Some observers think it means terminating the US military presence in and defense obligation to South Korea. But the North Korean statement says otherwise. “Peace regime” means a “declaration of the end of [the Korean] war at an early date”—replacing the armistice with a peace treaty, which “is the first process of reducing tension…” The statement makes no demands about the US-South Korea relationship other than to dismiss as inconsequential Trump’s decision to suspend (not end) the joint exercises that had been scheduled for August.

• The statement emphasizes trust building. That’s the key argument for a phased approach to denuclearization: establish a peace regime to defuse tension and build trust. Only then will the North Koreans feel secure enough to take action—exactly what kind, we still don’t know—on denuclearizing. And the North Koreans maintain that they have taken a few trust-building actions, listing dismantlement of a test area for a new ICBM engine and discussion of returning the remains of US POWs and MIAs.

To those of us who watch North Korea closely, this picture is not in the least surprising. Kim Jong-un had staked out his notion of the proper timeline for denuclearization months ago, and the North Korean quest for security via normal relations with the US and a peace treaty to end the Korean War is well known. The Trump-Kim summit was a breakthrough in terms of direct dialogue, but unless the US gets beyond “CVID,” the North Koreans will continue work on nuclear weapons and missiles and the dialogue with Washington will revert to an ugly form.

Mel Gurtov, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.

Click Below for additional Articles...

Page 2 of 435 pages  <  1 2 3 4 >  Last »





The Gilmer Free Press

Copyright MMVIII-MMXIVIII The Gilmer Free Press. All Rights Reserved