Archive for the ‘human rights’ Category
Crimes against humanity are best carried out in secret. Terror can be inflicted, ethnic cleansing can be waged, torture can be committed, and if it is not an official hot spot that the whole world is already watching then who in the world will even know? That is the way it has pretty much always been. But brutal regimes are now on notice that human rights activists with satellites may pop up at any time to document their crimes and haul them before the court of world opinion — and possibly even the International Criminal Court…
Media Matters for America has a report on what may be the most outrageous smear by Rush Limbaugh. Hard to imagine, I know. This time, Limbaugh is smearing president Obama for announcing deployment of some 100 special forces to Uganda to combat the terror group, Lord’s Resistance Army. Limbaugh’s charge is that Obama is out to get Christians. Good grief. Although LRA professes to be a religious group, it slaughters Christians, and in one infamous episode detailed by Jane Bussmann. I wrote about Bussmann and her book last year for Religion Dispatches:
Back in 1996, according to a document reprinted by Bussmann, the Ugandan and Sudanese governments knew exactly where Catholic school girls kidnapped by the LRA were being held. The Ugandan army had been tipped that the LRA was going to attack the elite St. Mary’s school, but had done nothing to protect or to rescue the 139 girls abducted. And yet, a brave school administrator, Sister Rachele, almost singlehandedly gained the release of 109 of the children. The LRA kept the rest—except for the one they hacked and tortured to death with machetes. Sister Rachele and the girls’ parents met with world leaders from presidents Museveni and Bashir, to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, to Kofi Annan, and Pope John Paul II.
“None of them got the girls back,” Bussmann observed. “Meanwhile, Kony built his city of children in the desert and shipped in his prize, the highly educated St. Mary’s girls. The girls were raped, impregnated, given syphilis, and watched as babies were smashed against trees.”
In fact, sweeping bipartisan majorities in both house of Congress required the administration to take action against the LRA, and it included the option to use force to remove the LRA and its leaders from the battlefield.
An important diary at Daily Kos today reports that Rush Limbaugh described “leftists” and President Obama as “cockroaches” during a recent show. The diarist goes on to remind us that in the run-up to the Rwandan genocide in the 90s, “cockroaches” was the favored term of Rwandan radio provocateurs.
While the use of the term is more than coincidental, the analogy to Rwanda remains remote. Limbaugh et al are not yet pounding out eliminationist themes in proportion to the Rwandan media of the 90s. (Here is the clip.) And no one is, as far as we know, openly arming themselves with machetes or other weapons for mass killings. When making comparisons of this sort, it is important to consider the differences as well as the similarities in order to arrive at a proportional understanding of the situation.
That said, Limbaugh’s eliminationist theme is unmistakable and it is worth considering the anti-democratic implications if his entire three minute tirade, as he tells his audience that they are in a “war.”Eliminationism has been building on right-wing hate radio in America for a long time, and the potential for political violence beyond isolated incidents is evident.
Dave Neiwert details how this can happen this in his book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, which I reviewed awhile back:
“What motivates this kind of talk and behavior,” Neiwert writes of the sometimes surprising viciousness from otherwise ordinary people, “is called eliminationism: a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile and ejection, or extermination.”
Neiwert stresses that eliminationist rhetoric “always depicts its opposition as beyond the pale, the embodiment of evil itself, unfit for participation in their vision of society, and thus worthy of elimination. It often further depicts its designated Enemy as vermin (especially rats and cockroaches) or diseases, and disease-like cancers on the body politic. A close corollary—but not as nakedly eliminationist—is the claim that opponents are traitors or criminals and that they pose a threat to our national security.” [emphasis added]
“The history of eliminationism in America and elsewhere,” he writes, “shows that rhetoric plays a significant role in the travesties that follow. It creates permission for people to act out in ways they might not otherwise. It allows them to abrogate their own humanity by denying the humanity of people deemed undesirable or a cultural contaminant.”
[Crossposted at Dirty Hippies]
The Commencement season has rolled around again, and so it is time for my now annual tradition of posting about a commencement address for all seasons; for all schools and for all time.
Commencement addresses are tricky things. Most speakers go in knowing that expectations are at once very low and very high. People would love to hear a remarkable address, but they know they are unlikely to hear one, the best efforts of the speaker not withstanding. But sometimes a commencement speaker rises to the occasion and captivates an audience — and is remembered — if for no other reason, than for having done so.
Dr. William F. Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International cut-through the summer haze with just such a speech Oberlin College in 2005. His remarks — not only moved the audience but lit-up the blogophere. A member of the class of 2005 was so moved that he posted the speech on the Daily Kos where it topped the rec list. As one commenter wrote: “All that I can say is that I wish my days were blessed with more words that could leave me feeling like I feel right now after reading that.”
Dr. Schulz had been much in the news that week, due to Amnesty’s release of a report on human rights abuses and torture of prisoners by the United States at Gitmo and beyond. Amnesty called for an international investigation and the prosecution of any U.S. government officials found responsible.
But Schulz, a 1971 Oberlin graduate was at his alma mater to connect the values of the college to his hopes for the mission of the students as they enter the world beyond. Along the way, he told a story that I will never forget:
“In the midst of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda,” Schulz recalled, “a group of machete-wielding militiamen attacked a girl’s school in the middle of the night. The teenagers were rousted from their beds about 2:00 AM and forced to line up in the dining hall. They were ordered to separate themselves, Hutu from Tutsi, so that only the Tutsi would die.
But the girls refused.
A second time the commander ordered them to divide up by ethnic group. But still they refused. And finally one of the girls found her voice and, though very frightened, this is what it was reported later that she said:
“We cannot separate ourselves, you see, because we are not Hutu; we are not Tutsi; we are Rwandan” at which point every one of them was slaughtered.”
“But what a legacy they leave! ‘We are not Hutu; we are not Tutsi. We are Rwandan.’ In that simple sentiment that young girl bespoke a graciousness upon which depends the salvation of the world.”
Here in the United States we do not face such unspeakable horrors. But we do live in difficult times, with much at stake. For those of us who did not happen to graduate from anything this year, and even for those of us who did, let’s adopt Dr. Schulz as our commencement speaker, and as we go forward to face the challenges of our time — let’s have the courage to be Rwandan.