Human rights July 13, 2019

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Trump’s Ominous Attempt to Redefine Human Rights

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From the administration that brought you the camps, a faith-based effort to undercut America’s role in defending people’s dignity.

Ariana News Agency- 

For the Trump administration to establish a “Commission on Unalienable Rights” to examine the meaning of human rights, as it did this month, is a little like Saudi Arabia forming a commission on multiparty democracy or North Korea a commission on how to end famine. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so ominous.

Announcing the composition of the new body, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration “takes seriously the founders’ ideas of individual liberty and constitutional government.” He did so in the same week as President Trump demonstrated, once again, his contempt for the Constitution by tweeting that he’d leave office “in six years, or maybe 10 or 14 (just kidding).”


Ruling for life is one of those ideas Trump keeps injecting into the national subconscious — as a joke, of course. The president operates by such insidious design: corruption through repetition.

In the same Twitter rant Trump called himself “a true Stable Genius.” Now the Genius in Chief, through his secretary of state, has determined that the time is ripe to sift through human rights claims and, in Pompeo’s words, determine “which rights are entitled to gain respect.”

Autocrats around the world, from Russia’s Vladimir Putin to China’s Xi Jinping, have long cast human rights groups as Trojan horses for a liberal democratic agenda. It’s an attempt to deflect attention from their gross human rights abuses. Now it appears that Trump’s United States is preparing to join the club of human rights skeptics.

A more complete disavowal of what America has stood for since Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 is hard to imagine.

This, remember, is the administration that has consistently relegated human rights in its valueless foreign policy; saw in the Saudi murder and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi no cause to reprimand Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; embraced North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un; kowtowed to every autocrat outside Iran and Venezuela; and separated migrant children from their families to hold them in appalling camps.

The administration has excised reproductive rights from the annual State Department Country Reports on Human Rights. It watered down a recent United Nations Security Council resolution on victims of rape in armed conflict. It has withdrawn from the United Nations Human Rights Council. The United Nations Human Rights Committee and Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination are both without a United States member.

So what is Pompeo’s game when he asks, “What does it mean to say or claim that something is, in fact, a human right?” and continues, “How can there be human rights, rights we possess not as privileges we are granted or even earn, but simply by virtue of our humanity?”

There is no need to reinvent the wheel, Mr. Secretary. A lot of bipartisan and international consensus, consolidated over the postwar decades, in the aftermath of the Holocaust and other horrors, exists as to what human rights are and what America’s role in defending them should be.

Modern human rights are grounded on the dignity inherent in every human being. They are not God-given rights, or Trump-given rights, and they apply to people of all faiths and to those who have none. They include freedom of speech, the press, assembly and religion, and the “right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law,” as the Universal Declaration puts it. They involve combating discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, disability, gender or sexual orientation.

The United States, through the State Department and other means, has been a consistent advocate for these rights. The intention of Pompeo, an evangelical Christian whose beliefs infuse his policy, appears to be to turn back the clock.

In May, The Federal Register said the commission would provide “fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.” These “natural rights” at the time, of course, included chattel slavery and the dehumanization of black people, as well as the disenfranchisement of women.

I am not suggesting that Pompeo wants to go back there, but the “natural” rights of 1776 are not the human rights the United States helped codify in 1948.

In 1995, Hillary Clinton declared, “Women’s rights are human rights” and, 16 years later, “Gay rights are human rights.” Today, the Trump administration’s war on reproductive rights and L.G.B.T. rights is pretty clear. On gay and transgender issues, it is hostile; its attempt to dehumanize the trans community is evident.

For Pompeo, religious rights are plainly human rights; as to the rest, it’s unclear. As head of the commission, he has appointed Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard professor known as a zealous opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage. Other political opinions are represented, but the body is predominantly conservative and religious.

No plausible reason for this strange initiative has been given. Trump, having shown willful neglect toward human rights, now wants to redefine them. The exercise can only reflect his contempt for the rule of law, a free press, an independent judiciary, gays, minorities, women’s reproductive rights, the safety of migrant children, truth and decency — as well as his boundless affection for human rights violators. It is, in other words, a disaster in the making.

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