Stephen Zunes : Human Rights
The Democratic leadership’s strident support for the ongoing Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip underscores how the Democrats suffer from the same illusions as the outgoing Republican administration: that placing an Arab territory under debilitating sanctions that punish the population as a whole, bombarding heavily populated civilian areas — resulting in widespread casualties among innocent people — and invading and occupying territories with a long history of resistance to outsiders will somehow lead to greater moderation from those afflicted….
The dramatic growth in democratic governance in recent decades from Latin America to Eastern Europe as well as large parts of Africa and Asia rarely came from outside forces or top-down initiatives, but primarily from democratic civil society organizations engaging in strategic nonviolent action. There appears to be a growing recognition that endemic corruption needs to be addressed the same way.
Aminatou Haidar, a nonviolent activist from Western Sahara and a key leader in her nation’s struggle against the 33-year-old U.S.-backed Moroccan occupation of her country, won this year’s Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award….
The Bush administration has justifiably criticized the Zimbabwean regime of liberator-turned-dictator Robert Mugabe. It has joined a unanimous UN Security Council resolution condemning the campaign of violence unleashed upon pro-democracy activists and calling for increased diplomatic sanctions in the face of yet another sham election. In addition, both the House and the Senate have passed strongly worded resolutions of solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe in support of their struggle for freedom and democracy….
Gene Sharp, an 80-year-old scholar of strategic nonviolent action and veteran of radical pacifist causes, is under attack by a number of foreign governments that claim that he and his small research institute are key players in a Bush administration plot against them….
The United States has done for the cause of democracy what the Soviet Union did for the cause of socialism. Not only has the Bush administration given democracy a bad name in much of the world, but its high-profile and highly suspect “democracy promotion” agenda has provided repressive regimes and their apologists an excuse to label any popular pro-democracy movement that challenges them as foreign agents, even when led by independent grassroots nonviolent activists….
Pundits responded to news of the retirement of Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA) at the end of his current term with platitudes and praise. They have focused primarily on his heroic role as a Holocaust survivor and member of the anti-Nazi resistance in his native Hungary as well as his leadership on human rights issues in Congress, serving as the founder and longtime co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus….
It was kind of surreal: a couple of thousand people jammed onto a normally quiet residential street of pricey bungalows along San Francisco Bay. The crowd and the floodlights made it impossible to see the imposing walls of San Quentin Prison or even the entrance gates just a few yards away. The sound system on the makeshift stage was poor, but the diverse mix of Christians, leftists, community activists, urban youth and other death penalty opponents made a powerful witness late Monday night to the state-sanctioned murder of Stanley “Tookie” Williams….
It is doubtful that the Bush administration will be very successful advancing America’s image in the Islamic world as long as its representatives have such trouble telling the truth. A case in point took place on October 21, when U.S. Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes was talking before a group of university students in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country. As she has found elsewhere in her visits in the Islamic world, there is enormous popular opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the ongoing U.S. counter-insurgency war….
One of the most tragically irresponsible decisions of the Bush administration in the critical hours following Hurricane Katrina was its refusal to accept offers by the government of Cuba to immediately dispatch more than 1500 medical doctors with 37 tons of medical supplies to the devastated areas along the Gulf coast.