The Obama Administration Dismal Human Rights Policies

In the last few days, there have been a few very discouraging events that have me worried about the Obama administration’s commitment to various traditional American human rights policies.

First, Obama has refused to meet with the Dalai Lama. This is obviously some sort of concession to the Chinese. What kind of signal does this send to the people of Tibet, and what does this say about the U.S. commitment to Tibet in the eyes of the Chinese government?

Next, the Obama Administration has Cut All Funding to the Iranian Human Rights Documentation Center. The IHRDC is a state department organization that tracks human rights abuses in Iran. The Obama administration is shutting it down. The likely reason for this is that the U.S. is looking to cut a deal with Iran, and documentation of human rights abuses would be embarrassing. Don’t look, don’t tell.

Next, the FTC is going to regulate social media on the internet. Yes, the government plans to watch places like the SDMB, facebook, twitter, blogs, and other elements of the social space on the internet and go after people who are shilling for companies. But as Jeff Jarvis says:

Finally, the U.S. is trying to ‘reach out’ to the Muslim world, and as part of this, it has joined the Islamically-controlled Human Rights Council, a truly Orwellian-named group. Fine you say, they plan to work from within to reform it and help promote rights.

But no, instead the Obama administration appears to be willing to throw U.S. constitutional principles under the bus instead. It has authored a joint ‘free speech’ resolution with that bastion of freedom, Egypt. And as usual, a ‘freedom’ resolution from the HRC is really meant to restrict freedom. Read this editorial in The New Republic, which quotes a few choice paragraphs:

This is the kind of language Canada’s Human Rights Tribunals operate under. We’re in the process of shutting them down because they have been a gross violator of civil rights in Canada. And none of this would pass the 1st Amendment test in the U.S. So what the hell?

Are any of this board’s civil libertarians bothered by any of this?

Pace yourself, Sam. You complain about Obama so much that it’s gotten very hard to take you seriously.

Maybe, but he’s right, though. Some of those things are troubling.

Dismal? That’s a bit of a stretch.

As for the Dali Lama, is there some requirement that a US president meet with him? Might be nice, but necessary? With Iran, is there no other group that tracks human rights abuses? And if they want to cut some kind of a deal, they’re going after it in a pretty heavy handed way. I can’t follow the issue on Free Speech-- they guy in that editorial is putting his spin on it, and I don’t see that his spin is correct. He’s reading between the lines.

Come now, you didn’t find any of this discouraging. You probably lit up like a Christmas tree when you heard about this. A chance to rage against Obama! Huzzah!

[li]Who cares about the Dalai Lama?[/li]
[li]Were you as pissed when Nixon went to China? It’s called diplomacy.[/li]
[li]If a company says their widget cures cancer on a TV commercial that isn’t allowed (assuming it doesn’t actually cure cancer). You think it’s okay for them to hire a nerd to post in a blog that their widget cures cancer?[/li]
[li]You think that the US shouldn’t work to increase freedom of speech in other parts of the world unless they suddenly copy word for word the complete first amendment of the American constitution? What an odd stance to take.[/li][/ol]

All in all I give this chicken little rant a 3 out of ten. It’s simply rubbish stated in hushed tones to simulate gravity.

I think it sends the message that we aren’t going to compromise our geopolitical position to send meaningless messages. If Obama snubbing the Dalai Lama allows us to get meaningful concessions out of China then thats what needs to happen.

Like we need a state department to track human rights abuses in Iran. I know Iran abuses human rights, you know Iran abuses human rights, and Obama knows that Iran abuses human rights. Better to spend that time, money, and effort elsewhere.

gasp Next you will be telling me that the government plans to watch places like the NYTimes, Consumer Reviews, and TV! This rule is a logical extension of advertising rules that has been in the works for years. While those rules may be a problem, the fact that they are being extended to a new media isn’t cause for alarm.

Why is promoting the return to a repressive, autocratic theocracy in Tibet considered a good thing, human-rights wise?

As far as I’m concerned, the Dalai Lama is just a huckster who pals around with celebrities like Richard Gere and Stephen Seagal, and has turned Buddhism into a celebrity-cult like $cientology whose main objective is to draw in funds to pay for their monasteries. I wish people would stop treating him like some kind of amazing font of wisdom. I went to one of his speeches - yes, saw him live, in person - and the stuff he said wasn’t any more inspirational than a talk with my old uncle Jerry. He was also driven around in a bulletproof Cadillac Escalade, and Stephen Seagal accompanied his visit to create a ridiculous hullaballoo of celebrity-fever for himself.

The Dalai Lama’s whole shtick is a ridiculous charade.

What Lobahan said. Nothing on this list particularly bothers me. I actually think it’s more constructive for the cause of human rights in the long run to try to begin some kind of dialogue than it is to do nothing but spout self-righteous (and often hypocritical where the US is concerned) platitudes.

The US has had cozy relationships with China and Saudi Arabia for a long time anyway. How are either of those countries any worse than Iran?

And who gives a shit about the Dalai Lama?

That jeff Jarvis dude is full of shit, by the way. The internet is absolutely a medium, not a “place.”

It’s nice to see Bush supporters concerned about human rights again.

What Dick Dastardly said. I welcome Sam Stone’s concern for human rights, because in my experience to this point, his own record has been dismal.

I believe this presupposes you were encouraged by Obama at some point.

I was pretty surprised when I saw the thread title. I was preparing myself to see Sam Stone criticize Obama on torture, black sites, FISA, data mining, appointment of people who love that indefinite detention stuff…and, you know, his general continuance of Bush policies. But I get this wishy washy stuff.

Come on Sam.

I was. Go read what I wrote about him from the period between the elecction and about February. Back when he was putting his administration together and choosing people like Austan Goolsbee and Christina Romer. I liked quite a few of his early cabinet picks. It looked like he was setting a Clinton II kind of administration - slightly center-left, filled with professionals instead of ideologues. I repeatedly said on this board that he was turning out to be a pleasant surprise and I was happy to be proven wrong about my pre-election fears.

I was also happy to see a more realistic foreign policy stance - he shored up the soldiers in Afghanistan and re-affirmed his commitment to winning there, and he backed away from his promise to remove all the soldiers from Iraq. I saw those as adjustments that needed to be made, and as his response to what he may have learned from classified briefings after becoming POTUS. That made me think he wasn’t going to be a dogmatic ideologue.

Since about February, there’s been very little he’s done that I like. I call it like I see it. If he makes good decisions, I’ll be happy to support him.

This stuff matters. The move with the Dalai Lama is a signal, and not a good one. It’s a signal that the U.S. is willing to at least moderate its position on human rights in Tibet in exchange for something from China. A meeting with the Dalai Lama by itself would be no big deal, but it’s been something every president has done for decades, and has become more than just a meeting - it’s a reaffirmation of American support for Tibetan causes.

Likewise, shutting down a state department organization that tracks human rights abuses in Iran is a signal - it tells the Iranian government that the U.S. is willing to look the other way on such matters so long as it gets concessions in return. And imagine how demoralizing that is for the people who have been risking their lives to protest within Iran.

This is just another example of how Obama has been cozying up to America’s enemies and screwing over American allies. India is not happy about what’s going on. Neither is Israel. Poland and the Czech Republic are pissed off. Britain has been repeatedly snubbed. Honduras is being actively punished. Israel is becoming increasingly worried. But Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro, Muammar Khadaffi, and the governments of Egypt, Iran, China, and Russia think everything is going swimmingly.

Get back to us when you’ve got something a little better than what you imagine are “signals.”

How do you feel about waterboarding?

And relations with other countries too! Bush supporters are now concerned about our standing and relations with the world’s other countries. Excellent.

I’d also like to point out that Israel are worried that we might put pressure on them due to their recent war crimes and ongoing slow-motion ethnic cleansing of Palestinian land, Obama and almost the entire international community agree on Honduras, India accused the Bush administration of creating an arms race on the Indian subcontinent, Britain has been snubbed because they released a terrorist that killed Americans from jail, Chavez is reduced to banning Family Guy because he can’t make Obama out to be a bad guy.

Bush welcomed Gaddafi back into the international community, propped up the Egyptian dictatorship against actual democratic competition and then allowed the dictator to repress and arrest the democrats, handed effective control of the world’s second-largest oil reserve to Iran at great American cost, and cosied up to both the Chinese and Russian leaders, only falling out with the Russian when they clashed over something more important to Bush than being pally with dictators, energy.

Is that not our position?

Are we not willing to do so?


India, as far as I know, is unhappy about our increased aid to Pakistan. Which is just too bad for them, because Pakistan is much more important to us than India.

Good. Whats good for Israel and whats good for the U.S. haven’t been the same thing in a long time.

This really isn’t Obama’s fault. Bush is the one that pushed for a system that didn’t make sense. Obama reversing course is the correct move. One which, unfortuantely, has the side effect of screwing Poland and the Czech Republic a bit.

Made up bullshit.

Obama is supporting the duly elected government of Honduras against a coup. I don’t know how that counts as being “actively punished”.

Hey look, Israel twice!

It’s good that Israel is worried. I think Iran having a nuclear check on Israel is a good thing.