Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June/July 2020, pp. 6-7
Letters to the Editor
U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS FAILURES BEGIN AT HOME
Having read the January/February 2020 issue of the Washington Report, I am especially eager to comment on your headline article, “Does the U.S. Care About Human Rights in the Middle East?”
As a U.S. citizen who spent 23 months in an American prison, I can assure you that Washington has little interest in “human rights,” when it supports the abuse of its own citizens.
If you only knew of the abuses committed within the American prison system and its hundreds of jails, you may have a greater understanding of how it commits human rights abuses abroad.
See the Abu Ghraib atrocities, for instance. The guards described as the ringleaders in the Iraqi prison scandal, Charles Graner, et al., worked before the war…where? In an American prison. They didn’t learn to torture from the CIA or Special Ops; they picked up their abuse skills right here and took them to Iraq—outsourcing at its worst!
The U.S. government continues to overlook and downplay the abuses within our own country, with the aid of the American media and the support of the wealthy comfortable pretending that anyone who winds up having their rights abused and losing their freedom somehow deserves it.
The response of most Americans to this is “not my problem,” until they suffer abuse or a human rights violation—then it becomes personal.
Indeed, Sarah Leah Whitson was correct to say in the aforementioned article, “Unless Washington first acknowledges and corrects its own human rights violations…its sanctimonious stand for human rights will have no credibility or impact” anywhere in the world.
R.L. Creager, Toledo, OH
Thank you for providing a perspective very often ignored in mainstream discussions about U.S. domestic and foreign policy. You are right in stating that a country that incarcerates far more of its citizens than any other nation ought to take a hard look at its own practices and values before it begins lecturing other countries. You are also right to implore the American public to show greater solidarity with the oppressed—be they individuals snared by the prison-industrial complex here at home, or victimized by our foreign policy abroad.
ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT THE LIBERTY IS NOT ANTI-SEMITIC
In a recent letter to Slate, a parent wrote they were “disturbed to find that [their child’s] class was talking about the USS Liberty. I expected the teacher to calmly but firmly explain to the students that the USS Liberty attack was accidental, to ensure that the students don’t develop any anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. But instead, I actually heard this teacher say that Secretary of State Dean Rusk believed the attack to be intentional.”
As a survivor of this horrific Israeli attack on a U.S. Naval ship 53 years ago, I can tell you that it does my heart good to hear that a teacher is trying to encourage his students to explore the truth and not just believe everything you read or hear.
Ask why our government never conducted a full and impartial investigation into this attack. Ask why our government told us survivors to never talk about it, or we would be put in prison and/or fined. Ask why no major media outlets will conduct interviews with us survivors about this attack, because the story is still being covered up 53 years after it happened.
We are not anti-Semitic. We simply want the American public to know the truth before we are all dead and unable to explain why our government is still keeping a lid on this 53 years later and counting. God bless the teacher for trying to teach his students how to research material.
Larry Bowen, USS Liberty survivor, via email
Be it Palestinians telling their own stories of displacement, human rights organizations exposing Israeli violations of international law, university students holding teach-ins about Palestine, U.S. Navy veterans seeking justice for fallen sailors, or even Jews questioning the merits of Zionism, the unsophisticated rebuttal of Israel and its supporters is increasingly: “They are anti-Semites.”
This dishonest and desperate tactic is a sign that Israel’s supporters increasingly realize the facts are not on their side. As you said, demanding truth and justice is absolutely not anti-Semitic, and it’s important that we do not let such smears prevent us from continuing the vital work of organizing and educating our fellow citizens. Smears cannot silence the truth.
FROM BUSH TO BIDEN: WILL THINGS EVER CHANGE?
PBS recently featured “American Experience,” and the two segments were on President George W. Bush. While I voted for him the first time, I did not vote for his reelection because he ordered the invasion of Iraq. His reason was weapons of mass destruction. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson was included in the documentary; he was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell.
When Secretary Powell went before the United Nations giving WMDs as the reason to invade, one easily became skeptical. What Powell was offering just didn’t ring true. I recall thinking at the time, wouldn’t it have been great if Colin Powell protested and rejected the plan to invade Iraq?
I remember seeing and hearing Col. Wilkerson at the Israel lobby conference sponsored by the Washington Report and the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy a few years ago. I think he gets it, but wish he had more influence with Powell to have persuaded him to speak out against his appearance before the U.N. Here it is 2020, and the U.S. still does what Israel tells it to do in the Middle East.
And now Joe Biden is the presumptive Democratic candidate for president. The DNC’s platform is biased for Israel. Biden voted for the Iraq War, strongly opposes the BDS movement and even though he has a strong foreign policy background, he is not even- handed, but strongly supports Israel. So, what difference does it make who is president? Either way, Israel wins and gets everything it wants militarily, economically and politically. Israel has both parties covered. Neither the Palestinians nor the United States benefit.
I wish there was some strong Palestinian leadership, but alas, I think they all are in jail on “trumped” up charges.
Who in America is listening to the innocents in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Saudi? Saudi Arabia has unbelievable purchasing power to influence for good but doesn’t. Anyway, we keep plugging along and doing our best.
Judith Howard, Norwood, MA
We’re sure Col. Lawrence Wilkerson himself wishes he had taken a bolder stance against the bogus case the Bush administration presented in favor of the Iraq War.
As you mentioned, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is anything but a principled and wise voice when it comes to the Middle East. In a recent post on his campaign website outlining his commitment to the Jewish community, Joe Biden reiterated his “record of unstinting support for Israel.” As you suggested, it is exceedingly difficult to get excited about the possibility of Biden overseeing U.S. Middle East policy.
Unsurprisingly, Biden also used his post to defame supporters of Palestinian rights. The statement said he, “rejects the BDS movement, which singles out Israel— home to millions of Jews—and too often veers into anti-Semitism, while letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices.”
But this not the time to give up. As the late British trade union leader Bob Crow once said, “If you fight you won’t always win, but if you don’t fight you’ll always lose.”
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