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Date: Mon, 16 Dec 96 17:33:26 CST
From: (Peoples Weekly World)
Subject: Human rights - image & reality

**Human rights - image & reality**

Human rights—image & reality

By Vic Perlo, People's Weekly World, 14 December 1996

(Reprinted from the December 14, 1996 issue of the People's Weekly World. May be reprinted or reposted with PWW credit. For subscription information see below)

U.S. imperialism has always spent billions of dollars in an effort to paint itself as a champion of "human rights" before world - and especially U.S. - public opinion.

But a closer look at the historic record reveals that the U.S. ruling class has never been concerned with human rights in the conduct of its foreign policy and/or activities. And the same can be said when it comes to the human rights of American workers, African America people and other racially and nationally oppressed peoples.

By Washington's standards any deviation from American legal norms or political structures are "human rights violations" - except, of course when U.S. agents are supporting the most bloody tyrants such as Pinochet in Chile or the military invasion of Grenada.

Is the history of the foreign policy of the United States with its deliberate slaughter of hundreds of thousands in the fire-bombing of cities - and dropping nuclear weapons on two - and the refusal to announce a "no first use" of nuclear weapons the history of defending human rights?

Or human rights violations at home: the savage jail sentences for rather trivial offenses; police murders and the economic subjugation of African Americans and Latinos; the unpunished and uncompensated-for destruction of African American churches?

What about the toleration of the Ku Klux Klan or armed militias, by authorities ranging from the Department of Justice to local police departments?

Is the return of the police truncheon to the picket line, the use of black-garbed thugs and the anti-union legislation that allows states to pass "right to work" ( for less) legislation - are not these violations of the human rights of most people as are the mass layoffs and plant closings of recent years?

Just how well does an electoral process where three quarters of a billion dollars are spent in a presidential election, $25 million in a Senate race and more millions to win a seat in the House of Representatives protect the human rights of a nation's people? Are these the "principles" of a democracy or are they a mockery of the principles enshrined in the Constitution?

Are these - and one could cite more - examples of protecting human rights or are they the hall mark of a nation that ranks as a world leader in violating human rights?

The answer is obvious. But the unfortunate facts are that the hypocritical use of the human rights issue by U.S. in its broadcasts over Radio Free Europe played an important role in destabilizing the socialist regimes in the Soviet Union and other eastern European countries. And now the target is China, as witness a Dec. 4 Wall Street Journal editorial discussing Radio Free Asia:

"In a world where Chinese military and diplomatic power is growing, it is important to remember the lessons of Radio Free Europe taught us ... People listened and eventually were able to use what they learned to challenge the legitimacy of the Communist system. The 1.5 billion people of Asia who today live under authoritarian rule deserve no less of a commitment from the United States."

I have a better idea: Those "1.5 billion people of Asia" would be far better off if the U.S. were to abide by international legal standards of human rights as defined by two United Nations Conventions: one on economic, social and cultural rights and a second on civil and political rights.

Both, which were adopted by the General Assembly in 1966 and became a part of international law ten years later, were the result of prolonged deliberations in which Eleanor Roosevelt played a major role. By 1981 some 80 countries had signed and ratified the conventions including almost all major countries, be they socialist or capitalist - but the United States was not then - and is not now - one of them.

President Carter signed the conventions in behalf of the United States in 1977 but "signing" is not enough; the United States does not recognize treaties or conventions until they have been ratified by the Senate. (In 1953 John Foster Dulles, the Rockefeller representative who was then Secretary of State informed the world that the U.S. would never ratify the conventions under discussion and that policy remains in effect more than 40 years later.)

While it is true that few if any governments live up to the letter of these conventions and some who have ratified them are guilty of grievous violations of their main provisions, the documents represent a goal progressives should support.

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