Tag Archives: human rights

Human rights, Mr. POTUS; they matter, too!

Former President Jimmy Carter made some news the other day by questioning the “legitimacy” of Donald Trump’s election as president, suggesting that Trump is in office only because of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

What has gotten little attention, though, was the setting in which Carter made the statements. He was conducting his annual human rights conference at the Carter Center in Atlanta, which seeks to call attention to one of the hallmarks of the former president’s single term in office.

Jimmy Carter made human rights arguably the hallmark of his foreign policy, which of course have been virtually ignored by Donald Trump.

While the current president kowtows to dictators, strongmen and despots, the former president called attention to their hideous treatment of fellow human beings.

A foreign hostile power led by a strongman attacked our electoral system in 2016 and the president blows it off. Trump speaks glowingly of a North Korean tyrant, talking about the “beautiful letters” he receives from the overfed Kim Jong Un, who lives in relative luxury while his fellow North Koreans are starving. Oh, and then the president recently spoke directly to Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, telling him how “honored” he was to meet the man who has been implicated in the gruesome murder and dismemberment of Saudi-born Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

President Carter’s legacy is still being determined. Historians are going to argue perhaps for the rest of time about the quality of his single term in office. On the issue of human rights and the huge stake Carter placed on furthering them, there can be no argument.

Jimmy Carter towers over Donald Trump in that critical regard. If only the current president understood the danger he poses when he cozies up to killers.

Human rights, Mr. POTUS . . . don’t forget to mention it

When Jimmy Carter was president of the United States, he spoke a lot about human rights and the need to ensure that all human beings were guaranteed basic rights of citizenship.

We don’t hear that kind of talk these days from Donald J. Trump. So, as he prepares to meet for the second time in a year with North Korean dictator/despot/megalomaniac Kim Jong Un, I am wondering if he’s going to mention human rights. At all! In any form!

Reports suggest that North Korea’s human rights record ought to be a deal breaker between Trump and Kim. Yes, it should, given North Korea’s abysmal human rights record and Kim’s demonstrated cruelty toward his own people, not to mention members of his own family. Trump, though, has an affinity for despots — or so it appears. He’s chummy with Kim, with Vladimir Putin and any assortment of tinhorn dictators from Turkey to the Philippines.

It’s instructive, too, that the two men are meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam — the country that introduced the world to “re-education camps” after the communists won the Vietnam War by overrunning South Vietnam in April 1975. Re-education camp was a euphemism for concentration camps, where the communists sent sympathizers of the defeated South Vietnamese government. They were “re-educated,” all right.

So, will this be the moment for Donald Trump, the president of the world’s strongest nation, to hold Kim Jong Un accountable for the atrocities he commits against his own people?

I am not holding my breath.

Do we stay engaged or do we withdraw?

The United States has pulled out of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council.

Donald J. Trump doesn’t like the council’s bias against Israel, nor does he like the human rights records of many of the nations that are members of the council.

The president’s response? He decided to withdraw. He’ll let the Human Rights Council do whatever it does without direct U.S. involvement.

That’s no way to lead, Mr. President. Hey, it’s a form of “leading from behind,” which is what Trump so often accused his predecessor, Barack Obama, of doing.

My own preference would be for the United States to stay engaged in the Human Rights Council, exerting pressure on the U.N. body to cease its bias against Israel and to remind many of its members that they have little moral standing to talk about human rights abuses.

I refer to nations such as Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Venezuela, and Cuba as members of the HRC. I get that those nations all have hideous human rights records.

Why does the president want to withdraw from yet another world body? He’s backed out of the Paris climate accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, threatened to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement.

He recently refused to sign the joint communique of the G-7 economic powers that met in Quebec. What’s more, Trump has threatened to launch a worldwide trade war with our most reliable trading partners and allies.

This is how you “make America great”? This is how you “put America first”?

Nope. It’s a prescription for isolating the world’s most indispensable nation from the world community. The Human Rights Council needs improvement, to be sure.

The more constructive posture would be to have our voices heard — at the table.

Trump defends a killer? Weird, man

Donald J. Trump’s infatuation with men who run their nations under heavy boots, heavy hands and sheer fright is shining more brightly than ever.

The president is defending his newest best friend, Kim Jong Un, by suggesting that his ruthlessness in governing North Korea is done out of necessity.

Here is how Politico reported some of what Trump has said about Kim: “He’s a tough guy,” the president said during a Fox News interview that aired Wednesday. “When you take over a country, a tough country, tough people and you take it over from your father — I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have — if you can do that at 27 years old, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that. So he’s a very smart guy. He’s a great negotiator, but I think we understand each other.”

So, Kim’s father — Kim Jong Il — died in 2011, giving the young man a chance to lead his desperately poor nation. How does Kim Jong Un respond? By furthering the starvation, intimidation, abuses, crimes against humanity that his father and grandfather made infamous during their respective regimes.

Politico continued: Trump made his comments Tuesday aboard Air Force One on his return from Singapore, where he’d met with Kim and hailed the North Korean leader as a “smart” and “funny guy” who “loves his people.”

Smart? Funny guy? Someone who “loves” his people?

He is cagey, cunning and supremely frightening to his subjects, the citizens of North Korea.

I laughed out loud last night when MSNBC commentator Lawrence O’Donnell made this curious observation: He said Kim Jong Un is the only “overweight” North Korean because he — unlike his subjects — is able to eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants and in whatever quantities he chooses. North Korea’s citizens, meanwhile, are starving — many of them to death.

This is the guy Donald Trump calls “honorable”?

Disgraceful.

Meanwhile, Obama meets with dissidents

obama

In other news …

President Barack Obama took time during his visit to Havana, Cuba to meet with Cubans opposed to their government’s oppression of its citizenry.

How about that, folks?

Critics of the president’s visit to Cuba took him to task for failing to schedule a meeting with Cuban dissidents. Yes, I was one who said the president should do so as well.

What did the president do?

He met with several folks at the U.S. Embassy in Havana — how strange it is to make such a reference — and praised them for exhibiting “extraordinary courage” in the face of the communist government’s ham-handed approach to dealing with political dissent.

Can a U.S. president force the leaders of another sovereign nation to change its policies? Of course not. It’s not our call, or anyone else’s call, for that matter.

It’s still wholly appropriate for a visiting head of state — particularly if that head of state leads the world’s premier nation — to call attention to the courage of those who speak out against tyranny.

For doing so, Barack Obama should earn high praise from those who criticized his trip in the first place.

Will he get it? Something tells me the president isn’t exactly holding his breath.

 

Hey we may be friends, but we’re not that close

arm raising

Talk about an awkward moment.

It happened today at the end of a joint press conference with President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro.

The picture attached here tells it all.

Castro sought to raise President Obama’s hand in some sort of show of bilateral solidarity.

Obama would have none of it. He managed to avoid grasping Castro’s hand and when the Cuban president raised the U.S. president’s hand, he ended up grabbing his wrist.

President Obama’s hand went limp.

It was really a strange sight. Don’t you think?

I suppose President Obama might have taken offense at the scolding Castro delivered to American reporters who had the temerity to ask him about human rights abuses in Cuba. Or maybe it was Castro’s insistence that the United States give back the land it owns at Guantanamo Bay.

Or … maybe it was that it’s just a bit too early in this rebuilt relationship to grasp hands and lift them jointly in a show of unity.

The nations have some distance yet to travel before they get to that point.

Thus, I believe President Obama — without saying a word — delivered a message of his own to his Cuban hosts.

 

Gov. Abbott sheds the dogma … and heads to Cuba

cuba

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is using his office the right way while steering away from some of the dogma we’ve been hearing from those in his party about a particular issue.

Abbott is going to Cuba next week on a mission to promote Texas-Cuba trade.

Abbott is a proud Republican. But unlike some of his GOP brethren, he is putting common sense and what I call “enlightened self-interest” ahead of posturing.

Some prominent Republican politicians — namely Texan Ted Cruz and Floridian Marco Rubio, who are running for president — have called the re-establishment of relations with Cuba virtually a pact with Satan himself. These two Cuban-Americans still seem to fear the island nation that is governed by dedicated communists.

Why, how can President Obama grant those commies any favors while they still have one of the world’s worst human-rights records? That’s part of the mantra we’ve heard from some on the far right about this sensible diplomatic initiative.

Gov. Abbott often has joined some on the far right on a whole host of topics with which to criticize the president.

Not this time. Good for him. Better still, good for the state he governs.

The Texas Tribune’s Aman Batheja reports: “Texas was once a leading exporter to Cuba in a quiet partnership that helped produce hundreds of jobs and millions in revenue for the Lone Star State. Even following the implementation of the U.S. trade embargo more than 50 years ago, the relationship continued to thrive for decades.”

That stopped in the early 1960s when the United States ended all relations with Cuba in the wake of Fidel Castro’s takeover of the island nation’s government. The deep freeze in U.S.-Cuba relations lasted through eight American presidencies; meanwhile, Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul, have remained in power.

President Obama made the right call to restore relations. The Cold War is over. Cuba presents no threat to the United States. It’s still dirt poor. Yes, it’s still run by communists, but Cuba is far less of a threat to U.S. interests than, say, the People’s Republic of China, a nation with which we’ve had relations since 1978.

Texas has a lot of goods and commodities it can sell to Cuban interests. Let me think … what can we sell them from, oh, this part of the state? Oh, how about some beef, or maybe cotton for starters?

Travel safely, governor.

 

Closer to home … how about Cuba?

Shifting our attention closer to home for a moment or two …

A new poll shows that most Cuban-Americans agree with the U.S. policy shift toward that fearsome foe of freedom, Cuba.

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/poll-cuba-obama-cuban-americans-florida-116570.html?hp=l3_4

President Obama this past year announced plans to restore full diplomatic relations with the Marxist government in Havana. The United States has lifted many travel restrictions already. Our governments are now talking directly to each other. Before too terribly long there likely will be an exchange of ambassadors and the nations will have embassies in each other’s capital cities.

This policy change should have occurred decades ago. That it’s occurring now is a sign of the changing times.

The U.S.-led embargo against Cuba has needed to be lifted. Indeed, any possible threat Cuba posed to this country evaporated in 1991 when the Soviet Union disappeared. The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis provided a scary two-week standoff that well could have brought about nuclear annihilation, but it ended well when President Kennedy forced the Big Bad Bear to “blink,” and remove those offensive missiles from the island nation.

Yes, the nation has human rights issues it needs to resolve. Then again, so do many other nations with which the United States already has full diplomatic relations.

Cuban-Americans, who hold considerable political sway in this country, now appear to be climbing aboard the U.S.-Cuba relationship restoration vehicle.

Let us proceed to make that restoration a reality.