President Rodrigo Duterte’s tirade against the US for criticizing his tactics to wipe out the country’s illegal drug trade is a legitimate push back at America’s “double standard” not just on human rights but also on the treatment of its so-called allies.
Echoing the sentiment of many American civil rights activists that the rash of high-profile police killings of unarmed blacks across the US also violate human rights, Duterte asked: “Why are you shooting the black people there when they are [already lying]on the ground?”
Duterte also lashed out at the US, saying it should “not pretend to be the moral conscience of the world” and pointing out that America and its allies have likewise violated the human rights of other countries when they invaded Iraq “on the flimsy excuse that there was a weapon of mass destruction there.”
America certainly cannot claim any high moral ground when it comes to human rights.
For instance, a 53-page report by the Human Rights Watch entitled “No Blood, No Foul: Soldier’s Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq, ” revealed that torture and other abuses against prisoners in American custody in Iraq were authorized by the U.S. military chain of command, even after the 2004 Abu Ghraib scandal. Interviews of American soldiers described how detainees were routinely subjected to severe beatings, painful stress positions, severe sleep deprivation, and exposure to extreme cold and hot temperatures.
We also recall that after Wikileaks exposed some 400,000 U.S. military documents containing accounts of torture, summary executions and war crimes, the United Nations called on President Barack Obama to order a full investigation of American forces’ involvement in human rights abuses in Iraq. The once secret papers revealed how U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundred of reports of abuse, torture, rape and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be “systematic and generally unpunished.”
And just last year, Reuters got hold of two previously unpublished investigations showing that “the United States has consistently overlooked killings and torture by Iraqi government-sponsored Shi’ite militias.” The U.S. government has turned a blind eye to the abuses committed by its Iraqi allies, all in the name of fighting the Islamic State. Worse, the victims have no way of getting justice because both the U.S. and Iraq refused to ratify the international criminal convention that would have brought American or Iraqi officials before the international courts for war crimes.
America’s muted response to the human rights abuses of its soldiers or allies is no different outside the war zone, such as the drug-infested towns and cities of Mexico.
The U.S. publicly supports Mexico’s campaign against drug cartels, and scarcely ever criticizes or chides Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto for a growing list of abuses and injustices at the hands of government forces. Despite Mexican security forces being implicated in repeated, serious human rights violations – including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture – in the course of its drug war, the U.S. continues to give Mexico more than $100 million per year in military and police assistance, including world-class weapons, training and intelligence. In fact, in the past 8 years, Mexico has received some $2.5 billion in American aid for its fight against drug cartels.
And just two years into Peña Nieto’s term, at least 41,000 people (versus the Philippines’ 3,500) have reportedly been killed in drug-related violence, many of them involving Mexican security forces. One of the more infamous cases is the kidnapping and murder of 43 students who were mistaken for rival drug traffickers and turned over by corrupt policemen to the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel.
But when Peña Nieto visited the White House last year, US President Barack Obama refused to call out the Mexican president over mounting allegations of human-rights crimes on the part of Mexican security forces, from the military down to municipal police units, choosing instead to talk about trade, immigration, and other “shared priorities.”
Yet, here is the U.S. warning Duterte ahead of last month’s Asean summit that Obama “is certainly not going to pull any punches in raising well-documented and relevant concerns when it comes to human rights.” Can you blame Duterte then for calling America a “hypocrite?”
Of course, thinking Filipinos know why America applies different standards for its allies.
In the case of Iraq and neighboring Middle Eastern countries, the presence of ISIS and other extremists groups pose a direct and serious threat to U.S. national security, and America’s “war on terror” provides a convenient pretext to “neutralize” its enemies by all means possible, with little or no regard for human rights.
In the case of Mexico, its drug cartels have cornered the American market and are responsible for more than 80 percent of the drugs entering the United States such that the US Drug Enforcement Agency now considers Mexican narco gangs as the most significant criminal threat to the United States in decades.
On the other hand, at 8,500 miles away from Washington, local terrorist groups and drug syndicates do not present any real or imminent threat to the U.S. At least not yet to deserve the kind of support – and leniency – bestowed by America on its more favored allies.
And the most valuable leverage the country had over America, PNoy practically gave away for a song when he ratified the Washington-sponsored Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and allowed American troops to operate in at least five military bases in the country for a decade.
So when Duterte blasts the U.S. (with matching expletives), isn’t he really just calling a spade, a spade?