By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, December 9, 2021
Submission to conference organized by FODASUN ( https://fodasun.com ) on the future of peace and human rights in West Asia
Every government in West Asia, as in the rest of the Earth, abuses human rights. Most of the governments in West Asia and the surrounding regions are enthusiastically supported, armed, trained, and funded by the U.S. government, which also keeps its own military bases in most of them. Governments armed with U.S. weapons, and which have their militaries trained by the U.S. military, in recent years include these 26: Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. In fact, with the four exceptions of Eritrea, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE, the U.S. government has also given funding to the militaries of all of these nations in recent years — the very same U.S. government that denies its own citizens basic services that are routine in most wealthy countries on Earth. In fact, with the recent change in Afghanistan, and with the exceptions of Eritrea, Lebanon, Sudan, Yemen, and the nations north of Afghanistan, the U.S. military maintains its own bases in all of these countries.
Note that I’ve left out Syria, where the U.S. has switched in recent years from arming the government to arming an overthrow attempt. The status of Afghanistan as a U.S. weapons customer may also have changed, but perhaps not for as long as is generally assumed — we’ll see. The fate of Yemen is of course up in the air.
The U.S. government’s role as weapons supplier, advisor, and war partner is not a trivial one. Many of these nations manufacture virtually no weapons, and import their weapons from a very small number of countries, dominated by the United States. The U.S. partners with Israel in many ways, illegally keeps nuclear weapons in Turkey (even when fighting against Turkey in a proxy war in Syria), illegally shares nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia, and partners with Saudi Arabia in a war on Yemen (other partners including United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Senegal, the United Kingdom, and Al Qaeda).
The provision of all of these weapons, trainers, bases, troops, and buckets of money is in no way contingent on human rights. The notion that it could be is ridiculous on its own terms, because one cannot use deadly weapons of war without abusing human rights. Nonetheless proposals are sometimes made and rejected in the U.S. government to provide weapons of war only to those governments that do not abuse human rights in major ways outside of wars. The notion is ridiculous even if we pretend that sense can be made of it, however, because the longstanding pattern for decades has been, if anything, the opposite of what is suggested. The very worst human rights abusers, both in war and outside of war, have been shipped the most weapons, the most funding, and the most troops by the U.S. government.
Can you imagine the outrage in the United States if U.S. mass shootings within U.S. borders were being committed with guns manufactured in Iran? But just try to find a war on the planet that doesn’t have U.S.-made weapons on both sides.
So there’s something tragically laughable about the fact that in the United States, where I live, a very few West Asian governments are sometimes severely criticized for their human rights abuses, those abuses exaggerated, and those exaggerated abuses used utterly nonsensically as justifications for military spending (including nuclear military spending), and for weapons sales, military deployments, illegal sanctions, illegal threats of war, and illegal wars. Of 39 nations currently facing lawless economic sanctions and blockades of one sort of another by the U.S. government, 11 of them are Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.
Consider the insanity of starving Afghans with sanctions in the name of human rights, following 20 years of bombing people.
Some of the worst sanctions are imposed on Iran, also the nation in West Asia most lied about, demonized, and threatened with war. The lying about Iran has been so intense and long lasting that not only the U.S. public in general but even many U.S. academics view Iran as a top threat to the imaginary peace that they hallucinate has existed for the past 75 years. The lying has been so extreme that it has included planting nuclear bomb plans on Iran.
Of course, the U.S. government opposes a nuclear-free zone in Western Asia on behalf of Israel and itself. It tears up treaties and agreements that impact the region as recklessly as it did with the indigenous nations of North America. The U.S. is party to fewer human rights and disarmament treaties than almost any other nation on Earth, is the top user of the veto at the UN Security Council, is the top user of illegal sanctions, and is the top opponent of the World Court and International Criminal Court. U.S.-led wars, just in the past 20 years, just in West and Central Asia, have directly killed probably over 5 million people, with millions more injured, traumatized, made homeless, impoverished, and made subject to toxic pollution and disease. So, a “Rule-Based Order” is not a bad idea, if taken out of the hands of the U.S. government. The town drunk might nominate himself to teach a class on sobriety, but nobody would be obliged to attend.
There was quite likely more actual democratic self-rule in some cities of West Asia 6,000 years ago, or even in various parts of North America in past millennia, than in Washington D.C. right now. I believe democracy and nonviolent activism are the best tools that can be recommended to anyone, including the people of West Asia, even though I live in a corrupt oligarchy, and despite the fact that the misrepresentatives making up the U.S. government talk about democracy so much. The governments of West Asia and the rest of the world ought to avoid falling for the militarism ploy and behaving as lawlessly and violently as the U.S. government. In fact, they ought to embrace many of the things that the U.S. government talks about instead of the things it actually does. International law, as Gandhi said of Western civilization, would be a good idea. It’s only law if it applies to everyone. It’s only international or global if you can live outside of Africa and still be subject to it.
Human rights is a wonderful idea even if its noisiest proponents for centuries have been among its busiest abusers. But we need to get wars included in human rights, just as we need to get militaries included in climate agreements, and military budgets noticed in budget discussions. The right to publish a newspaper is of limited value without the right not to be blown up by a missile from a robot airplane. We need to get human rights abuses by permanent members of the UN Security Council included in human rights. We need to get everyone subject to international courts or to universal jurisdiction exercised in other courts. We need one standard, so that if the people of Kosovo or South Sudan or Czechoslovakia or Taiwan should have the right to self-determination, then so should the people of Crimea or Palestine. And so should people forced to flee military and climate devastation.
We need to recognize and use the power of communicating atrocities to distant people whose government commits them far from home without their knowledge. We need to unite as human beings and global citizens, across borders, in serious and risky and disruptive nonviolent action against war and all injustice. We need to unite in educating each other and getting to know each other.
As parts of the world grow too hot to live in, we don’t need the parts of the world that have been shipping weapons there and demonizing the inhabitants to react with fear and greed, but with brotherhood, sisterhood, reparations, and solidarity.
Your essays continue to be a talented balance of logic and passion. An example in this piece: “The right to publish a newspaper is of limited value without the right not to be blown up by a missile from a robot airplane.”