“The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.”
– Samuel P. Huntington
– President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking with Charlie Rose, May 3, 2010
On Wednesday afternoon, in a joint press conference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner announced that the United States had imposed a new set of unilateral sanctions, including a travel ban and freezing of assets, against a number of top-ranking Iranian officials whom it accused of “serious and sustained human rights abuses” since the presidential election last year. The measure, which comes less than four months after the UN Security Council’s latest illegal resolution and the Obama administration’s last round of economic sanctions, was enacted via an Executive Order signed into effect last night by the President.
This marked, as Clinton pointed out, “the first time the United States has imposed sanctions against Iran based on human rights abuses.” Every US administration since Carter’s has issued unilateral sanctions against Iran due to its continued opposition to US imperialism and insufficient deference to American diktat. However, the sanctions have previously been justified using the pretense of Iran’s alleged “active support of terrorism,” its totally legal and fully monitored nuclear energy program, as well as the wholly fabricated notion that “the actions and policies of the Government of Iran constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States” and required “the declar[ation of] a national emergency to deal with that threat.” This last hysterical claim was introduced by the Secretary of State’s Presidential husband back in 1995.
This time around, Hillary Clinton stated, with regard to the eight government officials specifically targeted by the new order, “on [their] watch or under their command, Iranian citizens have been arbitrarily arrested, beaten, tortured, raped, blackmailed, and killed. Yet the Iranian Government has ignored repeated calls from the international community to end these abuses, to hold to account those responsible and respect the rights and fundamental freedoms of its citizens. And Iran has failed to meet its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
Apparently, the United States’ own recent history regarding the invasion and occupation of two foreign countries, the kidnapping, indefinite detention without charge, and the physical and psychological torture of thousands of people, including at places like Guantanamo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib (where prisoners were raped by their American captors) is irrelevant to the administration’s finger-pointing charade and ongoing demonization campaign against Iran. Prisoners held by the United States in Afghanistan and Guantanamo, in addition to being “chained to the ceiling, shackled so tightly that the blood flow stops, kept naked and hooded and kicked to keep them awake for days on end,” have also been beaten to death by their interrogators. Of the fifteen soldiers charged with detainee abuse ranging from “dereliction of duty to maiming and involuntary manslaughter,” all but three have been acquitted. Those three received written reprimands and served, at most, 75 days in prison for their crimes.
In contrast, after reports of torture at Iran’s Kahrizak prison surfaced, the Iranian government moved swiftly to close the facility because it “lacked the standards” to maintain “rights of detainees” and launched an investigation into the allegations. Around the same time, 140 detainees were released from Tehran’s Evin Prison at the urging of the head of the Judiciary and Majlis ministers.
Additionally, according to a Financial Times report from June 25, 2009 and featured only as an insert in the print edition, several students who had been arrested during the post-election protests, rallies, and riots, were freed in order to join 1.3 million other young Iranians in taking the national university entrance exam.
In December 2009, Iranian authorities announced that twelve prison officials from Kahrizak had been arrested and charged with murder and other crimes, including abuse, negligence and deprivation of prisoners’ legal rights. This past June, courts passed down prison sentences and other punishment to those accused and two prison guards were convicted of murder and “intentional assault and battery” and were sentenced to death. It was reported this week that the death sentences have been rescinded at the request of the families of the victims.
Of course, human rights abuses in Iran are indeed serious and deserve condemnation. Most recently, Hossein “Hoder” Derakhshan, Iran’s so-called “blogfather,” has been convicted of “collaborating with hostile governments, committing blasphemy and propaganda against the Islamic Republic, and managing an obscene website” and sentenced to 19.5 years in prison.
Meanwhile, the United States continues firmly protecting its own war criminals, maintains a two-tiered justice system, routinely criminalizes dissent and whistleblowing, and breeds soldiers who kill civilians for sport and dismember corpses for fun.
“The steady deterioration in human rights conditions in Iran has obliged the United States to speak out time and time again. And today, we are announcing specific actions that correspond to our deep concern. The mounting evidence of repression against anyone who questions Iranian Government decisions or advocates for transparency or even attempts to defend political prisoners is very troubling,” Clinton continued, at the press conference. The Secretary of State also noted the distressing treatment of Iranian “human rights lawyers, bloggers, journalists and activists for women’s rights.”
This heartfelt announcement came just five days after the FBI launched its latest surreal assault in the US government’s “war on dissent” (as termed by former FBI agent and courageous whistleblower Coleen Rowley) by kicking down doors, raiding homes at gunpoint, issuing grand jury subpoenas, and seizing the personal property, including “documents, files, books, photographs, videos, souvenirs, war relics, notebooks, address books, diaries, journals, maps, or other evidence,” such as computers, cell phones, and emails of several American peace and justice activists in the Midwest. The raids were conducted under the guise of determining whether the targeted peace organizers and human rights advocates were actually devious supporters of “foreign terrorist organizations.”
Elderly anti-war protesters, graduate students, neuroscientists, and civil rights attorneys have all been held for years by the US government and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences on bogus charges.
Furthermore, the claim that the US government supports “transparency” is deeply ironic, considering Obama’s obsession with invoking “state secrets” and “sovereign impunity” in order to shield illegal programs like warrantless wiretapping and spying, extraordinary rendition, torture, drone warfare, and the extrajudicial assassination of American citizens from proper scrutiny and prosecution.
Whereas American officials are quick to declare their unqualified promotion of “new tools of communication” and support for “a free and open Internet,” as President Obama did last week at the United Nations General Assembly, the US is itself a surveillance state, which relentlessly monitors its own citizens. The CIA and other intelligence agencies have invested in technology and companies that specialize in monitoring social media and, this past summer, a Senate committee approved a wide-ranging cybersecurity bill that may grant the US president the authority to unilaterally shut down parts of the Internet during a “national cyber-emergency.” Just this week, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration will propose new legislation to mandate US government access to all forms of electronic communications, “including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct ‘peer to peer’ messaging like Skype.”
“In signing this Executive Order,” Clinton declared on Wednesday, “the President sends the message that the United States stands up for the universal rights of all people” and serves “as a voice for the voiceless.”
Obviously, she didn’t mean the universal right of self-determination for or the cries for human dignity of the Palestinian people, who have been ethnically cleansed from their homeland to make room for US-backed and nuclear-armed colonial settlers and serial human rights abusers who systematically, and with total impunity, continue to dispossess, disenfranchise, displace, demolish, and destroy the indigenous population of the stolen land they occupy and control.
This should hardly be surprising due to the fact that during the “carefully choreographed” meeting between the American President and Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu in July 2010, described as “empty theater” by Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jay Booker, Obama pointed out that his administration is “unwavering in our commitment to Israel’s security,” while making sure to specifically not affirm the safety, human rights, or self-determination of Palestinians.
Last week, at the UN, Obama went even further in demonstrating the blatant hypocrisy entrenched in the United States doctrine of defending Zionist war crimes while condemning human rights abuses elsewhere around the world. The President stated, as he has so many times before, that any “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy [sic] will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States,” continuing that “efforts to threaten or kill Israelis will do nothing to help the Palestinian people. The slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance – it’s injustice.”
No mention was made of the constant Israeli murder – with US weaponry – of Palestinian civilians, despite the fact that, in the past decade alone, Israeli security forces have killed 6,371 Palestinians, of whom 1317 were minors, about 250 were police officers bombed to death during the 2008-9 Gaza massacre, and 240 were targets of assassinations. Apparently, this is not “injustice,” according to the President, it’s just a necessary side-effect of Zionism that didn’t warrant a mention.
Hillary Clinton, after announcing the new Iran sanctions, claimed that “[the US] will hold abuse of governments and individuals accountable for their actions.” The simplicity of this statement is profound considering it is a complete and provable lie.
Last year, when the United Nations released the Goldstone Report, which found overwhelming and irrefutable evidence that Israel had committed gross “violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and possible war crimes and crimes against humanity” during its 2008-9 Gaza assault, the US government roundly condemned the findings and refused to hold Israel accountable for anything.
Last week, the day before Obama addressed the General Assembly, the UN itself released its findings with regard to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre. The report stated, not only that the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza is illegal under international law and constitutes collective punishment (which is a war crime), but also:
“The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality. Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds. It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.”
Additionally, in July 2010, domestic Israeli policy and its occupation conduct had been found to violate these very same statutes (among others) by the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
Based on both “forensic and firearm evidence,” the fact-finding panel concluded that the killing of American citizen Furkan Dogan and that of five Turkish citizens by the Israeli troops on the Mavi Marmara “can be characterized as extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions.”
It has also been reported that Israel is not only proud of its actions, but actually awarded the Israeli commando who single-handedly shot most of those killed on the Mavi Marmara with a medal of valor, despite the fact that the government refuses to publicly release the soldier’s name. What a hero.
In response, the United States voiced its objections to what it termed the UN report’s “unbalanced language, tone and conclusions.” It seems that the US government won’t hold Israel accountable for the intentional murder of its own citizens, just as it has looked the other way when Israel has killed American sailors, severely injured American peace activists, and blinded American art students.
The same day the US dismissed the UN Flotilla report, President Obama signed his Executive Order sanctioning Iranian officials for human rights violations.
Despite Israel’s constant ignoring of international law, UN Security Council resolutions, and blatant disregard for human rights, including brutal torture, beating and raping Palestinian children in prison, rampant police brutality and the aggressive stifling of peaceful dissent and demonstrations in East Jerusalem, the deliberate killing of protesters, the raiding of peace and justice organizations, the restriction of press freedom and enforcing media blackouts, the kidnapping and torture of democracy advocates, the destruction of Bedouin villages in the Negev, and the arresting of Torah-carrying women who dare approach the male side of the Western Wall to pray, the US government continues to provide political cover, financial assistance, and tremendous military aid without reservation.
In his much-lauded June 2009 speech in Cairo, President Obama declared, “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”
But the illegal colonization of the occupied West Bank didn’t stop. Not only that, massive US aid to Israel was completely unaffected by Israel’s refusal to abide by international law and weapons trade between the countries actually increased. Eventually, the US just dropped any demand for a settlement freeze of any kind.
Between last year’s UN General Assembly address and the one delivered last Thursday, it appears that Obama has also dropped any real demands regarding permanent borders, Palestinian refugees, and the status of Jerusalem.
During Wednesday’s press conference, Clinton, on behalf of the American government, declared “solidarity with their victims and with all Iranians who wish for a government that respects their human rights and their dignity and their freedom” and “convey[ed] our strong support for the rule of law.” Whose rules and which law she was referring to is unclear.
Among the latest stipulations of the new UNSC sanctions, bullied into approval this past June, is the insistence that “States will be required to block Iranian investments outside the Islamic Republic in uranium mining or the production of nuclear materials and technology” and that “States will be barred from supplying Iran with specified categories of heavy weaponry that could potentially be used in offensive military operations,” due to Iran‘s perceived violations of international law.
Nevertheless, the US government has continued to violate international and domestic laws regarding Israel’s undeclared nuclear program and the constant shipment of American-made weaponry to the so-called Jewish State.
Recently, the United States has “sold” Israel, among other armaments, AH-64 and AH-64D Apache Longbow fighter helicopters, F-16 and F-15 Eagle fighter planes, F-16 Peace Marble II and III Aircraft, F-35 fighter jets, Boeing 777s, Hercules C-130J airplanes, Arrow missiles, Arrow II interceptors, AGM-114 D Longbow Hellfire missiles, GBU-9 small diameter bombs, bunker buster bombs, Tomahawk missiles, Patriot and Hellfire precision-guided missile systems, D9 Caterpillar military bulldozers, specifically designed for Israel’s use in invasions of built-up areas.
Such sales are governed by the US Arms Export Control Act, which limits the use of US military aid to “internal security” and “legitimate self defense” and prohibits its use against civilians along with the Foreign Assistance Act which explicitly prohibits US assistance “to the government of any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, or other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, and the security of person, unless such assistance will directly benefit the needy people in such country.”
A more appropriate and accurate description of the State of Israel can not be found.
And yet, the United States shipped 3,000 tons of “ammunition” to Israel in the middle of the 2008-9 Gaza massacre. US weaponry was undoubtedly used in the assault, during which gross violations of international law, abrogation of human rights, and crimes against humanity were committed.
The connection of US outrage and sanctions to international human rights is, quite simply, absurd. One look at the recent $60 billion arms deal the US made with the human rights-challenged Kingdom of Saudi Arabia makes the American contention ridiculous and embarrassing.
The double standards of the US government continue to betray its real intentions and motivations regarding the Middle East, namely the maintenance of military hegemony, allegiance to Zionist mythology, and the continued demonization and threatening of any country that dares question the moral superiority of the United States or opposes American and Israeli imperialism in the region. While Barack Obama continues to claim that he is “willing to reach out with an open hand to the Iranian government,” it seems he’s forgotten to first wash off all the blood.