Sunday, March 11, 2007

Wrong Comparisons, America!

I asked two US officials the same question on two different occasions and received the same response. They were Liz Cheney (Dick Cheney’s daughter), assistant secretary of state for Middle and Near East, and Lorne W. Craner, assistant secretary of state for human rights, democracy and labor. Both were supposed to explain why America’s human rights record today is so poor; how the American conscience tolerated Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib; why the leader of the free world sends prisoners to dictatorships for torture; why the US kidnaps suspects, ships them to secret prisons in bases around the world, even without the knowledge of host countries.
Without flinching, the two top officials started by pointing to Arab police states and human rights records. They were basically saying: “You are in no position to criticize us on such issues because you fared worse!”
Lorne Craner went further to compare the American justice system with that of the worst Arab and Muslim countries in his defense of his administration’s treatment of Muslim and Arab prisoners. He also compared citizen rights in America to ours.
The argument goes like this: “Before you point a finger at our systems take a minute to examine yours! We are still way ahead of you. Learn and follow. Once you are our equals, then you may be qualified to discuss our shortcomings!”
This was so disturbing because I might accept it from an ignorant demagogue, but not from high-level representatives of the Land of the Free.
“So now you are comparing your superpower, world-leader nation with our Third World countries?” I answered in disbelief. “If so, who are you to preach to us? If we now refer to the same value system, then please come down from your high moral ground and stop showing us the way?”
When I asked about the colossal collateral damage American forces caused in Iraq and Afghanistan, Craner made another comparison, this time to World War I and II. Imagine that! After 60 years of progress, after the UN, the Geneva Conventions and all the rules governing war and occupation, comes the representative of the great nation that led that progress to take us back to square one!
I also asked other American officials about the phenomenal corruption in Iraq. Again, the comparison was made to our corruption. And whenever I mentioned the propaganda campaign in Iraq that involved bribing writers and journalists to publish “made in USA” editorials and stories, I am reminded of Arab propaganda.
Even when I ask about the slow process of visa issuing or the way some Muslims are treated in US airports and FBI custody, a comparison is made to the situation in Arab embassies and countries.
“Look at your press! Look at the way Arab governments are using the media for propaganda. At least, in America, the government cannot directly use or abuse the media. We are free to criticize the president and his administration any time. Can you?” the argument goes.
When I wrote the column, “The Myth of US Freedom of Press” two weeks ago, many American readers reminded me of the Arab record in this area. I anticipated this familiar reaction and ended my article with this loud and clear statement: “We, in the Arab world, never claim to have true free press, but American media brag about it.” Still many missed the point or insisted on missing it.
Sorry, but I refuse, on behalf of the admirers of the American Bill of Rights, to accept this lowering of a flag that has been for centuries a symbol of freedom, democracy and justice. America and the world deserve better!
US officials are not the only ones making this kind of argument. The French did it, too.
When they banned the hijab for schoolgirls, they pointed to a similar ban in two Muslim countries, Tunisia and Turkey. Wasn’t the human rights the biggest concern France cited for voting against Turkey’s membership of the European Union? What moral difference is there if we now compare records of human rights abuses in a leader of the civilized world and that of Third World countries? Besides, we hold up France to its great constitution, secular traditions and freedoms, not to the value system of lesser nations.
What a shame! Where are we going to look for inspiration and enlightenment if the guardians of the City of Light and the Statue of Liberty are acting like the worst of us?


Gamal said...

Dear Khaled:

I read with interest your article "Wrong Comparisons, America"; however, I find a bit naive you even posed that question to American officials. It is implicit throughout history how America behaves. Human rights are just a political tool to put pressure on others. Since its inception, the USA has shown a dismal track record on human rights, the US goverment and its people have persecuted native Americans, as if they were terrorists, until their complete annihilation. So to say that we are lesser humans by simply evading the question only means that they have no defendable position.

On the other hand, we also have a lot to learn from history, and not necessarily from the USA.
As Arabs I can tell you from personal expirience while working in Saudi that the majority of the people I worked with were hypocrites, liars and dishonest. Even those at the highest levels.

Saudis in particlular treat each other with disrespect and inhumanly. They use religon to manipulate and excuse their errors and sins, to denigrate people of other countries and to become, above all, racists. I cannot say the same about people from other Arab states, such as Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon or Syria. Saudis are very different, and very racists.

In political terms the comparison made is wrong, but in human terms the answers the American officials gave are simply correct.

V. Veritas said...

Yet another tiresome Tu Quoque argument from Khaled.

Given that I have met the illustrious Dr. Batarfi and thus, am well aware of how he distorts and misquotes what people say to him, I highly doubt as to whether he is quoting Liz Cheney and Lorne W. Craner with any amount of accuracy—provided that is, IF he ever actually met them at all and they gave him the time of day.

Dr. Batarfi clearly finds it easier to spew forth incessant anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Israeli sentiments than to write substantively on the issue of Islamofascist terror and the source of same—namely the ummah, which has an endless supply of hopelessly lost, despairing young people who fancy that they will obtain in the decadent Islamic celestial Paradise what is forbidden on this earth—via suicide jihad. How much easier to follow the promise eternal debauchery in Heaven than to put their backs into working to better their lot in this life. After all, the Qur'an and Muhammad promise that they will all get to Paradise as martyrs. Where there await them rivers of wine, servant boys like pearls and those 72 virgin/raisins that each Muslim male will service throughout eternity on gold and jewel encrusted couches.

While Batarfi's interminable barrage of wrong-headed arguments may keep the childhood friend of Osama bin Laden safe in his ivory tower, they will do nothing to move the failed Islamic nation into the realm of civilization.

Therefore, I would suggest to Dr. Batarfi that he find the courage to examine the history of the Arabs and Islam in order that he may finally learn the source of the 7th century barbarism and backwardness that has been plaguing the world for over 1400 years. Polls show that a majority of "true believers" in all Islamic lands approve of Osama bin Laden, suicide/homicide jihad and Islamic terror to further the designs of backward, 7th century Islam on the world.

I would like to ask our dear "friend," Khaled—what will the dog do when he catches the car? ;)

Batarfi and the elites of the Islamic world would do well to note that there is not a line-up of people who want to immigrate to dar al Islam by the millions. Yet, Muslims are breaking down the infidel's doors to dar al Harb, only to attempt to force their backward way of life onto civilization and therewith make it dar al Islam—another failed Islamic state. Indeed, Dr. Batarfi himself made sure that his own children are American citizens, while he insists on the rights of Muslims to have special, above and outside the law privileges in our "infidel" lands.

If Dr. Batrafi has the nerve, I suggest that he write about the failed states of the ummah—in particular Saudi Arabia, the crucible of both ancient and modern Islamofascist terror! That is IF Dr. Batarfi can finally face making the correct comparison, nay association— between religion and terror.

Regardless of whether Batarfi does this or not, he can rest assured that the world community has already done so. Moreover, just in case Dr. Batarfi has not noticed, as the world watches Muslim on Muslim and Muslim on "infidel" savagery day after day, year after year, decade after decade—with each terror attack the "infidel" world delves into the history of Islam and the preachings Muhammad via the Qur'an, the ahadith, etc. As a result, fewer and fewer people worldwide could care less whether Muslims slaughter each other until the last day or not!

"In order to be effective, truth must penetrate like an arrow—and that is likely to hurt." Wei Wu Wei

Véronique Veritas

Vérité sans peur (Truth without fear) said...

Amen brother, Amen! The argument you speak so eloquently too, is the same one I as an American of African and Indigenous descent know to well.

I encourage you, if you have not already to read the works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X they are right on target with your argument!

Again excellent job!

ignorantamerican said...

What America is doing with prisoners is wrong. Torture is wrong. It is fair to say that these practices happen on a global scale. Why then can America criticize other countries obout such practises. One because America does it on a much smaller scale. Two, because those who fall victim to America often are not selected at random, and have some reason for being chosen. No one should be tortured, no one should kill in the name of God. In fact why don't we all try using our moral compass to do good. Just a thought.