Human rights as a pretext for imperialism

Want to depose the government of a poor country with resources? Want to bash Muslims? Want to build support for American military interventions around the world? Want to undermine governments that are raising their people up from poverty because they don’t conform to the tastes of upper west side intellectuals? Use human rights as your excuse!

This has become the unspoken mantra of a movement that has lost its way.

A human rights movement that insists upon imposing its standards of what is morally correct (with no shades of grey) upon a multitude of cultures and countries would certainly seem to be, in fact, imperialist.

Journalism is not an Attack, Wikileaks is not Warfare

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on Firedoglake or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Wikileaks is under attack!

Journalists and politicians are calling for the criminalization of Wikileaks, or worse, the assassination of its members. The US government is coercing companies into blocking access to Wikileaks, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is normally very strong on internet freedom, has been forced to “evolve” her positions.

If you’re a supporter of Wikileaks, or even a relatively dispassionate observer, you likely find these actions to be offensive, or even downright criminal. How dare the US move so arrogantly, so aggressively, against Wikileaks for what seems to be nothing more than the second coming of the Pentagon Papers? We believe in free speech, in transparency and accountability for our government. It’s outrageous that Washington would move so decisively to crush a project like Wikileaks.

But are Wikileaks’ supporters actually feeding this response from the government? In our rush to rationalize and defend Wikileaks and their actions, have we inadvertently opened the door to attacks by the US government?

The answer can be found in how we’ve chosen to frame the debate so far. Continue reading “Journalism is not an Attack, Wikileaks is not Warfare”

Afghanistan: No “opportunity and justice” without free expression

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

In his remarks on the new Afghanistan strategy last year, President Obama spoke very highly of Afghan sacrifices in our war. Afghans, he told us, “seek the promise of a better future” and deserve not only security, but “opportunity and justice.”

These are empty political phrases that Americans take for granted, but what about the Afghan audience? Are they actually getting the better future we promised? Aside from the obvious violence and misery caused by the occupation and insurgency, can Afghans count on even basic civil liberties like freedom of expression?

Nasim Fekrat writes [emphasis mine]:

Six years after the Afghan constitution was passed and nine years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghan journalists struggle with threats from the government, political parties, militants, and occasionally foreign forces. Afghan society has also played a role in self-censorship, perpetuated by the lack of a vibrant independent media. Without an independent media, freedom of expression is meaningless. And in Afghanistan, limitations on the media will only serve to bolster the views of powerful fundamentalists, and empower the belief among Afghans that the international community, which promised to institutionalize the freedom of expression and with it, democracy, has failed them.

Afghanistan needs a free press, not only for the sake of their journalists’ lives, but it’s absolutely fundamental to improving their government, their laws, and their society as whole. A free media allows citizens to become educated about politics and legislation, it allows victims of crime and corruption to tell their story through an impartial watchdog, and it allows a debate forum open enough for ideas like democracy and humans rights to compete, without fear, against the ideas of extremists and militants. No matter how many battles we win or terrorist commanders we kill, Afghanistan will never get a better future without these fundamental rights. Continue reading “Afghanistan: No “opportunity and justice” without free expression”