China calls US hypocritical Posted by: mcq
on Friday, March 10, 2006
We've taken a bit of heat here at QandO (we're big boys, we can take it) about our stand on torture, prisoner abuse and the alleged wiretapping. We've argued that it is important that we not compromise the principles which underpin the foundation of what it is to be America and Americans. And we've also made the point that expedience, which puts aside those principles, can be strategically damaging. For instance:
China struck back Thursday against U.S. criticism of its human rights record by saying the United States is plagued by crime and racial inequity and is abusing detainees who are terror suspects.
The Chinese government's report, issued a day after the State Department slammed China for "numerous and serious" human rights abuses, attacked the United States for failing its citizens.
The State Department report, issued annually since 1977, covers all the countries in the world except for the United States. This year's version singled out China for "increased harassment, detention and imprisonment" of people seen as threats to the government. It also said China has tightened control over the media and Internet and sometimes uses violence to put down protests.
China's report deals only with the United States. It was put out by the State Council or Cabinet. In its report, Beijing accuses the U.S. government of "hypocrisy" and "double standards."
For years, "the U.S. government has ignored and deliberately concealed serious violations of human rights in its own country for fear of criticism," China's report says. It cites a wide range of problems, from rampant gun crime and racism to government wiretapping and prisoner abuse.
Now, let's be real. China always says this sort of stuff when the US condemns China's human rights record. But there's a difference this time. China actually has a point that can't be waved away. This time China's charges of hypocrisy are supported by other agencies.
The fact that the US has crime has little to do with "human rights". It's a strawman. And the rest of the world recognizes that while there is indeed racial tension in the US, it isn't a result of governmental policy. So both standard Chinese defenses are easy to laugh off, as we've done for years.
But not so when we talk about the other criticisms. Whether they're true or not is, at this point, irrelevant. The preception right now backs the Chinese criticism. And that leaves us in an uncomfortable moral position:
U.S. actions overseas have opened the door to Chinese criticism, said Richard Baum, a China expert and political science professor at UCLA. "The moral high ground has left the U.S. side, unfortunately, (although) China's human rights abuses are certainly more widespread and serious than in the U.S.," he said.
True. But "more widespread and serious" is a matter of degree, not difference, isn't it? And that isn't the position in which the US should be.
And you think that the Chinese weren’t making the exact same accusations in 2000, before there was any Abu Ghraib nonsense?
Look at the television series "A Beijinger in New York" which touted the failings of American society, this in the late 1990s. Or the volumes "The China That Can Say No," and "China Should Still Say No," which was written by a combination of professors (some of whom had received training here) and regular citizens, all of which pointed to the many shortcomings in American society to suggest that American criticisms were invalid and hypocritical.
From their point of view, the differences have always been in degree, not in kind. The question is whether we accept that equivalency or not—-they will always claim it.
To be quite honest, I think you and Jon are totally out of whack here. The bottom line for me comes down to:
Where would I rather be imprisoned: Guantanmo Bay, Cuba or BFE, China? Would I rather be in a detention facility where I am fed three culturally sensitive meals a day, given my religious materials in the language of my choosing and being allowed to exercise my religious beliefs or would I rather be chained in a cage with handlers who have little, if any, guidelines as to how to handle me?
I think this is one of the most obvious and most overlooked points of this whole argument.
You and Jon seem to be engaging in moral equivalence, and it surprises and disappoints me.
Or if not engaging in "moral equivalence" then thinking that the PRC or Libya or the Sudan or Zimbabwe can’t or won’t find faults with the US... as someone has already pointed out, these states didn’t need Abu Ghraib for their propaganda, they had plenty of other material. And if we let everyone out of Gitmo, NEVER tap another ’phone and agree to house any and all prisoners at the Club Med of their choice, they will STILL find fault with the US.
You seem to operate from the assumption that if we’re "good" people will leave us alone or will have no reason to complain, but they will, always....
Here’s my question — although some of the facts asserted in the report don’t ring true ("the income level of African American families is only one-tenth of that of white families"), on the whole the report is about as well sourced as your typical NGO.
So, why was my instinct to automatically reject it? Because it’s more than a bit rich for China’s government to lecture the United States about surveillance techniques it carries out on a routine basis. However — and here’s the disturbing question — if the U.S. engages in these practices as well, then what is the external validity of its own human rights report?
Meanwhile, defenses that take the form of "but we’re not as bad as them!" remain unpersuasive to me. Yes, it’s good that we’re not as bad. But if it’s bad for China to do X a lot, then one has to ask if it’s not also bad for us to do X a little bit?
Inmates at Guantanamo Bay prison are treated better than in Belgian jails, an expert for Europe’s biggest security organization said on Monday after a visit to the controversial U.S. detention center.
Some of the things that were called "torture" — lack of sleep, exposure to loud noises, alternating heat and cold — don’t seem much like torture to me. (Heck, that all sounds like my freshman year in a college dormitory.)
The Reuters article continues:
But Alain Grignard, deputy head of Brussels’ federal police anti-terrorism unit, said that holding people for many years without telling them what would happen to them is in itself "mental torture".
"At the level of the detention facilities, it is a model prison, where people are better treated than in Belgian prisons," said Grignard.
Now, if that qualifies as "mental torture", I think we have defined torture down so far that the term is almost meaningless.
Jon, I’ll say it again... please tell me how to balance "ideals." You say:
Yes, it’s good that we’re not as bad. But if it’s bad for China to do X a lot, then one has to ask if it’s not also bad for us to do X a little bit?
And you imply that this is true, but is it? Surveillance and interogation are necessary tools of state, whether you’re talking the PRC, Nazi Germany or the Untied States, so at what point does the US= them if it practices SOME of their tactics? I’ve said it before, your philosophy oculd profitably study this and provide a broad set of answers, UNLESS your philosophy is simply a tool with which to beat your opponent, but not meant as a useful guideline for citizen action. At what point does Gitmo=Gulag? And if it mimics the Gulag in any way is it the Gulag and so what are we do witht he prisoners at Gitmo, shoot them, release them? You have many complaints but not a lot of analysis.
"This time China’s charges of hypocrisy are supported by other agencies."
The other agencies are not credible, and neither has your opposition been on what you’ve called torture, or "illegal" wiretapping.
What actual torture has happened, has been investigated and people sent to prison for it—we are more credible than China on that issue, both is deeds and misdeeds.
Prisoner abuse? I don’t give a good God D@mn about fake menstrual blood and naked pile ons. If it’s effective, continue it, if it isn’t, stop wasting the time. Those are the only relevent issues. Polite name, rank, and serial number requests are not an appropriate set of questions and means to restrict ourselves to in questioning AlQaeda personnel, and yes, any suggestion to the contrary is silly.
Wiretapping of calls made involving nondomestic persons or points of origin, provided the wiretapping is done persuant to the GWOT AUMF, is not now nor has ever been a government activity requiring a warrant. Claims to the contrary are ahistorical at best—and simply stupid at worst.
Warrants are solely appropriate in domestic civil law enforcement procedures, not war.
What you claim to be American principles either never have been, or are still perfectly intact, your very meager claims notwithstanding.
"The preception right now backs the Chinese criticism. And that leaves us in an uncomfortable moral position."
And that perception is not backed by reality. Why should I be impressed, or even moved a fraction of a Planck length ;^) ?
Prove it in what fashion? Prove it in what ways that are believable to the rest of the world?
Read the post.
The fact that the US has crime has little to do with "human rights". It’s a strawman. And the rest of the world recognizes that while there is indeed racial tension in the US, it isn’t a result of governmental policy. So both standard Chinese defenses are easy to laugh off, as we’ve done for years.
Most of the world’s population, including Americans, are quite aware of America’s hyprocricy and known this for years, American society is based on hyprocricy and double-think, its a fact regonized by people world wide just as much as by Americans themself.
Now does that mean China has no human rights problems, no, but it does make America look alful foolish to any non-hardcore-republican when they see America pointing fingers at others.
Right now, like it or not, the world sees America as the main abuser of human rights, terrorist and villian, rather than China. A survey showed the world has a more possitive oponion toward china than America.
So the final word? America is playing its age old trick of, pointing the finger at others so we dont get pointed, this may still work on weak minded people like the author of the blog, but not for everyone.
"They had nothing to hang it on"? You gotta be kidding me.
In 1965, were there more or fewer lynchings in the American South than today? Was there more or less poverty in Appalachia in 1965 then or now? More or less inequality? Yet, are we prepared to say that the difference between America-1965 (complete with lynchings, extreme poverty, and Jim Crow) and China-1965 (at the beginning of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution) is merely one of degree, not of kind?!??
I don’t think anyone short of a handful of hard-Lefties and -Righties would buy that kind of equivalency today about 1965 (back then was different, plenty of the Left believed Mao was right), yet that is implicit, when you suggest that today’s differences between the US and the PRC are also merely one of degree.
Does this mean that everything we’re doing is alright? No, but to compare us with the PRC (and let’s be up-front about this, the PRC of today is also much better than it was in 1965, both in terms of physical lifestyle and in terms of degree of authoritarian domination) is to suggest a thorough lack of understanding of the political conditions in the PRC.
No, but to compare us with the PRC (and let’s be up-front about this, the PRC of today is also much better than it was in 1965, both in terms of physical lifestyle and in terms of degree of authoritarian domination) is to suggest a thorough lack of understanding of the political conditions in the PRC.
I understand the political conditions in the PRC quite well, LO.
This isn’t about the political conditions in the PRC. It is about events, issues and political conditions over the last few years in which America has come to be percieved as hypocritical when criticizing othes for their political conditions.
Why is that so difficult to understand?
I’m not attempting to draw a moral equivelency, I’m simply pointing to the fact that worldwide perception now finds the differences between the PRC and the US to be more of degree than kind.
In the past that perception was one of a difference of kind and not degree. Thus we were able to wave off the criticims of the PRC and maintain the moral high-ground.
For much of the world, and in light of what has been said/learned about, torture, Abu Ghraib, secret prisions, NSA and Guantanamo, we no longer hold that moral high-ground. Whether or not you agree or disagree with the preception, it exists and must be confronted.