[News] I Can't Believe It's Not Human Rights Watch!
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Sep 25 13:29:15 EDT 2008
I Can't Believe It's Not Human Rights Watch!
September 25th 2008, by Elizabeth Ferrari - OpEdNews
As Americans, we operate from a position of privileged naivete, a
kind of concrete operational thinking: we believe things are what
they are called especially when it comes to public life. If someone
reads us a bill called "No Child Left Behind", we go ahead and assume
it will help children. If an act named the "Help America Vote Act"
passes, we expect that our elections just got better. The Heritage
Foundation is surely an organization that has something to do with
colonial hardiness and a can-do spirit. There is nothing more sad
than we are when we learn, against all reason, that NCLB is a
hijacking of our schools by privateers or that HAVA makes our
elections vastly more vulnerable or that The Heritage Foundation is a
right wing propaganda mill that is every day finding better ways to
funnel our tax money into corporate wallets with a nakedness that
Lady Godiva could only aspire to.
So, when we read in the American press that two officials from Human
Rights Watch have been booted out of Venezuela, our first thought
will not be, "what did they do". It won't be. We expect people who
work for Human Rights Watch to, well, watch human rights. They have a
web site and everything, just like Amnesty International and the
International Red Cross. And maybe that kind of optimism, that
positive expectation, has its value in these difficult days. But it's
misplaced if one is trying to understand what is going on in
Venezuela, in Latin America and in our relationships with both as the
Bush administration is shaping them. Or, misshaping them.
Human Rights Watch is not a merely group of concerned citizens
monitoring human rights any more than the Heritage Foundation is a
think tank that seeks to preserve traditional American values,
despite their website's claim. Their board and donors come from the
bedrock of the US political power establishment. So, there's that.
And then, there's the matter of our intelligence services hanging out
in NGOs. (I suppose, our overseas operatives can't all work at the
local embassy.) A friend of mine from El Salvador reminds me that
during the war, a planeful of "humanitarian workers" was shot down
and apparently, somehow it was full of US government operatives
instead. It was shot down close to the capital and Rolando believes
it was the government, not the guerillas, that shot it down. The
government had had enough of the "Peace Corps" meddling with their
affairs, allies or not. The few survivors of the crash were executed
on the spot, it was later determined. Guerillas didn't operate that
close to San Salvador during the war, so this was a terrible case of
a US client state sending back a message to Washington.
More recently, as Amy Goodman has reported, arriving Peace Corps
volunteers and young visiting scholars were solicited to spy for our
government when they went to be briefed at our embassy in Bolivia.
They were there for a welcome to the country and instead, they were
told to spy on Venezuelans and on Cubans. It must be very upsetting
to believe you are in Bolivia to work on hunger or to write a study
on literacy and then to have your own Ambassador direct you to
violate the trust of the very people you look forward to working
with. These kids hadn't even unpacked before they were enlisted to
violate international law.
Regardless, they were caught up in the Bush administration
machinations that last week resulted in our ambassadors to Bolivia
and to Venezuela being asked to leave. There is evidence that the
Bush government has been backing the white separatists in Bolivia,
the same ones that went on a genocidal rampage recently. The latest
coup plot discovered in Venezuela, at the same moment as the uprising
in Bolivia, came with a taped discussion of American support.
In short, the Bush government has accelerated its attempts to
destabilize democracy both in Bolivia and in Venezuela in the last
two weeks and, they got caught. It was into this already turbulent,
even deadly, landscape that Jose Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch
decided to release his 10 year review of Venezuela five months early.
There is nothing in this new report that is new, let alone so urgent
that it justified an early release by five months. Vivanco repeats
past criticism of the Chavez government regarding the judiciary, the
media and labor unions and his critique doesn't bear inspection.
These are old chestnuts. Vivanco's blustering about the judiciary has
been debunked; it's exactly how FDR rehabilitated a stacked Supreme
Court. Vivanco's support for the Uribe government, which leads the
world in murdering labor organizers, disqualifies him from commenting
ever again on the state of Venezuela's official relations with labor
unions. His championing of RCTV, who tried to get Chavez killed
during the 2002 coup they hosted in their studio, has been rebutted
by F.A.I.R. and condemned by leading intellectuals around the world.
It's an easy matter to determine that Mr. Vivanco has a pattern of
sticking his oar into Venezuelan internal affairs at politically
sensitive times. All you have to do is look for a vote any time
during his tenure in that country and his name comes up in the press.
Wilkinson, his deputy, is less overtly partisan. His work combines
the color of a travelogue with the mannerisms of an academic writer.
But, his core positions on Venezuela seem to be identical to
Vivanco's if his February 2008 article in The Nation is any
indication. The same discredited complaints are trotted out with
nothing new to recommend them and they are awash in a romanticized
pessimism that would astonish community organizers in Caracas.
Vivanco's pattern of disruptions are, of course, nowhere in the two
spammed articles that reported his expulsion from Venezuela over the
weekend. But, the American press seems to trust the Bush government
and its adjuncts with all things Venezuelan and has once again simply
passed on and proliferated the official story. I wish my betters in
the press corpse would wake up and smell the disinformation. Last
November, they printed the story that the Venezuelan referendum would
not have election monitors. They knew because the State Department
said so. That turned out to be embarrassingly wrong: the NAACP and
National Lawyers' Guild were on the job by invitation.. More
recently, they forwarded the story that one or more captured FARC
laptops - that survived US-guided direct bombing hits as miraculously
as a hijacker's passport - contained damning emails from Chavez
proving he was funding the guerillas. Greg Palast made short work of
that rumor but the bureaus never turned a hair. They were on to
reporting without any self-consciousness at all that Venezuela and
Bolivia were not doing their part in the War on Drugs. Their sources
were Bush administration "officials" who apparently forget at their
convenience that the world's largest suppliers of drugs, Colombia and
Afghanistan, are both American client states.
So on Friday, the talking point was: Chavez has expelled two human
rights workers. That these two men have been more active in
critiquing Chavez politically than in observing the steadily
improving state of human rights in Venezuela never caused the
smallest ripple in the coverage. These HRW representatives have
repeatedly timed their critiques to coincide with Bush administration
attacks on the Chavez government at sensitive moments. Nobody in the
media seems to be noticing that they have done exactly what they have
been accused of by the Chavez government, of meddling in Venezuela's
internal affairs, although anyone with a search engine and an hour to
search has access to that information. The coverage hasn't once
ruffled the cover.
It's saddening to find that Human Rights Watch is not exempt from the
long history of US government "tampering by NGO". Human Rights Watch
has allowed Mr. Vivanco to so misconstrue and overstep his mission in
Venezuela that the organization itself has lost credibility and a
great deal of good will. The decisions HRW makes going forward will
determine if that organization is ever able to recover the good name
it has so casually sacrificed in service of an openly political
agenda and in the last chaotic, destructive days of the Bush disaster.
There is, though, a sort of wonderful image floating around the
internet -- a direct result of the last few weeks of the war on
democracy in Latin America, as John Pilger calls it. It is a long
rather than tall photograph of twelve Latin American leaders flanking
Evo Morales, showing their support for him during this last violent
attack on his goverment by the Bush Government and the interests Bush
fronts. Mr. Chavez is off to the left, waving but not asking for
focus. President Morales is in the center, smiling quietly. I've
never seen such a strong show of solidarity among democratic Latin
American leaders in my lifetime. When you look at this photograph,
you can't help but think of that Obama campaign slogan: Not this time.
Maybe the good people at Human Rights Watch should take a look.
Elizabeth Ferrari is a San Francisco author and activist.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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