Obama, ASEAN and human rights

[Sent to the Phnom Penh Post on February 9. Not published.]

Thank you for reprinting the Washington Post editorial “Obama should speak up on human rights at ASEAN summit”, which allows readers here to become better aware of the ignorance and arrogance that characterise even the “liberal” wing of the USA’s elite.

That the Washington Post editors are unaware of the difference between heads of state and heads of government is a minor point but one that indicates how little they know about the world. That they believe the President of the United States is qualified to lecture other countries about human rights indicates that the English language needs a word that describes “hypocrisy” multiplied by a factor of at least ten.

Here is a quiz which I am sure the Washington Post will never try to answer: Of the 11 leaders at the ASEAN + US summit, which one heads a government of a country of which all the following is true:

  • It has a higher percentage of its population in prison than any other country except the Seychelles.

  • It operates an international network of secret prisons and torture centres.

  • It asserts and practises the “right” to kill people anywhere on the planet, without justifying the action to anyone.

  • Its spending on war and preparations for war are about the same as those of the rest of the world combined.

  • It surpasses any government of any country in history in the scale of its intervention in other countries’ elections – both to influence results and to overthrow results that manage to escape its influence.

The Washington Post thinks Obama should lecture Hun Sen about democracy. The Cambodian government has been elected in every election since 1993 in multiparty elections in which a majority of voters voted for the person or party who became the head of government. That is not true of the United States, even if one accepts the official US vote count.

Instead of the US President lecturing the rest of the world about human rights, he (and the Washington Post) should begin improving human rights at home.