Commentary

America’s Human-Rights Problem: Intellectual Corruption

America has human-rights problems, the Obama State Department told the world this week, especially concerning our treatment of women, blacks, Latinos, Muslims, South Asians, Native Americans, and members of the LBGT community. But we’re working to build “a more perfect world.” That’s the gist of a just-released 29-page self-assessment required by the U.N. Human Rights Council.

After reading such rhetorical gems as “the American experiment is a human experiment,” we discover that we fall short on “fairness, equality, and dignity” in such areas as education, health, and housing. To remedy educational deficiencies at the college level, the Obama Department of Education is assiduously promoting “educational equity for women and students of color,” something underrepresented white men may be interested to learn. And here’s another human-rights problem: “Asian-American men suffer from stomach cancer 114 percent more often than non-Hispanic white men.”

You get the picture. The report reads like a politically correct campaign brochure, touting everything from the administration’s stimulus spending to Obamacare as promoting “human rights.”

Founded idealistically on the ashes of the Second World War, the U.N. today is noted largely for its corruption — political, financial, personal — and nowhere is the corruption more perverse than on the matter of human rights. When in 2004, in the midst of ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan was unanimously elected to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, the U.S. ambassador walked out of the commission. Two year later, the commission was replaced by the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose members today include such human-rights exemplars as Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba — plus the U.S., which rejoined just last year.

The Council reviews the human-rights record of every U.N. member every four years. Part of that review is a self-assessment, and many U.N. members’ reports are not nearly so heavy on self-flagellation as the Obama administration’s. In their most recent report, the Saudis, for example, say that human rights are respected in the kingdom, consistent with sharia law. So much for the rights of religious minorities, women, gays, and lesbians. Indeed, the Saudis tell us, they even condemn “the disparagement and defamation of religions that some States permit in the name of freedom of expression.”

The U.S. is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but the Senate has never ratified the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, because we’ve thus far been able to distinguish real from spurious “rights.” You’d never know it from the State Department’s report. The corruption spreads.

Roger Pilon is vice president for legal affairs at the Cato Institute. During the Reagan administration he was, among other things, director of policy for the State Department’s Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.