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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 101

Human Rights Double Standards by United States: Significant Military-Economic aid to Rights Abusers

Daya Gamage – US Bureau Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 02 June, (Asiantribune.com): “Is There a Human Rights Double Standard” was the subject of the Hearing by the Subcommittee of International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight in the United States Congress on May 10 which was held to examine the different ways the U.S. treats governments on issues of human rights and good governance as detailed in the State Department annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices and other independent rights organizations.

In the opening statement by Congressman Bill Delahunt, the Chairman of the Subcommittee was blunt when he said “contrary to the conventional belief that ‘they hate us because of our freedoms’ and our values, foreigners in general are better described as being disappointed because the United States, in their perception, calls for the observation of democracy and human rights while at the same time providing support to cooperative, but non-democratic, governments who abuse human rights.”

The outspoken Congressman further said “It appears that at times our desire for short-term military, economic, and covert cooperation, rather than our long-term need to stand with others who are oppressed, dominates our foreign policy. When it comes to getting base rights, we see concern for human rights take a back seat. When it comes to getting mineral rights, we see concern for democratic rights take a back seat. When it comes to cooperation with covert operations, we see cooperation in ending torture take a back seat.”

Having quoted Congressman Bill Delahunt as a background note, ‘Asian Tribune’ will now present here what a senior United States Department of State Foreign Service Officer, based in Sri Lanka, declared in his interview to a Sri Lankan English Daily ‘Island’ carried June 1.

American ambassador to Sri Lanka William O’Blake is quoted as saying: “With the advice of Congress, the New Millennium Corporation which runs the New Millennium Challenge Account, has decided not to proceed with our program of assistance here in this country. And the reason for that was that the MCA program was originally conceived at a time of peace in this country in 2003 and it was conceived to support the ceasefire agreement and as a way of supporting good governance. In the last year, the cease fire agreement has more or less evaporated, fighting has resumed and good governance has also suffered in the last year particularly on the human rights front. On account of that, the Millennium Challenge Corporation does not think the conditions are ripe to proceed with a program which was designed to support the peace process and good governance.”

“Asian Tribune’ reliably understands that it was Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who influenced the State Department to put the Millennium benefit on hold ‘because of the Rajapaksa administration’s blatant violations of human rights and media freedom.”

In suspending the Millennium Account economic assistance to Sri Lanka, the State Department justification was that ‘good governance’ has suffered because of human rights practices of the Government.

In fact, what was frozen was US $100 million, US $490 less than it was originally year marked, and Ambassador O’Blake was wrong: Sri Lanka gained eligibility not in 2003, as O’Blake says, but in May 2004, and before the Millennium Challenge Corporation benefit to Sri Lanka was put on hold about three months ago the projects were slashed to fit into US $100 million.

Along the lines Congressman Delahunt described, Sri Lanka has neither bases nor minerals to offer but a democracy, one of the oldest in the free world, to sustain safeguarding its territorial integrity, sovereignty and uphold its internal law and order threatened by Tamil Tiger terrorism.

This ‘Asian Tribune’ presentation endeavors to place on record for its readers in the United States, other western nations and those in the Asian region to give some insight in to what Congressman Bill Delahunt said on May 10 of “United States double standards” when it comes to dealing with regimes on the issue of ‘good governance’ and ‘human rights.’ The issue here is military assistance to foreign nations and how the ‘double standards’ of the United States is nakedly manifested, an issue the Congress thought fit to examine.

Aided by Washington lobbyists, foreign countries regarded as strategic allies in the ‘war on terror' have received billions of dollars in new military and security assistance since 9/11, much of it with little Congressional or civilian oversight, according to the findings of a major investigative project by the Centre for Public Integrity (CPI).

Total U.S. military aid increased some 50 percent in the three years that followed the 9/11 attacks, according to the project, ‘Collateral Damage'. It found that much of the additional aid has gone to governments with poor human rights records and that have resisted the kinds of political and economic reforms that Washington sought to encourage before 9/11.

While the aid may have enhanced those governments' cooperation in U.S. counter-terrorism efforts in the short term, it may also have helped consolidate unpopular, corrupt or repressive regimes that could prove costly to Washington's global image and long-term interests, the project, which was based on a year's research of CPI's International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), concluded.

‘'Billions in new military aid dollars have flowed to countries whose record of grim human rights practices had led to pre-9/11 decisions by the U.S. to cut off or curtail aid,'' according one of a series of reports.

Center for Public Integrity (CPI) continues in its project report that until 9/11, eligibility for receiving virtually all U.S. foreign, economic, development, and military assistance, including military training, was determined by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development under the terms of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act (FAA), which has been amended over the years to include human rights and other conditions to prevent aid from going to particularly abusive or repressive governments.

In the aftermath of 9/11, however, the administration wanted to rally foreign governments -- including those that could not necessarily meet the FAA's conditions for military aid -- behind its counter-terrorism campaign.

It thus authorized the Pentagon to create new aid programs for financing, training, and equipping foreign military and security forces and intelligence services for countries that would otherwise be denied such assistance, according to the CPI project report ‘Collateral Damage.'

The result has been the outflow of billions of dollars in military and security assistance to repressive governments, such as Pakistan, Djibouti, and Uzbekistan that, before 9/11, previously received little or none at all or, as in the case of Ethiopia, have become increasingly repressive in the name of fighting terror, according to the project.

Thus, Pakistan, which received a mere nine million dollars in military and security aid in the three years before 9/11, received 4.2 billion dollars in military aid in the three years after 9/11, making it the world's third biggest recipient of U.S. military aid after Israel and Egypt.

Military aid to tiny Djibouti, which turned over a former French military base to U.S. forces after 9/11, skyrocketed from less than two million dollars to more than 53 million dollars over the same two three-year periods, while aid to Bahrain and Oman jumped from 700,000 dollars to 145 million dollars and from 2.5 million dollars to 138 million dollars, respectively.

Jordan, Georgia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Azerbaijan, Yemen, and other key countries in the war on terror stretching from Central Europe and East Africa to the Pacific gained tens of millions of dollars in military and security assistance from these new programs.

Collateral Damage includes detailed reports on aid to Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Romania, Poland, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Uzbekistan.

Much of the new funding, according to the project, has been channeled through a program called Coalition Support Funds (CSF), which was created after 9/11 to reimburse countries for providing assistance -- including access to bases or the costs governments allegedly incurred in counter-terrorist operations -- to U.S. forces. Some 3.5 billion dollars was disbursed under the CSF as of the end of 2006.

Under yet another new program, the Pentagon's ‘Section 1206' authority, several hundred million dollars have been appropriated since 2005 to help foreign military and security forces ‘'combat terrorism and enhance stability'' in more than a dozen Middle Eastern, African and Asian countries. Although Section 1206 disbursements require the ‘'concurrence of the Secretary of State,'' they are not subject to Foreign Assistance Act conditions such as human rights and good governance.

‘Asian Tribune’ also presents the findings by the World Policy Institute which released a special report on U.S. military assistance to countries that the State Department annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices declared as undemocratic and abusers of human rights.

Among the key findings of this report are the following:

In 2003 the United States transferred weaponry to 18 of the 25 countries involved in active conflicts. From Angola, Chad and Ethiopia, to Colombia, Pakistan and the Philippines, transfers through the two largest US arms sales programs (Foreign Military Sales and Commercial Sales) to these conflict nations totaled nearly $1 billion in 2003, with the vast bulk of the dollar volume going to Israel ($845.6 million).

In 2003, more than half of the top 25 recipients of US arms transfers in the developing world (13 of 25) were defined as undemocratic by the US State Department’s Human Rights Report: in the sense that "citizens do not have the right to change their own government" or that right was seriously abridged.

These 13 nations received over $2.7 billion in US arms transfers under the Foreign Military Sales and Commercial Sales programs in 2003, with the top recipients including
• Saudi Arabia ($1.1 billion),
• Egypt ($1.0 billion),
• Kuwait ($153 million),
• the United Arab Emirates ($110 million) and
• Uzbekistan ($33 million).

When countries designated by the State Department’s Human Rights Report to have poor human rights records or serious patterns of abuse are factored in, 20 of the top 25 US arms clients in the developing world in 2003-- a full 80%-- were either undemocratic regimes or governments with records of major human rights abuses.

The largest US military aid program, Foreign Military Financing (FMF), increased by 68% between 2001 and 2003, from $3.5 billion to nearly $6 billion. These years coincided with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the run-up to the US intervention in Iraq.

In conclusion, ‘Asian Tribune’ will carry excerpts of the Opening Statement of Congressman Bill Delahunt, Chairman, Subcommittee of International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight made on May 10, 2007. The sentiments expressed by him are itself a reflection of the ‘double standard’ of the United States when it comes to the disbursement of economic and military assistance.

“When people ask me why we hold so many hearings on foreign opinion -- like my friend the Ranking Member when he asked last week if it was time for the hearing on the opinion of the penguins of Antarctica about U.S. foreign policy -- I reply that it is because those foreign opinions have a real impact on our national interests. We ignore them at our own peril. Not caring what others think is just plain stupid – it’s like walking through a dark room and hoping not to run into a table.

“If those same people now start asking me why we are holding so many hearings on human rights double standards, I will reply in much the same way: those double standards, so useful in the short-term for gaining military, economic, and covert cooperation with strong men and dictators, can come back to bite us in two important ways.

* First, by backing thugs against the aspirations of the common people, we erode our most precious national asset, our standing in the world as a moral leader, the bulwark of democracy and human rights. Both for others and for ourselves, we cannot be a superpower if we are not also a moral power. We cannot be like other major foreign powers operating in Africa, overflowing with grand words about stability and growth, but cynically concerned just with access to minerals and military cooperation.

* Second, when we support dictators, their citizens, like our forebears in 1776, will not bear suffering forever, and may rise in yet another of those devastating civil wars that are at the heart of Africa’s poverty challenge. When dictators, strengthened by outside funding and arms, refuse to cede power through elections, the result can be civil wars in which:

--millions die, entire nations, economies, and American export opportunities disappear off the map, foreign troops and relief programs, including American troops and American dollars, are be needed to restore stability, and surrounding countries can find their economies swamped with refugees and shunned by their own and foreign investors.

On both moral grounds and on the grounds of our national interests, these are disastrous outcomes that we must seek to avoid.”

- Asian Tribune -

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