On Pundits’ ‘Unhinged Notion’ of the U.S. as ‘Human Rights Arbiter’

In his regular Salon feature (3/10/09, ad-viewing required), Glenn Greenwald is having a hard time stomaching corporate media pundits’ righteous “lectures to other countries”:

The Washington Post‘s Fred Hiatt today condemns the Obama administration generally and Hillary Clinton specifically for “continu[ing] to devalue and undermine the U.S. diplomatic tradition of human rights advocacy.” Hiatt is angry that on her trips to China, Egypt and Turkey, Clinton failed to issue sufficiently stern and condemning lectures about those countries’ human rights abuses. The depths of the fantasy world in which our political elite reside–and their complete lack of self-awareness–borders on pathological.

While it’s true that there is something ugly about hearing Clinton proudly announce that “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family”–that wonderful “friend of her family” is one of the world’s most repressive dictators–the idea that the U.S. is in any position to play the role of human rights arbiter for the world is about the most unhinged notion imaginable. Few things have degraded international conceptions of human rights more than American actions over the last decade–not only what we’ve done, but what we continue to do. As [fellow blogger] Billmon once wrote, the U.S., under the Bush administration, has “forfeited forever its ability to chastise the human rights abuses of others without triggering a global laughing fit.”

Greenwald incredulously notes that, “Yet Hiatt–who cheered on many of the abuses and continues to do so–actually fancies America as the country that goes around the world credibly wagging its finger at other nations for their human rights inadequacies.” Read the recent FAIR study of media human-rights duplicity in our magazine Extra!: “Human Rights Coverage Serving Washington’s Needs: FAIR Finds Editors Downplaying Colombia’s Abuses, Amplifying Venezuela’s” (2/09) by Steve Rendall, Daniel Ward & Tess Hall.