(II) US politicization of human rights shown in three manifestations
Given the conflict between its global strategy and international human rights standards, the US either gives up the latter to defend its hegemony, or selectively applies them to serve its political interests, or simply uses them as an excuse to label countries threatening its political interests as “human rights violators,” thus cloaking its breach of their sovereignty with a moral veil.
1. Disregarding the basic concept of human rights to pursue political interests
The “Dulles doctrine” that the US put forth in the 1950s planted such an idea that competing with the Soviet Union was contributing to human rights. Dulles saw the UN as the best rostrum to condemn America’s communist rivals, the Eisenhower administration paid more attention to “moral anti-communism” than to international acknowledged human rights, and the Kennedy and Johnson administrations put anti-communism on top of their agenda and human rights issue on the third spot. Robert M. Gates, former Director of Central Intelligence Agency and Secretary of Defense, wrote that President Carter launched an ideological war against the Soviet Union with resolve and strength never seen in previous presidents of the United States, by attacking the legitimacy of the Soviet government and fully supporting any dissident in the country.
2. Exercising double standards on human rights with discriminations between US political friends and foes
When promoting human rights diplomacy and handling human rights affairs, the US doesn’t comply with the uniform international standards or guarantee human rights from a just and objective perspective. It always exercises double or even multiple standards.
First of all, it upholds one set of standards for its own human rights issues and another set for those in other countries. Turning a blind eye to the myriad systematic human rights violations at home, the US never mentions these issues, such as unemployment, poverty, homelessness, permissive gun laws, violence, crime, racism and the human rights issues of immigrants in its annual country reports on human rights practices, while always pointing fingers at other countries in a condescending way.
Second, it upholds one set of standards for its allies or friendly states and another set for countries that have a different ideology, political and social system, and conflicts of interests with it. In the Human Rights Memo submitted by the Reagan administration to the Congress, the Reagan administration stipulated the “active” and “passive” human rights standards, the former applying to the socialist countries in East Europe, with the harshest punishments on their rights-violating acts, while the latter applying to America’s allies no matter how serious the violation was. The annual country reports on human rights released by the US exaggerate the human rights conditions in developing countries, socialist countries, and other “unfriendly” countries but downplay or cover up such issues in its allies.
Third, the US adopts different human rights standards to a country in different periods. If a country adopts a policy at a certain point that betrays the interests of the US government, “human rights issue” can be used to criticize, threaten or sanction that country; if the country panders to the interests of the US government, then “human rights issue” will be less important and incentives will be employed.
Fourth, the US adopts a different attitude toward different human rights issues in different periods. After the end of WWII, the US was quite indifferent to human rights and didn’t change its position until, especially after what happened in Hungary in 1956. Reports by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees indicated that the US began to take a supportive position because it believed that establishing an international system on refugees would be a powerful weapon in the struggle between the East and the West.
Fifth, the US adopts a different attitude toward different types of rights. Entrenched in its own economic and political system, the US has one attitude towards economic, social, and cultural rights and another towards civil rights and politics, one attitude toward liberty and another toward the rights to subsistence and development – emphasizing the former but downplaying or denying the latter.
No matter how many forms these selective and double standards take on, their ultimate purpose is to make human rights serve America’s global hegemony and curb the development of socialist countries. As Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to ex-US President Jimmy Carter, proclaimed in his book The Grand Failure: The Birth and Death of Communism in the Twentieth Century that human rights are a provident strategic choice that will push the transition of communist countries to democracies and accelerate the decline of communism.