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(DV) Williamson: US Monkeying with Human Rights







Amnesty International: US Monkeying With Human Rights
by Harold Williamson
May 26, 2005

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Following the release of a report by London-based Amnesty International about the increase of human rights abuse around the world, just where can one go these days to find a model for the humane treatment of others?  Hint: Don't look to the world's only remaining superpower, since US policy is a big part of the problem.

Here are excerpts [along with my comments] from a speech on Wednesday by Amnesty's  Secretary General Irene Kahn:

"The US, as the unrivaled political, military and economic super-power, sets the tone of government behavior worldwide.  By thumbing its nose at the rule of law and human rights, what message does the U.S. send to repressive regimes who have little regard for the rule of law anyway?

"In 2004, far from any sign of principled leadership [Did you hear that, Mr. Bush?], what we saw was actually a new and dangerous agenda in the making.  Rewriting rules of human rights [Got that, Mr. Gonzales?], discrediting institutions of international cooperation [Fat chance, Mr. Bolton!], and usurping the language of justice and freedom to promote policies that create fear and insecurity. [Why, it's your National Security Strategy, Mr. Wolfowitz!]

"The US is leading this agenda, with the UK, European states, Australia, and other states following. [The "coalition of the willing" is in on it too!]

"Under this agenda, accountability is being set aside in favor of impunity [Touché, Mr. Rumsfeld!]; a prime example being the refusal of the US Administration or US Congress to conduct a full and independent investigation of the use of torture and ill treatment by US officials, despite the public outrage over Abu Ghraib and despite the evidence, collected by AI and others, of similar practices in Bagram, Guantanamo and other detention centers under US control. [No, it's really not Newsweek's fault, Mr. McClellan.]

"Guantanamo has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the notion that people can be detained without any recourse to the law.  If Guantanamo evokes images of Soviet repression, 'ghost detainees' -- or the incommunicado detention of unregistered detainees -- bring back the practice of 'disappearances' so popular with Latin American dictators in the past. [So, who you doin' business with these days, Mr. Negroponte?]"

As despairing as man's inhumanity towards man is these days, there is hope for a more peaceful future if you know where to look. It can be found near a garbage dumpster in the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya.

Last  April, Robert M. Sapolsky, a neuroscientist and primatologist at Stanford University, and his colleague Lisa Share reported that a troop of pugnacious baboons have actually learned to be nice to each other!  I have previously written about this troop of savanna baboons because there was an uncanny similarity of their behavior to that of the Bush administration after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

But much has changed since then, and I owe this particular troop of baboons an apology.

The large despotic males, in typical male baboon fashion, ruled this troop by fear, intimidation, and violence while keeping smaller and less aggressive baboons away from a prized source of food -- the local dumpster.  That is until fate would have it that all the dominant adult males contracted bovine tuberculosis from discarded contaminated meat and died, leaving behind all the females, their young, and those males of the troop who had been too subordinate to challenge them.

This resulted in a much healthier, more relaxed social hierarchy that has persisted for twenty years, even though the male survivors have since died and been replaced by males from other troops (In baboon society, the females stay with the troop while the males leave to join other troops after reaching puberty).  So the troop's resident baboons are somehow instructing the immigrant males in their new social behavior.  Sapolsky said, "We don't yet understand the mechanism of transmittal, but the jerky new guys are obviously learning 'we don't do things like that around here.'" 

It is an entirely new, previously undocumented code of peaceful conduct for a baboon society, and it has been learned!  If only humans were that smart . . .

And lucky.

Harold Williamson is a Chicago-based evolutionary zoologist and independent scholar. He can be reached at: Copyright © 2005 by Harold Williamson

Other Articles by Harold Williamson

* Improvisation From The Proscenium, Part Two
* Did Newsweek Damage America's Image?
* Improvisation From The Proscenium, Part One
* Watching George Bush Trying to Pull a Rabbit Out of His Hat
* Shooting the Messenger Who Reported Human Rights Abuses in Afghanistan
* Agent Orange -- Thirty Years After
* Truth in Humor
* Redefining America
* The Missing WMD: Bush's Red Herring
* The Darkness in America
* Spinning The Vietnam War: What Goes Around Comes Around
* None Dare Call It Murder
* It Isn't God Who is Crazy
* Don't Trust Anybody Over Thirty
* Faith in the Postmodern World
* Remember Who The Enemy Is
* Obscenity, A Sign of the Times and the Post
* Thinking Anew: A Do-It-Yourself Project
* America's Blind Faith in Government
* Think Tanks and the Brainwashing of America
* Bully for the Bush Doctrine: A Natural History Perspective