The Plank

"i Have Real Work To Do"


Last week, I blogged about the decision by American gay rights activists to not make use of the State Department's annual human rights report regarding the treatment of gays abroad. The activists in question say they refused to publicize the report because Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay have made any research compiled by the United States on human rights morally dubious. The debate is outlined here (with a heavy dose of opinion) by Doug Ireland (who, perhaps hoping to rile some feathers, calls TNR, "neo-liberal") in New York's Gay City News. Rick Rosendall has a great column in this week's Bay Windows making the very simple point that, "If only the perfectly virtuous were fit to report on human rights practices, there would be no reporting." Because the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission refused to publicize the report (which, oddly, they helped the State Department produce) the task was left to Rosendall himself. Most odd about this brouhaha is that last year (long after the revelations about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo), IGLHRC issued a press release publicizing the report, which they inexplicably refuse to do now.

But it is not just IGLHRC (which, while it might seem obscure, is one of the few organizations committed to gay rights abroad and thus, deserving of close scrutiny) that is so feckless. Human Rights Watch has an entire office ostensibly committed to global gay rights. Its director, Scott Long, embodies the attitudes held by many in the human rights establishment. As Rosendall reports in his column, Long emailed him last month:

I am sitting here in Geneva, as it happens, but surrounded by LGBT activists from the South - Argentina, Brazil, South Africa - and when I read this exchange aloud to them they alternate between anger and hilarity at the US's incomprehension of its actions and its reputation now in the world, not in some colonial past...."

Long was reporting from that august body, the United Nations Human Rights Council, which routinely ignores human rights abuses in places like Cuba, Zimbabwe and Iran, while giving those very same nations a platform at which to denounce the western democracies. (If you have not already, watch this short, devastating video from the Council's most recent session). Long sees no problem participating in this forum while simultaneously denouncing the human rights record of the United States. As Rosendall writes, "One-sided guilt-mongering by Western leftists makes them complicit in this travesty and subordinates the global LGBT struggle to other disputes."

I, too, was privy to the email exchanges that Rosendall writes about in his column, and more than once Long signed off on emails by imperiously announcing to all assembled that, "Once again, I now have real work to do." Funny how a human rights organization with a multi-million dollar budget has a less sophisticated understanding of human rights than one guy in D.C. with an internet connection.

--James Kirchick

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