Tag Archives: genocide

The Right To Leave

Nothing demonstrates the impotence of the United Nations quite so starkly as the long suffering of the North Korean people.  Living in wretched conditions and subjected to ongoing famine, North Koreans are two inches smaller than their South Korean cousins.  One in three North Korean children is chronically malnourished.

This has been going on since 1953.  North Koreans living today were born into suffering, and have never known any other life – even though South Korea, across the border, is one of the world’s most affluent nations.

Article 13.2: Everyone has the right to leave any country

A better life for these people is literally within walking distance, but they are imprisoned by their own leaders – a dynasty of brutal dictators who build monuments to themselves while the people starve.  The previous dictator, Kim Jong-Il, died of old age, blissfully untouched by the world’s opprobrium.  If the United Nations had any purpose at all, it would be to end such regimes.

We might as well say the same about Cuba and, in its time, the Soviet Union.  In an international context, the most fundamental right is the right to leave a bad country.  Properly enforced, this would limit the amount of suffering any dictator could impose, and ultimately compel some of the higher order human rights.

The United Nations has a lengthy declaration of human rights, including health care and free education, but it lacks a mechanism to enforce – or even encourage – its principles.  One of these is, in fact, the right to leave.

The U.N Security Council regularly votes against interference in the “internal affairs” of any country.  However much we might criticize China for human rights abuses, this is a gray area.  The Chinese could point back at Guantanamo or race relations.  No one wants the U.N. to be the arbiter of how well a country treats its people – certainly not China, and they’re a permanent member.

Whether the people are free to leave, however, is completely objective.  They’re either free, or they’re not.  The United Nations could, with perfect clarity, make Article 13.2 the acid test for human rights.  Resolutions should follow, with sanctions including military intervention.  The North Koreans are prisoners, and the world has a duty to free them.

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America in the Dock

There is a school of history which blames America for most of the world’s ills.  Jeremiah once saw an interviewer ask Charles Manson how he justified his crimes.  “Well, you killed the Indians,” was his glib reply, as if the young reporter had just come from Wounded Knee.

  • America persecuted the Indians, so I chopped up a pregnant woman.

Manson is not alone in judging America harshly.  There are many who feel we must answer for the Indians, for slavery, for propping up dictators, interning the Japanese, and damming the Columbia.  The defendant is two hundred years old, and it’s a long rap sheet.

If America were in the dock, Jeremiah would offer as defense that we also rescued Muslims from genocide in Bosnia, and Jews from genocide in Germany.  We liberated an entire continent from the Nazis, and we liberated Russia from communism.

When the U.N. talks about sending troops – to Libya, Kuwait, or Liberia – they mean American troops.  When a typhoon strikes Thailand, Haiti, or the Philippines, it is America’s armed forces that pitch in.  Call it “community service.”

AyersMugshotYou may be baffled by these accusations, but others have passed judgment.  Bill Ayers brought up the Amerindian genocide just last week.  So, what does it mean to judge an entire nation?  Was the carnage of the Civil War not enough to atone for slavery?  Shall we give the continent back to the Indians?

Nazism, for example, was a national sin, and the Germans accept responsibility for it.  Theirs is a homogeneous culture, and the perpetrators’ grandchildren still live there.  America’s case is a little different.

Bob Dylan says he can “smell the slave owner” on white Americans.  Sorry, Bob.  Most white European immigrants came over in the twentieth century, many of them refugees like Dylan’s own family.  Besides, white Americans are hardly even a majority anymore.  Bitching about America because of nineteenth century white people seems hopelessly out of date.

America was also not a colonial power.  Surprise!  America was oppressed by the British empire, just like everyone else.  The American revolution, arguably, marked the beginning of the end of the colonial period.

When you hear this “America is evil” theory, you have to wonder what remedy is proposed.  Listen carefully, and it turns out be a rhetorical trick.  The speaker makes this indictment, and then you are supposed to believe whatever comes next.  Take Ayers, for example.

  • America persecuted the Indians, so what we need now is communism.

From a policy perspective, that’s hardly compelling.  It sounds more like a punishment than a recommendation.  Logically, it’s the same non sequitur as Manson’s – except Ayers is better at rhetoric.  That’s why one criminal is in jail, and the other isn’t.

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