Who broke the world?

America, the long-standing global champion of human rights, just pulled out of UNHRC


Farrukh Khan Pitafi June 21, 2018
The writer is an Islamabad-based TV journalist and tweets @FarrukhKPitafi

Afghanistan just witnessed the first successful ceasefire between the government and the Taliban in a long time. The US president met with North Korea’s supreme leader for the first time in history. The threat of IS in the Arab world seems to be shrinking steadily. Al Qaeda has already been culled. Are we in a new era of peace that may lead to a more stable and enduring world order?

Not quite. Look again. The world as we knew it has ended. It is true that we have not seen new wars in the past one and a half year but the situation in Syria and in Yemen is a grim reminder of how quickly things can slip out of control and lead to a world war. Meanwhile, democracy around the world faces huge existential threats. In this dire situation the demons of our collective past like racism and ethno-nationalism have re-emerged. Consequently, neo-Nazis, supremacist groups like Ku Klux Klan and other intolerance brigades feel emboldened. We are right in the middle of a global dystopia.

America, the long-standing global champion of human rights, just pulled out of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) citing the ‘hypocrisy’ of letting China join while making Israel a scapegoat. While the US under Trump has often threatened to financially punish the UN over ‘mistreatment of Israel’, there is another silent dimension to the story. In recent weeks Nikki Haley, an American politician-turned-diplomat of Indian origin, has struggled to shore up support for Israel. But that alone did not lead to the US withdrawal from the council. It so happens that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) the first-ever report on Kashmir recommending the UNHRC to establish a Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations there. That seems to have automatically triggered some agreed upon mechanism of withdrawal. Given that India’s ruling BJP has just withdrawn from the coalition ruling Kashmir which brought down the government and ensured the imposition of governor’s rule, there are signs that the rights abuses in the valley will only intensify in coming days. So, in order to preserve the imagined interests of its two closest allies Israel and India, the US withdrew from the council. Make a mental note here. Not Russia, not China, not European powers or other allies elsewhere. Israel and India.

Does this ring a bell? But I get ahead of myself. We simultaneously saw another harrowing story emerge. We recently learned that due to the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy, those illegal entrants into the United States who are accompanied by the minors are being separated from their children. These children, some of them very young, are kept in separate facilities in cages. Let this just sink in. The United States, the champion of human rights around the world, keeps innocent children in cages. Many tried to find a link between the US withdrawal from the UNHRC and reporting on this policy. But while this doesn’t seem entirely implausible, there is no sign that the council could have done anything to challenge the policy or even embarrass the nation. The last we checked the UN headquarters were still situated in New York, and the US still was a veto power. The two of the closest US allies that we named earlier, Israel and India, are not. The zero-tolerance policy is just a reminder that the disease of intolerance that afflicted these two allies is spreading.

These days there is a tendency to blame everything right from Trump’s stunning victory in 2016 to the rise of the far right elsewhere on Russia. Since there is a mention of a wall and the collapse of another wall decades ago brought an end to the Cold War and the USSR, this seems entirely plausible. But even Russia with its mighty intelligence apparatus, its RT and Cold War resources could not do it alone. There must be some help. Help from US allies not just hostile nations. You have got to look elsewhere. You have to look at the inauguration of the US Embassy in Jerusalem. The list of speakers included people who are not merely a part of the hard right that has risen in the US but also contributed immensely to anti-semitism and Islamophobia in the US. Then take a look at Netanyahu’s benefactors like Arnon Milchan and Sheldon Adelson. Look at the corruption charges Netanyahu is facing and his steady radicalisation of his people.

Now take another look. Look at how Indian billionaires like Ambanis and Adanis bankrolled the rise of Narendra Modi in India. The richest members of the Indian diaspora, just like many in the Israeli diaspora, have unapologetically contributed to the radicalisation of their own people. Don’t get me wrong. Not all Indians and Israelis can be accused of this. There are countless people with their hearts in the right place. But since the radical ones spend more time and money on these matters the result has been bedlam.

India and Israel incidentally are the two countries that were using terrorism as a term to describe Islamist militancy much before 9/11 and even before the US formally started using it. Israel, surrounded by hostile Arab nations and really vulnerable, was simply using the term that was once used for its own people. Ronen Bergman in his Rise and Kill First shows how Israeli struggle to establish a state was once dubbed terrorism by the British. Israeli guerrilla fighters once tried to kill the entire British cabinet once, after all. India was also mirroring the lexicon closest to the one used for to describe its freedom fighters by the British during colonial times. But then with the rise of al Qaeda the US bought the term.

Paranoid, angry, intolerant, hyper-nationalist as the global order is today, it mirrors its greatest champions: the intelligence agencies around the world. These agencies were first to inhale Huntington’s propaganda about clash of civilisations. It is unclear how much these forces influenced his hypothesis. I deeply respect many conservatives, but Huntington is not one of them. Could be bribe, could be hate, could be a desire to invent a new career and could be simple evangelical desire to see end of the world, but he was the architect of the monstrosity we live in. Forces, both pro- and anti-West, inhaled this, tried to remake them in this image and have never looked back. Since then the confluence of intelligence, hard-right elements and new entrepreneurs has given birth to a deeper state than the average everyday deep state known to man. The fact that mankind, which faces countless existential challenges and more reasons to work together, cannot be divided based on Dr Huntington’s whims means nothing to them. A fourth dimension came as crime and corruption contaminated these deeper states and many members went rogue. Fifth as private contractors like Erik Prince learnt how to manipulate the system. If someone wants to fix the international system, save democracy and America, he will have to start by stopping further radicalisation of India and Israel. Reformation elsewhere will automatically follow.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2018.

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