Mike Pompeo unveils panel to examine 'unalienable rights'
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday unveiled a new Commission on Unalienable Rights, a panel he said is aimed at providing him with “an informed review of the role of human rights in American foreign policy.”
The panel will be headed up by Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard law professor and former ambassador to the Vatican under George W. Bush. Glendon is also a social conservative who has been a prominent anti-abortion voice, which could lend credence to the concerns among human rights activists that the commission is a ploy to undercut LGBTQ and women’s rights under the guise of religious liberty.
In remarks at the State Department on Monday, Pompeo noted that “words like ‘rights’ can be used by good or evil,” decrying how some have “hijacked” human rights rhetoric to be used for “dubious or malignant purposes.”
Glendon, in brief comments, echoed that, telling reporters that "basic human rights are misunderstood by many, manipulated by many, and ignored by the world’s worst human rights violators."
“Every once in a while we need to step back, and reflect seriously on where we are, where we’ve been and whether we’re headed in the right direction,” Pompeo said. He hailed former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s 1948 Declaration on Universal Human Rights as one of the foundational documents for the commission’s work, but noted that the panel would serve as advisers as opposed to policymakers.
While Pompeo was vague in laying out what exactly the panel will do, emphasizing its focus on “principles” over “policy,” he praised its members as those he hoped would facilitate "one of the most profound reexaminations of the unalienable rights in the world since the 1948 universal declaration."
The commission will be made up of 10 members who represent a range of religious backgrounds. Many are religious scholars, with at least one other joining Glendon in having been appointed to represent the Vatican on social issues in the past. One, Hamza Yusuf, is one of the founders of the first Muslim liberal arts college in America. Another, Christopher Tollefsen, specializes in moral philosophy, natural law ethics, practical ethics and bioethics.
Pompeo indicated that the panel could also be used in part to rein in overzealous invocations of human rights, suggesting the group “revisit the most basic of questions: What does it mean to say or claim that something is in fact a human right?”
“How do we know — or how do we determine — whether that claim ... is it true and therefore ought it to be honored? How can there be human rights rights we possess, not as privileges we are granted or even earn, but simply by virtue of our humanity belong to us?” he asked. “Is it in fact true, as our Declaration of Independence asserts, that as human beings we — all of us, every member of our human family — are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights?”
In an op-ed published Monday morning in the Wall Street Journal, the secretary expressed hope that the group would “reorient” institutions like the UN “back to their original missions.”
“Many have embraced and even accelerated the proliferation of rights claims—and all but abandoned serious efforts to protect fundamental freedoms,” he wrote, complaining that “human-rights advocacy has lost its bearings and become more of an industry than a moral compass.”
International groups were split over the group Monday. In a statement cheering Pompeo's formation of the commission, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said that the panel would be useful in light of governments like Cuba, China and Iran who the group said "have wormed their way onto 'human rights commissions' in their search for international legitimacy."
"Other special interest groups have sought to expand the definition of a 'human right' to include virtually anything. If everything is a human right then the term begins to have little meaning," he said.
In addition, Perkins added, the commission would further promote religious liberty abroad, which he hailed as the "foundation for all other human rights."
Amnesty International, meanwhile, accused Pompeo of using the panel to politicize human rights and pointed to the Trump administration’s rollback of rights for LGBTQ citizens.
"If this administration truly wanted to support people's rights, it would use the global framework that's already in place. Instead, it wants to undermine rights for individuals, as well as the responsibilities of governments," said Joanne Lin, the group’s national director of advocacy and government affairs. "This approach only encourages other countries to adopt a disregard for basic human rights standards and risks weakening international, as well as regional frameworks, placing the rights of millions of people around the world in jeopardy."
And at least one religious group said it was viewing the commission’s formations with skepticism. Rori Kramer, director of government affairs for the American Jewish World Service, criticized Pompeo for employing what she called a “narrow view of religion as a means to undermine the ecumenical belief of respecting the dignity of every person.”
Kramer argued that Pompeo “clearly illustrated” the panel “will be used to question the very notion that basic human rights are inherent in all individuals.”
A pair of congressional Democrats also ripped the commission.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel said in a statement Monday that the new panel amounted to an end-run around established structures within the department, and touted an amendment in a House spending bill passed last month that would block funding for "this bizarre effort."
He claimed that the group Pompeo had selected would "give preference to discriminatory ideologies that would narrow protections for women, including on reproductive rights; for members of the LGBTQI community; and for other minority groups," and he hit the secretary for providing little information regarding plans for the commission.
And Sen. Bob Menendez, the top ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, called Pompeo's claims that human rights had been manipulated "absurd" and asserted the new commission would only weaken human rights
"President Trump’s personal affection for gross human rights violators has stained America’s moral fabric," he said, pointing to the president's praise for leaders such as North Korea's Kim Jong Un and the Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte. "No Trump Administration commission can erase that."
This initially looks like an horrific reaction to LGBTQ rights, women's rights, the rights of asylum seekers and immigrants, the right to free speech, and the right to healthcare - which Elizabeth Warren and others are very vocal about declaring (as it surely is) a basic human right.
This commission's findings will probably be used to justify the unjustifiable.
captain red dog wrote:I really don't understand how Trump could pass any kind of medical test to be president. You simply don't make an error like he did regarding the airports in the revolutionary war. That's serious signs of mental impairment in my opinion. There is no way anyone of that kind of high office would confuse the war of independence with having airports. This isn't some George W Bush style gaffe, this is bordering on senility.
That's part of the problem with the US letting the President have such power and having such devoted supporters. He can and does avoid all tests about his health or mental ability and his supporters will claim that any question about either are because you hate America and they'll simply shut down the discussion at that point.
Yes, Trump is horrifically unqualified and has lost billions and left people destitute after walking away from failed businesses but his fans don't care (the people he screwed are just stupid) and even if he screws his fans over with tax cuts for the ultra rich that ends up costing everyone trillions meaning less money for crap we don't need like schools or infrastructure that's fine as well. The fact that his fans are happy having someone in power who's so protective of the secrecy of his past says everything you need to know.
Well some people clearly enjoy it (billionaire and millionaires...Sue at checkout at Sainsbury’s, she’s 75...) but most people certainly don’t want to work forever!
I think it's all part of this odd American idea of working ethic and how it's supposed to show character. They seem to have this idea that working themselves to death is a good thing and that the rest of the world are pussies for having decent holiday provision. There's plenty of examples of Americans being interviewed and asked how many days holiday they took last year where they'll proudly say a couple of days or none at all as if that's somehow a good thing. They seem to view leisure time as something to be avoided and a sin and that the only valid measure of someone is how much time they spend at work even if they strawberry floating hate it.
They really need to find this leaker, which a cynic would surmise has been done to make the ambassador’s job untenable and put in a more favourable individual. The ambassador himself of course isn’t at fault at all, it’s his job to tell the truth, not to feed back false information how great Trump and his administration is.
Watch as, oh I dunno, Trump happens to suggest Farage...
This has obviously come out of the Foreign Office so it could be attributed to either of the contenders. You'd have to lean towards Johnson though or one of his supporters, seems like their kind of work.
KK wrote:They really need to find this leaker, which a cynic would surmise has been done to make the ambassador’s job untenable and put in a more favourable individual. The ambassador himself of course isn’t at fault at all, it’s his job to tell the truth, not to feed back false information how great Trump and his administration is.
Watch as, oh I dunno, Trump happens to suggest Farage...
I doubt we will ever know, but I would happily bet a lot of money that it was Johnson or a Johnson backer.
The whole thing has been designed to allow the next PM to remove expert diplomats in favour of sycophants. To paraphrase Gove, people are sick of experts and so we will just send bootlickers to Washington who will kiss Trump’s ass and do whatever he wants.