Do you remember that annual "human rights report" that the State Department was supposed to issue right about the same time that Abu Ghraib hit the fan? With no fanfare and precious little press coverage, the report, "Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2003-2004" was very quietly released yesterday. I'm not going to take the time to nitpick right now (after all, work is work), but just on a quick scan the following statement regarding Middle East human rights jumped out at me:
The United States continues in its private and public diplomacy efforts to support political reform, economic growth and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Middle East. To reinforce our diplomatic efforts, the United States has also begun to sponsor programs that strengthen the role of independent journalists and trade unions, increase respect and safeguards for the rule of law, strengthen public participation in the political process, improve the status of women and promote a regional dialogue on democracy for members of NGOs and governments. The United States has introduced two sources of Arabic-language broadcasting in the region, Radio Sawa and al-Hurra Satellite Television, with the objectives of increasing access to unbiased news as well as promoting understanding of the United States.
Care to pick this one apart? More later, perhaps.
Update, 10:30AM EDT: Allright, I couldn't help myself. Here's one specific quote from the report:
The United States continues in its private and public diplomacy efforts to support political reform, economic growth and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Middle East.
This seems in direct contrast to a piece I wrote last week on Saudi Arabia's capital punishment process:
Saudi Arabia uses public beheading as the punishment for murder, rape, drug trafficking, sodomy and armed robbery, apostasy and certain other offences. 45 men and 2 women were beheaded in 2002 and a further 52 men and 1 woman in 2003.
So, I found this comment from a U.S. wonk on the Saudi aspect of the human rights report quite enlightening:
But one U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said representatives of Saudi Arabia have noted to U.S. officials that fighting terrorism required tough measures in the Middle East, and that more democracy can be counterproductive. "The Saudis have been pretty smug," the official said. "The message is: 'Now you understand. You have to stop beating us up on this.' "
More later, I'm sure...