Sunday, April 22, 2012

UN Investigates US -- Finally!

For the first time in history, the United Nations is launching a human rights investigation within the borders of the United States -- specifically, a probe into the often-abysmal living conditions of 2.7 million native Americans. We are just now hearing about this, exclusively, from the U.K.'s Guardian. I guess it is too much of an embarrassment for the Administration's usual suspects corporate media mouthpieces to give it so much as an inside-page paragraph. It might take attention away from the Secret Service scandal or presidential fund-raising stats.

Finally. The rest of the world will learn that the greatest, most wonderfully exceptional country on earth is, in reality, a third world backwater of a banana republic when it comes to how it treats many of its poor and indigenous people. When the USA signed on to the U.N. mission in 2010 to explore the plight of the word's native populations, little did it know it would be included in the inquiry. The Americans kind of assumed the U.N. would be concentrating on the South American populations. After all, when our president talks about poverty and human rights abuses in his periodic oratories to the General Assembly, it's always about problems elsewhere.

The domestic probe, starting on Monday, will be led by James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples. According to The Guardian's Ewan MacAskill, the investigation is likely to strike a sensitive chord amongst our elite  political class:
Many of the country's estimated 2.7 million Native Americans live in federally recognised tribal areas which are plagued with unemployment, alcoholism, high suicide rates, incest and other social problems.
The UN mission is potentially contentious, with some US conservatives likely to object to international interference in domestic matters. Since being appointed as rapporteur in 2008, Anaya has focused on natives of Central and South America.
A UN statement said: "This will be the first mission to the US by an independent expert designated by the UN human rights council to report on the rights of the indigenous peoples."
Anaya, who hails from New Mexico, is expected to present his preliminary findings at a press conference on May 4, prior to a formal report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Among the states he will visit is Oklahoma, the former Indian Territory established in the 19th Century as a concentration camp for the native populations banished from the Eastern seaboard during the infamous Trail of Tears. It was in Cushing, Ok that President Obama made a speech approving the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline last month -- and where protesting native Americans were literally kept caged, miles away:
“President Obama is an adopted member of the Crow Tribe, so his fast-tracking a project that will desecrate known sacred sites and artifacts is a real betrayal and disappointment for his Native relatives everywhere,” said Marty Cobenais of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Tar sands is devastating First Nations communities in Canada already and now they want to bring that environmental, health, and social devastation to US tribes.”
Obama has actually gotten mixed reviews from native Americans. One Indian leader calls him the best friend the indigenous population has had since Richard Nixon advocated tribal self-determination as official United States policy. And the fact that the current president has met with Indian leaders every year and promised them that he "has their back" and appointed various task forces shows the usual Obama approach: steps in the right direction, with still a lot of work to do in the future.

However, Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic wrote a scathing article in December, calling Obama's native American initiatives a lot of talk and little to no action. Coupled with the Senatorial blockage of the judicial appointment of Native American Arvo Mikkanen, and the decision by the Supreme Court to withhold from the Apache Nation documents relevant to its legal case alleging misfeasance by the federal government, Cohen caustically allows that Obama did make a nice show of going easy on tribes who collect eagle feathers.
Is the White House pushing for Mikkanen to get a hearing? No. Is it pushing Congress to help change the procedural rules in Indian trust cases so that American Indian litigants can have more access to federal documents that pertain to their claims against federal officials? No. Those things would involve the expenditure of political capital -- and the administration has shown repeatedly its unwillingness to spend in this area.
Congress is no friend of the American Indian. Surely this Supreme Court isn't, either. And there was a need to clarify the rules on eagle feathers. But is this really the best President Obama can do? I hope an American Indian leader says to President Obama today at the White House: "Don't worry so much about adopting 'a formal policy that memorializes' common prosecution practice; worry more about why there are still only two federal judges in American history who were or are of Native American descent."
If pressure by independent journalists and political activists can't get our corporocrats to do right by a forgotten group of marginalized citizens, maybe they can be shamed into it by the results of the United Nations investigation and the glare of world opinion. Then again, don't hold your breath.

A Little More to the Left.... Please! (Reuters)


Valerie said...

“One Indian leader calls him the best friend the indigenous population has had since Richard Nixon advocated tribal self-determination as official United States policy. And the fact that the current president has met with Indian leaders every year and promised them that he "has their back" and appointed various task forces shows the usual Obama approach: steps in the right direction, with still a lot of work to do in the future.”

More empty words and promises from Obama to assuage the masses and just enough for Yellow Dogs to claim that he is The Lesser of Two Evils (TLOTE). It is all just talk, talk, talk and no representation for anyone other than the 1% contributing to Barry’s campaign – well actually, with Obama, any of the 1% whether they trash him publically or no him gets his attention and their issues considered and addressed. It is just the people who went door to door for him that he has no interest in using his clout to help.

As for being motivated or shamed by the U.N. – Did it stop Bush from declaring war on Iraq? Has it stopped America’s strategy of extraordinary rendition? American “leaders” do whatever they want to whomever they want, and sadly they usually get away with it.

Karen Garcia said...

Hello everybody,

Paul Krugman wrote another column about lying Mitt Romney and his cavalcade of lies. My response, written with tongue held firmly in cheek:

Romney has no choice but to lie about President Obama. He is not about to criticize him for keeping Gitmo open, for his coziness with Wall Street, his failure to prosecute war crimes, increased deepwater drilling in the absence of safety requirements, rampant spying on American citizens, the war on whistleblowers, refusal to come clean about assassination by drone strike, and a myriad of other right-of-center executive policies.

Instead of getting sucked into this corporate media-enabled bicker fest between two vetted candidates of the one percent, we should not only call out each one of Romboid's lies (a full-time job, should we choose to accept the challenge), we must also make a few demands of our incumbent president. Running as the lesser of two evils is not going to cut it. He should be telling us exactly what he plans to do in a second term. Will he swear on Lincoln's Bible that he will not cut, trim, improve or otherwise mess with Social Security and Medicare? Will he ever fully staff that Justice Dept. task force he promised to prosecute financial fraudsters? Will he reinstate Glass-Steagall? Will he help overturn Citizens United? Will he promise to let the Bush tax cuts expire? Will he go beyond the Buffett Rule, fighting hard for a truly progressive tax code, including lifting the cap on FICA contributions?

A Romney presidency is unthinkable. But neither should we allow Obama to take our votes for granted.

Valerie said...

Great comment on Krugman, Karen. I noticed that no matter where the Times slots you in the All Comments section, you always end up a reader favourite. It goes to show that there is a subset of Times readers who are enlightened enough to not believe the propaganda coming out of both corporate camps.

I was disgusted to read the comments around yours though. Too many people drinking the kool-aide, attributing noble characteristics to Barry that simply aren't there and ALWAYS blaming EVERYTHING bad that has happened in this country on the dreaded Republicans. The partisanship on both sides stomps out any kind of rational thought let alone a rational debate.

Just got around to listening to Moyer's last two shows. Can I say how much I love Andrew Bacevitch? Don't ya wish HE was running for president? But even the "donut" guy had a couple of interesting points to make and Eric Alterman was his usual interesting self.

Valerie said...

Wish I had this Chris Hedges quote to add to my unpublished reply to your comment, Karen. I am printing it here because Hedges says so eloquently what is really going on in politics today. I included the link in case there are readers out there who don't normally read Truthdig.

”Every election cycle, our self-identified left dutifully lines up like sheep to vote for the corporate wolves who control the Democratic Party. It bleats the tired, false mantra about Ralph Nader being responsible for the 2000 election of George W. Bush and warns us that the corporate technocrat Mitt Romney is, in fact, an extremist.
The extremists, of course, are already in power. They have been in power for several years. They write our legislation. They pick the candidates and fund their campaigns. They dominate the courts. They effectively gut regulations and environmental controls. They suck down billions in government subsidies. They pay no taxes. They determine our energy policy. They loot the U.S. treasury. They rigidly control public debate and information. They wage useless and costly imperial wars for profit. They are behind the stripping away of our most cherished civil liberties. They are implementing government programs to gouge out any money left in the carcass of America. And they know that Romney or Barack Obama, along with the Democratic and the Republican parties, will not stop them.” Chris Hedges

Denis Neville said...

Our government is no friend of a lot of people.

Atrios recently marked his 10th anniversary of blogging:

“The ESCHATON DECADE has been a pretty fucked up decade, a time when this country stopped even bothering to pretend to live up to many of its supposed ideals. We go to war and kill lots of people for no good reason, elites have eliminated any accountability for themselves for criminal wrongdoing, we've tortured and assassinated people, and the response to massive economic suffering and related criminal fraud has been to give lots of free money to the people who caused it all.”

Can American “exceptionalism” be shamed by the United Nations investigation and the glare of world opinion?

I’m not holding my breath. I'm with Valerie.

James F Traynor said...

I've just seen the slaughter by the Border Patrol of a poor goddamn wetback on Democracy Now! Everybody should watch this thing. It's a wonder more Border Patrol agents aren't killed every year. They should put all of their heads on pikes. What's the difference between them and the Mexican drug cartels? They're all thugs.

Zee said...

This appears to be the Democracy Now! article to which @James F. Traynor refers:

In general, I have been very sympathetic to law enforcement officials who have had to use deadly force in one-on-one or two-on-one encounters, ("he said/she said" situations) until and unless an investigation subsequently casts suspicion on the officer's--or several officers'--story.

I have gone through training exercises myself to try to experience the pressure of determining who the "good guys" and "bad guys" are before being "shot" myself.

While these exercises are only runs against time and peer criticism, they nevertheless give some idea of the instantaneous judgement calls that must be made by an "officer in the field" that can make the difference between (1) dying, (2) returning home to her/his family safely at the end of the day, or
(3) finding him/herself before a review board for excessive use of deadly force.

However, these videos and analyses seem pretty incontrovertible.

This looks like a pre-planned gang beating and killing, complete with witnesses and videos to that effect.

I am shocked that there has been no DOJ or DHS investigation of this killing.

Neil Gillespie said...

Thanks for this important story Karen. The Times had a story back in February, "Brutal Crimes Grip and Indian Reservation" about the Obama administration’s efforts to reduce crime on the Wind River Indian Reservation and others.

"The Obama administration, which has made reducing crime a priority in its attempt to improve the quality of life at dozens of Indian reservations plagued by violence, recently ended a two-year crime-fighting initiative at Wind River and three other reservations deemed to be among the country’s most dangerous."

"Nicknamed "the surge," it was modeled after the military’s Iraq war strategy, circa 2007, which helped change the course of the conflict. Hundreds of officers from the National Park Service and other federal agencies swarmed the reservations, and crime was reduced at three of the four reservations — including a 68 percent decline at Mescalero Apache in New Mexico, officials said."

The plight of Native Americans is underreported in the main stream press. Thanks again.