Mr. President, Unhand That Intolerant Brute!

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The United States Committee on International Religious Freedom, a body created by Congress to give recommendations to the State Department, came out yesterday with its annual report (press release here, PDF document here), which includes the 11 "most egregious violators of religious freedom" in the world. They are: North Korea, Iran, Sudan, China, Burma, Vietnam, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. You will note that some on this list are hand-holding palsies with the Bible-thumping Bushies. This fact is hinted at in the USCIRF's letter to Condoleeza Rice, which expresses annoyance at the footsie with the Saudis:

[I]n September 2004, Secretary Powell for the first time designated as CPCs [Countries of Particular Concern] Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and Eritrea…. In the case of all three countries, it is important that the U.S. government not erroneously construe certain actions on their part, such as releasing a few prisoners while arresting others, issuing ambiguous decrees that are applied restrictively, and making as yet unfulfilled promises to the U.S. government, as genuine progress. For example, despite the Department's contention in the 2004 religious freedom report that there were slight improvements in Saudi government efforts to foster religious tolerance in Saudi society, the report again concluded that freedom of religion "does not exist" in Saudi Arabia. The Commission concurs, and finds that the government of Saudi Arabia not only persists in banning all forms of public religious expression other than that of the government's own interpretation of one school of Sunni Islam, but also continues to be involved in financing activities throughout the world that support extreme religious intolerance, hatred, and, in some cases, violence toward non-Muslims and disfavored Muslims. […]

Madame Secretary, the deadline has passed for the United States to take action on the CPC designation of these three countries. [The International Religious Freedom Act] requires that the President not only name those countries that are the most egregious violators of religious freedom, as occurred last September, but also take specific policy actions within 180 days. When that deadline was reached on March 15, the State Department announced that it had asked Congress for "a little extra time," noting that there had been "real engagement" with Saudi Arabia. However, the Commission has seen no evidence of genuine progress with regard to freedom of religion or belief in any of these countries. By taking action on Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and Eritrea, the U.S. government has an opportunity, in one small but critical way, to make President Bush's words about promoting peace through spreading freedom a reality. Delays in the process serve only to signal that we do not take seriously our stated–and mandated–commitments to promote religious freedom and other human rights throughout the world.

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  1. Don’t hold your breath, people.

  2. Delays in the process serve only to signal that we do not take seriously our stated–and mandated–commitments to promote religious freedom and other human rights throughout the world.

    No, our behavior, and the vile governments we’ve supported now and in the past, signal that we do not take seriously our commitments to promote freedoms throughout the world.

  3. DING DING DING! We have a mention of Burma. My most often used example of how we know GW Bush is lying in everything he says about why we need to blow up and shoot people.

  4. Delays in the process serve only to signal that we do not take seriously our stated–and mandated–commitments to promote religious freedom and other human rights throughout the world.

    Ditto what Jennifer said. She is quick on the draw today! But I will add, Bush talks the talk, but does the Saudi walk.

  5. Okay, quick poll. What is the preferred method of dealing with brutal dictatorships?

    A. Invade them, establish democracy, whiskey, sexy.
    B. Sever all diplomatic ties. Subsidize their opposition movements, infiltrate them with spies to weaken the regime’s grip. (Risking war.)
    C. Sever all diplomatic ties and embargo/tariff heavily. Ban people from traveling there to smoke cigars.
    D. Sever all diplomatic ties but allow free trade of most goods.
    E. Sever all diplomatic ties but allow free trade of all goods, including military equipment.
    F. Maintain diplomatic ties but don’t sell them military equipment.
    G. Maintain diplomatic ties and all trade, but tell them you’re upset, and threaten if they don’t improve, you will write more letters telling them how upset you are.
    H. Treat them like any other nation; it’s not our business how they handle their own affairs.
    H. Give them all kinds of aid, if they risk a revolution that will make their regime even more repressive or hostile to the USA. Otherwise, one of the above responses.
    J. Depends on too many other factors. I’d do whatever I think is best for USA in each case, but it might vary wildly (the Dubya approach).
    K. A different, totally awesome, creative libertarian way that phocion didn’t think of.

  6. Depends on certain variables, Phocion:
    1. Do they have oil?
    2. Did they ever threaten the current President’s Daddy?

    Maybe when we sell those F-16s to Pakistan and the latest batch of missiles to Saudi Arabia, we can stick on a Post-It saying “Oppression is bad, mmm’kay?”

  7. F., give or take.

  8. I wonder why the option of staging multiple displays of closeness and affection between the President and the nation’s dictator didn’t make phocion’s list?

    Cause that’s totally my choice. Are the Sudanese hand holders, or kiss on both cheeks types of guys?

  9. L. Stop pretending that you care about freedom and democracy for the world.

  10. No one mocked me for putting down H twice? You guys are slipping.

  11. No one mocked me for putting down H twice?

    I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your fathered smelled of elderberries!

  12. phocion,

    Well, today’s Sesame Street was sponsored by the letter ‘I’, and I thought you might be boycotting their sponsors in retribution for their reeducation of Cookie Monster.

  13. I’d pick F too.

    The goal of American foreign policy shouldn’t be to improve the lives of people beyond our borders, and I hope we don’t take our commitments to promote freedom throughout the world seriously. …We seem to kill a lot of civilians and lose a lot of American soldiers when we do.

    Whenever the U.S. supports a dictatorial regime, it’s a distasteful thing. We should only support such regimes on the basis of ensuring American security, and, even then, our support should always be on a conditional basis. Having said that, at this point in time, I have few qualms about helping a regime such as Musharraf’s so long as it’s helping us fight the War on Terror.

    My beef with the government of Saudi Arabia is that it tolerates and supports radical elements that export anti-Americanism the way China exports manufactured goods.

    …If we alienated the government of Saudi Arabia, would that situation improve or worsen?

    Who among us really wants the President to do something about Saudi religious intolerance? If we were to do something to the Saudi regime until it started tolerating the free practice of other religions within its borders, how long would we have to wait before we could undo that something?

    …assuming, of course, that there is something the United States could do that would improve the state of religious tolerance in Saudi Arabia.

    P.S. If there were a regime change in Saudi Arabia, would religious tolerance there improve or worsen?

  14. Subj: RE: Richard Paey, DC # 29228
    Date: 10/27/2004 9:26:19 AM Eastern Standard Time
    From: Jeb.Bush@MyFlorida.com (Governor Jeb Bush)
    To: Kevinfl123@wmconnect.com (‘Kevinfl123@wmconnect.com’)

    Dear Mr. Marshal:

    Thank you for your letter regarding the way Richard Paey?s criminal case was handled by the state attorney’s office. Governor Bush is sorry to learn of your concerns.

    Each state attorney is an elected official charged with certain discretionary duties, including the duty to determine whether or not to prosecute any particular crime committed within his or her jurisdiction. This decision is based on the quality and quantity of the evidence of guilt shown, and in the best interest of justice. Your best resource for assistance is to write to the elected state attorney to ask for a review of the case.

    As a concerned citizen, you have the opportunity to influence legislation by contacting your local legislative delegation. You may wish to write to your senator or representative. If such a bill ever comes before the Governor for signature, he will remember your views.

    Thank you again for writing. Governor Bush hopes this matter can be resolved to your satisfaction.

    Sincerely,

    Warren Davis

    Office of Citizens? Services

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Kevinfl123@wmconnect.com [mailto:Kevinfl123@wmconnect.com]
    Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 3:44 AM
    To: jeb.bush@myflorida.com
    Subject: Richard Paey, DC # 29228

    Writing in regard: Richard Paey,
    DC # 29228
    Zephyrhills Correctional Institution
    2739 Gall Blvd.
    Zephyrhills, Florida 33541

    Dear

    Gov. Jeb Bush

    Nothing is more shocking than the outcome of Richard Paey’s trial. On April 16,

    2004, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison and fined $500,000, for doing nothing more than managing back pain caused by an automobile accident and two failed surgeries. This even after prosecutors admitting Paey was not a drug trafficker. The decision by the state of Florida, leaves one wondering what freedoms are left in America, when a man already suffering in pain, receives this kind of justice. I am sure that this is not what they had in mind when they concocted the idea of mandatory minimums Please reconsider this decision and FREE RICHARD PAEY. Thank you,

    Kevin A Marshal

    l 3167 Arthur Circle
    Melbourne Florida
    32934

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