26 October 1997
Double standard is a principle or rule applied more strictly to some people than
others or oneself. In international relations and economics, "to some people"
means the underdeveloped or developing world, "to others" refers to the
Western and developed hemisphere, and "to oneself", I would imagine is
the United States, the sole superpower.
The US and its allies and the countries in the South all indulge in double standards,
and most of the times in doublespeak. For example, both Princess Diana and Prince
Charles had affairs but hers seemed justified while his appeared comic.
In the Diana-Charles love saga the late princess had emerged a clear winner: the
heroine. Whatever indiscretions she committed did not matter, she only made the world
loved her more.
When Charles cheated, he was a pig. When Diana did it she was only exercising a choice
because she was badly neglected and abandoned by a heartless and uncaring husband.
Charles was cuckolded but few people were prepared to see him as the martyr of a
tragic loveless love story. His devotion to his long-time amour, Camilla Parker-Bowles,
did not count in his favour at all.
In a figure of speech or by way of illustration, Charles is like the South and developing
world, always the sufferer, and the legendary Diana was and is the rich and powerful
North, always getting away with murder.
When China, Iran, Indonesia, Cuba, Myanmar, Iraq and some Central African and Latin
American countries allegedly breached human rights, they are pilloried infinitely
and threatened with economic sanctions and trade embargo. But when the US, Australia,
Israel, the former Yugoslavia and other white nations commit similar excesses they
are excused. What happened in Bosnia-Herzegovina is a clear case.
For Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Kenya and two or three other nations in Latin America
and Central America where American economic interests and strategic importance are
immense, they are not only absolved but are assisted and rewarded!
I will give one or two examples of a double standard. A UN investigation into the
death penalty in the US has provoked a strong and furious reaction from Senator Jesse
Helms of Georgia. The conservative and anti-UN senator, who chairs the powerful Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, had denounced as "an absurd charade" and "an
intentional insult" a visit by Bacre Waly Nadiaye to the US. Nadiaye is an African
(a Senegalese) investigator for the UN Human Rights Commission.
The Senegalese, a former Amnesty International official, is
the new UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
He had spent two weeks in the US interviewing death row inmates and talking with
state, city and jail officials as part of an inquiry into capital punishment and
deaths in police custody.
Nadiaye is the only second UN Human Rights investigator to visit the US.
What is troubling you, senator? Doesn't the US routinely push for vigorous human
rights investigations elsewhere in the world?
The UN Human Rights investigator's visit didn't sit well with Helms, according to
the American media. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Helms
holds the key to any compromise on paying off Washington's obligatory debt of US$1.5
billion (RM 5 billion) to the UN.
To date not a cent has been paid despite three personal assurances by President Bill
Clinton himself that Washington will soon settle its long non-performing account.
How soon is soon is the question.