By Cathy Chen
Rights and freedoms are arbitrary, but immensely important, issues nearly impossible to quantify. However, with its meticulous methodology, the FreedomHouse Foundation annually compiles a report on human rights throughout the world, ranking each country on a scale of 1 to 7 for civil liberties and political rights. A ranking of “1” signifies a “free” nation while a score of “7” denotes rampant oppression and an essentially complete lack of freedom. Of the 208 nations analyzed, a mere nine nations received a “7” in both civil liberties and political freedom – earning their spot on the selective “Worst of the Worst” list created by FreedomHouse. Many of these nations – Syria, North Korea, Somalia – have distinctively tense relations with the United States, yet not all of them experience disapproval from the American government. Saudi Arabia, with its distinction of being on that selective list, has maintained cordial relations with the United States and received the perks of a tight relationship with United States policymakers.
The State Department of the United States government astutely notes that “Saudi Arabia’s unique role in the Arab and Islamic worlds, its possession of the world’s largest reserves of oil, and its strategic location make its friendship important to the United States”, praising the “longstanding security relationship” between the two nations. James B. Smith, American ambassador to Saudi Arabia, highlighted the shared “charitable impulse to aid the less fortunate” pointing out that “our relationship is more than just trade, it is a partnership” in his March 2013 article. The 74 billion dollars in trade between the two nations, including the tens of billions of dollars in arms deals, are a fantastic example of globalization, an epitome of cooperation between two nations thousands of miles away. The flow of capital between the nations help both the United States and Saudi Arabia. While the United States adamantly condemns the human rights abuses in China and Egypt (both failing to make FreedomHouse’s “Worst of the Worst” list), its comments regarding Saudi Arabia are deeply hidden on the State Department webpage: the “US bilateral relations fact sheet” holds no mention at all of human rights. A page last updated in December 1992 observes that “Saudi Arabia has been cited by several international human rights monitoring groups for its alleged failure to respect a number of basic rights.”
This attitude does not reflect international responses to Saudi abuses. Phillip Luther of Amnesty International declares that “this cat and mouse game authorities in Saudi Arabia are playing is, simply, outrageous”, regarding the arrest and beating of peaceful protesters in Saudi Arabia. The Human Rights Watch reveals that all Saudi women require permission from male guardians to travel, work, or study, that women still are disenfranchised, and that Saudi Arabia is the only nation in the world to still prohibit women from driving. Saudi Arabia executes civilians accused of witchcraft and sorcery, and utilizes amputation of limbs as punishment for theft. It has truly earned its spot on FreedomHouse’s exclusive list.
Does it matter, when America allies itself with such a government? If the Americans receive ample oil, thriving trade, and security cooperation, does it matter if civilians half a world away suffer? Does morality even have a place in political exchanges between entire nations?
Political commentator Karl Lindemann observes that “the Saudi government, along with its Gulfi counterparts, is one of the most hated regimes in the Arab world … arguably the most brutal of Arab dictatorships, much more so than Assad’s ever was [and] the most staunchly pro-West”. Fareed Zakaria elucidates that the people “look at American policy in the region as cynically geared to America’s oil interests, supporting thugs and tyrants without any hesitation”. Maybe that’s why Saudi money “has flowed into Al-Qaeda’s coffers”, why 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11th came from Saudi Arabia. When civilians suffer from constant suppression, when they see their friends and neighbors disappear to the human rights abuses of a government, they inevitably turn against that government and its supporters. America is only hurting herself by aiding a government that abuses the rights that the United States then espouses to the world. Rather than concentrating solely on combatting existing terrorists with any allies available, she must figure out where that terrorism stems from, that oppression leads to desperation and anger that all comes out in the end. Most importantly, the United States and its government must carefully consider how morality weighs against other interests.
By Willa Yu
Sure they are called drones. But the debate on drones is far from droning. The controversy over the use of drones has, misleadingly, been hotly debated over the past few years.
Advocates of drones argue that they effectively target and kill terrorists. Recently, Pakistani officials reported that a C.I.A. drone strike killed a leader of the Pakistani Taliban. As the Obama Administration refuses to confirm this, the promised transparency has yet to be granted. Wali ur-Rehman, the deputy leader of the Pakistani Taliban has terrorized Pakistanis with suicide bombings that have killed thousands. His death should come off well with the Pakistani people, however officials have reacted in a different manner. The Foreign Ministry denounced the drone strike and the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, promised to tighten drone activity.
Supporters also reason that there doesn’t seem to be a better way to weaken terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Drones are more accurate and allow drone pilots to carefully discern between combatants and civilians. Hence, drones are moral improvements from other means.
Political science professor Avery Plaw of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth doubts that ending drone strikes would do very little to mitigate the anti-U.S. sentiment already present in the Middle East.
Opponents argue that they unnecessarily kill civilians and stir up even more hatred. A 2012 study by the Global Justice Clinic from New York University School of Law and the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic from Stanford Law School finds that the civilian casualties have served as excellent propaganda to recruit more insurgents while drones have ineffectively killed insurgents. The most reliable estimates thus far have concluded that since 2004 drones have killed approximately 474 to 881 civilians in Pakistan.
An almost disregarded, but still very important point, is that civilians face the constant threat of drone strikes. Even humanitarian helpers are wary of going in and helping out because they fear the possibility of an attack.
Furthermore, the United States’ attempts at eradicating enemy combatants/high profile terrorists have only a 2% success rate. While these attacks only take out so little of the enemies, they drive more people to adopt radical beliefs.
Many adversaries also assert that by using drones the United States is setting a bad precedent for governments around the world. If the U.S. can do it, what is stopping everyone else from waging drone wars?
Even religious parties oppose the attacks. Mualana Syed Yusuf Shah, the leader of a religious party contends that the death of Rehman will only fuel more revenge and thus bloodshed.
Since 2004, when the U.S. first launched its drone war in Pakistan, Pakistan has seen at least 360 attacks from the U.S. However, amidst recent examination the U.S. has cut back on the number of attacks.
With strong supporters for both sides of the debate on drones, it is likely that legislation will require a substantial amount of time to pass. But as the days go on, more strikes are launched and more people reevaluate their standings legislation seems inevitable in the future. Whether change will be brought about in the near future or the distant future really just depends on the voices of the challengers.
By Kaitlin Smalling
Political boundaries exist not only to satisfy land ownership, but also to separate cultural differences and avoid conflict. The trade-off between security and rights protection is an indispensible asset to any developed nation. The U.S. epitomizes the classic example of ambiguous laws. For instance, the New York Times Co v. U.S., Mapp v. Ohio, and New Jersey v. TLO Supreme Court cases all favor freedoms over securities while Schenck v. U.S., New York Times co v. Sullivan, and Korematsu v. U.S. all favor security over freedom. There is no perfect balance, although the Mexican government comes fairly close to embodying it. Between the drug smuggling, human trafficking, and corrupt government orders, Mexico epitomizes the stability between security and freedom: the perfect place for a family vacation. Such is the unfortunate experience of the Maldonado family, whose mother was framed with drug smuggling and nearly sentenced to ten years in prison.
Yanira and Gary Maldonado, the proud parents of seven children, are naturalized U.S. citizens, visiting Mexico for an aunt’s funeral. Upon departing, they boarded a bus and travelled through continuous checkpoints, until they reached Hermosillo, where soldiers boarded the bus and interrogated everyone except for the Maldonados. The soldiers found 5.7 kilos, or about 12 pounds, of Marijuana under seats 39 (Yanira’s seat) and 42 (another passengers’s chair).
Initially, Greg was arrested, but later authorities supposedly switched stories and arrested Yanira instead. This was the first of many gaffes Mexican authorities had to answer to later that week. While Yanira was kept at a local jail, Greg was given an attorney, hired solely based on his ability to speak English. Unfortunately, that lawyer spoke with the prosecuting attorney, who suggested that Greg ought to free his wife by giving $3,500 to Mexican authorities. When Greg questioned these proposals, both anonymous sources told him “You know how it works in Mexico, right?” With corrupted legal consent, Greg realized he didn’t have a choice. Once he wired home to Arizona for the money, the authorities raised the price to $5,000, which Greg also agreed to reluctantly. By the time the money was transferred to Mexico to be delivered, Greg arrived at the jail where his wife was being held to find her missing. He was informed that she had been transferred to a women’s correctional facility further south in Nogales and that “the issue was no longer a matter of money”.
At this point, all matters were overturned to the Mexican consulate, headed by the same people who order the soldiers at the security checkpoints, where Yanira was arrested. The U.S. Consulate in Washington D.C. promised Greg that they were working closely with Mexican authorities to guarantee Yanira her right to a due process and a defense council. However, Greg never received any additional information about the conditions or possibilities for freedom from either nation. Ironically, both the Mexican and American Consulates refused to return phone calls regarding this matter.
Meanwhile, Yanira sat in jail, taking food and clothing from her family. The facility where she was located didn’t provide anything except the jail cell. As a devout Morman, she spent most of her days in prayer hoping to knock some sense into Mexican officials in charge of her release. She later described this time in jail as the most emotionally traumatizing event of her life.
Once a court was called to order and legal council was provided, four witnesses of the checkpoint arrest in Hermosillo came forward to testify. All claimed to have watched the Maldonados put their luggage underneath the bus and board it with only a purse, two blankets, and two water bottles in hand. This was later confirmed by a video surveillance camera. Other witnesses claimed to see a man who escaped the security check once the soldiers boarded the bus. In fact, many now accuse that man of attempting to smuggle the drugs. To top that off, security officials never showed up to the court date to testify, which led an unnamed Mexican official to tell CNN that it looked like Yanira was framed. Of the other dozen people who were on the bus, none came forward. Why? Two reasons: It’s a Mexican court and there is no compensation for testimony. These reasons alone should frighten many citizens into initiating change; however, human nature guilts all too many into taking bribes, even those with good intentions.
After Yanira’s release, she thanked the media coverage for making her case more public, which she thought was fully responsible for her quick release. Consequently, U.S. officials admitted to treating the case more high profile than they would have had just another American citizen been detained abroad. However, the media didn’t only expose her specific detainment, but a plethora of corrupt activities that incite desire for justice. When will justice be reached? Can it be reached? Or, is there already an omnipresent and precise imbalance of security and protection?
By Deeptanshu Singhvi
The developed world has sought many methods to locate and punish human rights violators – but few of these plans have targeted the root cause. Little do these officials know that the cause of this international problem is rooted in the very nation that preached human rights from its early stages. Located in Fort Benning, Georgia is a training camp called “The School of Americas,” in which graduates have learned how to gain military strength and how to use such power against enemies. Originally located in Panama, after a series of bureaucratic interventions, the school was relocated to Georgia.
Had it not been for the fact that many of these graduates went to become dictators of corrupt regimes, the amount of real world success The School of Americas has had would be astonishing. In reality though, from its infamous alumni, 11 have become Latin American Dictators known to stir up unnecessary violence. Some include Argentina’s Leopoldo Galtieri, Rios Montt of Guatemala and Raoul Cédras of Haiti. Frightened of future consequences six countries have withdrawn their troops from the school; these countries include Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Ecuador.
To be specific, the school’s impact is still sending shocks throughout the world today: four of its graduates helped orchestrate the 2009 coup in Honduras. Many of the immoral and forceful strategies used by these were derived from their handbook, which advocated “the use of fear, payments of bounties for enemy dead, extortion, beatings and false imprisonment, as well as the use of truth serum.”
In light of recent events, many dissenters of The School of Americas have gathered outside the fences protesting the continuation of such a military program. 17,000 individuals have gathered and streamed into the town; while this has not been positive for the school it has attracted business in Georgia. With food stands overflowing with lines, the town has earned approximately 2.2 million dollars. Disappointing for the protesters, the committee didn’t acquiesce to any of their demands. In fact, to the further the aggravation many of these demonstrators were arrested.
Theoretically, the school curriculum is taught by the US Army’s most accomplished generals and should give third world leaders a chance to advance their own countries. In actuality, when real life events are factored in, many of these graduates use the techniques to subvert the truth, to muzzle union leaders, activist clergy, and journalists, and to make war on their own people. Clearly, immorality on the part of these graduates can distort the intention of The School of Americas.
Furthermore, the actions of the graduates are not limited within the boundaries of the United States. Rather, after graduation many of these graduates return to their home countries and function as a part of that country. Just recently, In Honduras, General Humberto Ragalado Hernandez, was trained at the SOA at the same time that he was linked to Columbian drug cartels, and the highest ranking officers in the Honduran Death Squad were trained at SOA as well. While the havoc wrecked by the graduates of the school may evidence the effectiveness of the curriculum, it doesn’t justify the damage done. With that said, there should be reasonable causality for the general public to protest the institution. Ultimately, the impact of SOA graduates on Latin American freedom has been devastating. Armed with sophisticated training, modern weapons, and up-to-date techniques of control and surveillance, graduates of the SOA have terrorized their own countrymen for a generation. In fact, many of the protesters edited the true title for the school, referencing it as The School of Assassins.
In terms of sustainability of the school, funding must be considered; as of 2012 the school functions with 246,000 dollars in public funds. More astounding, the school spent more than 9,000 dollars on media monitoring software and 50,000 dollars on access to internet to try and lobby for a bill in congress. This bill, very extraneous to the school’s mission, attempted to divide the church and army even more. Slowly as the school has gained in funding it has been squandering sums of money to useless goals.
Most importantly, the constituents of the United States must learn that their own country has indirectly propagated the rise in human rights abuses. Although the school began with noble intentions, its continuation has been plagued with corruption. It is time that a national movement to restrict the actions of the graduates triumph against the government bureaucracy.
By Alison Shim
Over the past few years, Native American land sites have been targeted for dumping nuclear waste and even more recently, for radioactive waste dumps. Serious health effects from the waste and uranium mining have now plagued a vast number of Native Americans’ struggling health. Tribes are now constantly struggling to obtain restitution and compensation from the government.
As reported by the Las Vegas Review Journal, in 1987, 49 states ganged up on Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the single site in the nation for further study as a potential national dump for high-level radioactive waste. Nevada was targeted as the only site for this potential dumping and served as a clear step towards discriminating against Native Americans. Due to significant public resistance, dumping targeting large regions in the East had been postponed. However, the proposal of “dumping” as a solution to handling such large amounts of nuclear waste was not met without strong controversy. According to the Las Vegas Sun, “Led by Western Shoshone spiritual leader Corbin Harney, the Western Shoshone National Council maintained tireless opposition to the dump, joined, over time, by more than 1,000 environmental groups. Then, in 2009, President Obama and his Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, wisely cancelled the dangerous, controversial proposal.”
The economic costs to dumping are recognized to be monstrous as well. If the proposal for dumping in Nevada had progressed, “Although $11 billion of ratepayer and taxpayer money had already been wasted, another $90 billion would have been wasted if the project had gone forward.” The supposed “solution” is neither cost-effective nor efficient in providing a long-term solution to the on-going issue of nuclear waste.
Native Americans are now facing a wide range of serious health concerns after having been exposed to colossal amounts of radiation. If the dumpsite in Nevada had opened, many thousands of high-level radioactive waste trucks and trains would have travelled through most states, passing tens of millions of American’s homes, at risk of severe accidents unveiling disastrous amounts of radioactivity into metro areas. The environments of such highly populated areas would be severely damaged and inherently threaten all of its inhabitants. The region overall would be doomed as a “nuclear sacrifice area”.
Furthermore, the Christian Science Monitor points out that “the US currently has more than 75,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel stacked up at 122 temporary sites in 39 states across the US, according to DOE reports. The nation’s 104 commercial nuclear reactors produce about 2,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel annually. Thousands more tons of high-level military waste also need a final home”. The problem of nuclear is approaching rapidly on the horizon, calling for a greater and longer-lasting solution than dumping on Native American land. In order to create a sustainable future, the government is going to need to implement a more efficient, forward-looking solution. The same Christian Science Monitor article finds that currently, “Mr. Obama handed the commission the problem of what to do with spent nuclear fuel that will be dangerously radioactive for millennia and a big problem if it gets into the environment. Currently, spent-fuel pools and dry above-ground casks at reactor sites are being used for temporary storage. But a secure geologic site for permanent story remains key if nuclear power is to expand and the amount of spent fuel increases”. While both temporary solutions look to be insufficient in the future, both serve as capable replacements to the ever-harmful dumping on Native American grounds.
By Deeptanshu Singhvi
Scarcity of resources has always governed the decisions of the human race, even when life was at its most primitive stage. As oil has grown scarcer, governments across the world have been incentivized to start up new projects. Eternal energy is a prime goal and geothermal breakthroughs may help achieve this goal. In fact, global emissions of carbon dioxide have been the highest ever in 2012, and the threat of climate change is becoming imminent.
When tracing back geothermal energy through human history, one can easily spot how geothermal energy has been used in the art of cooking. In layman’s terms, geothermal energy is the concept behind extracting energy from beneath the earth’s crusts. Stored within the crust of the earth are huge amounts of thermal energy or heat energy, which can be used to power and supply much of the electricity we require today.
In light of current systems that create geothermal energy, there are three crucial processes: these methods include dry steam, flash, and binary technology. Dry steam, the oldest geothermal technology, takes steam out of fractures in the ground and uses it to directly drive a turbine. Flash plants take high-pressure hot water into colder, low-pressure water. Responding to the change in environment, the steam generated from this process is used to drive the turbine. A report by National Geographic assessed that, “In binary plants, the hot water is turned to vapor, which then drives a turbine. Most geothermal power plants in the future will be binary plants.”
On the international context, more than 20 countries worldwide are currently utilizing some form of geothermal energy. In the rankings, the United States comes out on the top with the title of producing the most geothermal energy. However, deeper dissection within the statistical analysis reveals that this is more luck than technique: the largest geothermal production is caused by the geysers in Yellowstone National Park.
Theoretically, the concept behind geothermal energy involves a very low risk atmosphere. On the contrary, after implementation, it has been observed that excessive production of geothermal energy can be linked to the release of hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas, which can have disastrous consequences if excessively inhaled. Furthermore, numerous petitions have been signed to minimize geothermal energy extractions. The threat of drilling too deep into the surface of earth prompts great caution. In fact, a project by Seattle-based AltaRock Energy, would have fractured bedrock and extracted heat by digging more than two miles beneath the surface. Documents provided to the New York Times revealed that the project had been unsuccessful on numerous accounts, ultimately putting the corporation in debt of about 6 million dollars. To further the possible risk of damage, a letter addressed by Cathy Zoi, an assistant energy secretary, explained that, “the AltaRock project would have a significant impact on the human environment.”
Despite the serious drawbacks that have been found within Geothermal Energy, Obama has invested 359 million dollars in an Oregon Project to oversee whether the harms have any merit. If they do, the president seeks to find quick solutions so there is another source of alternative energy available for corporations to use. Astoundingly, the results have been positive. Ernie Majer, a seismologist and deputy director of the Earth Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, said that the new standards were a welcome development. The letters show that the department “is being ultra-careful about any induced seismicity,” he said, referring to earthquakes triggered by humans. On a more detailed analysis, there have been regulations to monitor ground movement. Preventative measures are necessary for the development of Geothermal energy.
To make the transition between fossil fuel related energy and renewable energy, a whole new level of bureaucracy has been established. This governmental action will help reduce the chance of any risk while at the same time act as a temporary solution to meet the rising demand for energy. Some experts say we might have hit peak oil – scarcity is forcing humans to make geothermal energy a feasible avenue.