This nation of refugees has a historic commitment to champion human rights throughout the world. Yet today, the United Stated finds itself in an awkward alliance with dictators who are estranged from the people they rule.
There are those in Washington who put geopolitics and commercial interests ahead of concern for the suffering of defenseless people. Indeed, some of our leaders are developing a camaraderie with despots who hold their nations in cruel subjugaton.
All presidents have espoused human rights. But not all presidents have put their rhetoric into action. Jimmy Carter made human rights the heart of his foreign policy, but, in the implementation, he was selective and ineffective.
Ronald Reagan, speaking from the heart, promised to use the presidency as a pulpit from which to "point the finger of shame" at the persecution of people anywhere, everywhere. Yet his message has gone largely ignored by the people he has put in charge of foreign policy.
There has been a succession of follies and tradgedies, with a terrible human toll. Here is the record, as compiled by my associate Lucette Lagnado:
In Cambodia, Pol Pot embarked on a rampage of genocide. Yet Jimmy Carter, for all his breast-beating over human rights, twice voted in the United Nations to support the Pol Pot regime. Ronald Reagan, though walking on tiptoe, still remains in Pol Pot's corner. r
In El Salvador, the moderate junta has been unable or unwilling to stop government troops from shooting and shelling innocent civilians. Impartial observers have called it "a blood bath." Yet the Reagan administration has sent armaments and military advisers to instruct the troops how to use the new weapons.
The Chilean secret police carried out a brutal assassination in Washington, yet the dictatorship has refused to extradite the cultprits. Meanwhile, the administration has lifted tha sanctions on Ex-Im Bank loans to Chile and has invited the Chileans to join the U.S. Navy in naval maneuvers.
In the Soviet Union, a massive crackdown has been reported on political dissidents. The violence in Afghanistan also goes on. Yet the Reagan administration has ended the grain embargo and is preparing for business-as-usual with the Russians.
In Pakistan, dictator Mohammed Zia ul-Haq is trying to save his shaky regime by purging the opposition. More than 1,000 political dissidents have been arrested since the first of the year. Nevertheless, the administration is preparing a hugh military-economic aid package.
The State Department has accused four nations of harboring terrorists: Libya, Iraq, Syra and South Yemen. Yet Carter invited Libyan diplomats into the Oval Office after the intercession of his brother, Billy. Although Reagan has now ordered the Libyans out of the country, his administration has agreed to sell Boeing 747s and 727s to Iraq. These can be converted into military transports.
South Africa has perpetuated harsh racial policies, the most recent manifestations being a raid against blacks in Mozambique and the shutdown of two black newspapers. Yet various spokesmen have declared it is the intention of the Reagan administration to improve relations with South Africa.
There have been arbitrary arrests and mysterious disappearances among critics of themilitary regime in Argentina. Amnesty International has disputed reports that the disappearances have ended. The Reagan administration, nevertheless, has offered to lift the ban on U.S. aid.
Reagan is a good-hearted man who is grieved by human suffering. But to stop the oppression, he favors a "quiet diplomacy" that has become so quiet it has encouraged the oppressors.