American leftists often seem to be on the hard side of the debate.
After investing so much in its accommodation, leftists struggled for rationale when the old Soviet bloc crumbled in the early 1990s. The recent and continuing collapse of the Mideast’s dictatorships exposes a similar trend. For 30 years, the left appeared to ignore human rights violations across the region — with the exception of Israel or actions by the United States. Now?
Start with Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship in Libya, where hundreds of Libyan protesters, if not thousands, have been mowed down by Gaddafi’s henchmen. For decades, those on the left have been both indirectly and directly supportive of Gaddafi’s rule — sometimes even profiting by their association.
Whatever “good intentions” they might have had do not matter — as Jesse Jackson’s history with the regime makes clear. One can grant that Jackson’s intentions were pure or that he was merely short-sighted when, in 1981, he accepted $100,000 for his PUSH Foundation from the Arab League, a 21-country coalition that includes Libya. But after denying the connection, Jackson only made the admission to The New York Times through his legal and financial advisor John H. Bustamante.
Bustamante admitted Jackson’s group had “solicited and asked for” funds from several states — including Libya. That’s not a crime; but if one must reach out to nefarious characters to fund one’s “good intentions,” shouldn’t one either wonder about the ulterior motives of these bad actors or of the “goodness” of their own intent?
That is the part of the association between Jackson and Libya that we know about. Given his reticence to admit this much, is there more?
Next, consider the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), a group dominated by some of the most radically left individuals in the U.S. Congress.
On Libya, the CBC has been silent with regard to both the abuses of Gaddafi’s dictatorship in Libya and the undemocratic fashion of his dictatorial rule in general. Highlighted among the CBC is Congressman Earl Hilliard (D-AL), who voyaged to Libya during the ‘90s courtesy of a Tunisian businessman. Among other things, Congressman Hilliard’s trip resulted in silence about the brutality in both Tunisia — the match-point for the Arab revolutions — and Libya.
To be sure, Western governments had generally been silent about Tunisia President Ben Ali’s repression of press freedom and other human rights. Tunisia’s role as a regional ally and model for economic development frequently minimized the government’s human-rights abuses. But as part of a congressional delegation to Tunis, Hilliard went so far as to call Ali a statesman who had “done a tremendous job in Tunisia and who is well respected back home as well as here in the Arab world.” Really? Is the congressman available today to repeat and reemphasize such remarks?
Worse, in August 1997, Hilliard made an unauthorized trip to Libya. Since Libya was declared a terrorist state and sanctions were imposed in 1986, the State Department banned American travel to Libya with a U.S. passport as well as any business and financial transactions with the country. In cooperation with a congressional investigation, Hilliard revealed that a Swiss company headed by a wealthy Tunisian businessman involved in crude oil paid nearly $5,000 for Hilliard’s trip to Tunisia and Libya. Hilliard explained his trip was a well-intentioned attempt to “develop channels for dialogue” with the Muslim world.
Using his passport for this trip — something Hilliard did not do — would have been illegal. Arranging not to do so took some foresight and some understanding of the nature of his trip.
These are but a few examples of the American left’s support of national actors who are anti-democratic and anti-American. Their pattern of conduct has seen them dealing with the most disreputable leaders in the world.
Ironically, this anti-American predilection shows leftists actually do have the ability to show outrage over Libya. When President Reagan ordered the bombing of Libyan targets in 1986, in response to a Libyan terror attack on a German nightclub frequented by American military personnel, the left condemned the act as “immoral,” for “seriously violating laws and norms governing international relations.”
Alas, there hasn’t been similar outcry regarding Libya’s violent suppression of its protestors. Nor was there similar outrage about Saddam Hussein’s likely attempted genocide of Iraqi Kurds. Nor, to be frank, did the left seem all too concerned with the spread of international terrorism — the rationale for that 1986 U.S. raid on Libya — or the victims in that German nightclub attack.
But when the U.S. shot down two Libyan jets over the Gulf of Sidra, a United Methodist official pronounced: “U.S. actions can only be seen as an attempt to isolate the Libyan claim in order to bully a weaker nation whose foreign policy supports causes not approved by the United States.” What does the church think now of the dictator bullying his own citizenry?
One has to wonder what the world would look like in 2011 if, over the past several decades, the left actually acted upon its alleged core principle of human rights. What if they had sided with the political right against rogues like Gaddafi and Ali? What would the world look like?
What would Cuba look like had a united world, led by America, stood against it? What about Venezuela?
It may be too late for the Middle East, but there are many countries that will be part of the next waves of protest against oppressive rule.
As Ronald Reagan said, “Man is not free unless government is limited.” Where government is unlimited in its power — places such as Tunisia, Libya, Venezuela, and Cuba — the revolts are inevitable.