July 26, 2016 - Douglas Gillison

July 26, 2016
Douglas Gillison

There are a lot of things the United States of America can teach to the world, but it’s hard to see why moral ambivalence needs to be one of them. And yet, over the past 15 years, the US Departments of State and Defense have spent billions of dollars demonstrating to up to 200,000 police, military or security force trainees a year in close to 500 programs in roughly 150 countries, how two-faced we are when it comes to upholding standards of human rights.

Even the two laws which since 1998 and 99 respectively have guided this vast network of programs, literally bar the State and Defense Department from funding programs which benefit credibly-accused violators of human rights spell it out. The two Leahy Laws, named for their chief sponsor, Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy, execute a dance routine one might call posturing de deux. One dancer enacts the message, “We value human rights;” while other expresses the counter-message, “except when we don’t want to.”

The exception written into the Leahy Laws, the legal “out” for funders of perpetrators of torture, extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, and systematic rape is a requirement that the Secretaries of State or Defense confirm that the offending units, commanders or countries are cleaning up their reprehensible acts.

The reality is, of course, very different. Take what the GAO, the Government Accounting Office reported just this April about the $6.5 billion worth of military aid given to Egypt between 2011 and 15 from the of State Department ‘s Foreign Military Financing account.

Two things the GAO knew for sure: (1) the money was gone: “As of September 30, 2015, over $6.4 billion of the $6.5 billion total had been committed or disbursed.” And (2) it had been spent on a wide variety of military systems, including F-16 aircraft, Apache helicopters, M1A1 tanks, and Night Vision Devices and riot-control items.

Anyone watching any of dozens of news stories about the Egyptian military’s violent crackdowns on public political dissent over the past two years would tell you, those last three, the tanks, the night vision equipment and the riot control gear, have been used to grossly violate human and civil rights.

That evidence does not seem to have reached the State Department’s Leahy Law enforcement team, and the GAO says, “challenges including obtaining Egyptian government cooperation hindered [investigative] efforts.” The bottom line, the GAO reported was, the State Dept had virtually no policies, and absolutely no follow-through when it came to enforcing these human rights rules.

“State [says] that it is in compliance with the Leahy law. However, without vetting policies and procedures, the U.S. government risks providing U.S. equipment to recipients in Egypt in violation of the Leahy laws.”

No kidding.

Reading Room

Douglas Gillison is an investigative reporter whose work has been featured at theIntercept.com and 100 Reporters, 100r.org.

“The Network” – The Intercept

“Moral Hazard: How the United States Trained Cambodian Human Rights Abusers, Breaking U.S. Law” – 100 Reporters

“Leahy Law” – Wikipedia



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