Editorial: The value of human rights
America has committed sins against people for their gender, their religion, their sexuality, their mental health, or their poverty.
As a people, we are not clean.
But as a nation, we do learn. Often it’s slow and we make mistakes and we get it wrong and have to change course. But just like water seeks its own level, something in us strives, bit by bit, to get it right.
And that is how, despite the original sins of slavery and our treatment of Native Americans and everything else we have gotten wrong, America’s most precious asset should be that we believe in human rights.
Because of that, we must care that our own CIA has determined that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince orchestrated the murder of Washington Post columnist and Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen and critic.
We cannot accept that President Donald Trump’s answer to this report is a shrug and we “may never know all the facts surrounding the murder.” We cannot allow the response to be dependent on money and oil.
We, as a nation that once bought and sold people like butchered sides of beef, must not accept the man who speaks for us placing a price — no matter how high — on a human life.
Our answer to atrocity should be unequivocal and demand or promise action, as it has before.
“All Americans are sad and angry to learn of the murder,” said President George W. Bush in 2002 after the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. “…Those who would engage in criminal barbaric acts need to know that these crimes only hurt their cause and only deepen the resolve of the United States of America to rid the world of these agents of terror.”
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was one of four men convicted in the crime four months later . He serves a life sentence in Karachi, Pakistan.
“There is no justification for the brutal execution of Nicholas Berg,” Bush said in 2004. “By (the murderers’) actions, they remind us how desperately parts of their world need free societies and peaceful societies.”
The CIA found Al-Qaeda emir Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to be the man who cut off the Philadelphia civilian contractor’s head on video, leaving the body to be found near Baghdad. A founder of ISIS, Zarqawi, at one point called the most wanted man in Iraq, was killed in an airstrike in 2006.
“People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy,” said President Barack Obama after the 2014 beheading of journalist Jim Foley . “The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless.”
Foley was held captive 21 months before his execution by ISIS at the hands of a man who became known as “Jihadi John,” British-raised Mohammed Emwazi. ISIS confirmed Emwazi’s death in a drone strike in 2016 .
“They have failed because, like people around the world, Americans are repulsed by their barbarism. We will not be intimidated,” Obama said when Foley’s fellow prisoner, Time magazine journalist Steven Sotloff was likewise beheaded in Sept. 2014, also by Emwazi.
We cannot say we value human rights if we are okay deal-making with human lives.