The 20th century was the worst century on record in terms of man’s inhumanity to man, but a statement by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in April 2000 made to the University of World Economy and Diplomacy at Tashkent in Uzbekistan held out the promise that the next century could see some improvements:
“Terrorism is a criminal act and should be treated accordingly – and that means applying the law fairly and consistently.”
“We have found, through experience round the world, that the best way to defeat terrorist threats is to increase law enforcement capabilities while at the same time promoting democracy and human rights.”
Few would have shed a tear if the Nazi bosses who stood accused of the most horrific acts of terror and mass murder witnessed since the beginning of time had been summarily executed after the war.
The United States, however, did not want revenge; it wanted to show to the world that no crime, no matter how horrific, could be so vile as to justify the abrogation of the rule of law.
Albright’s optimism would be short-lived. The crimes Osama bin Laden is accused of having masterminded were without precedent in their cunning, and their execution was witnessed by the entire world on live television.
However, as horrific as the crimes of 9/11 are, they pale compared to what the Nazis did. But times have changed, and we are now in the year 2011.
The rule of means justifying ends has replaced the rule of law. Today the United State responds to terrorism not with the rule of law, but with the suspension of habeas corpus, by fudging the meaning of torture, and with assassination.
Albright’s faith in the endurance of human rights fared no better than her faith in the rule of law.
As western powers dropped bombs on the home of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, they also lifted a travel ban imposed on Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe so that he could attend the beatification ceremonies for John Paul II.
Mugabe was only one of the rebels who defeated the white supremacy regime of what was then Southern Rhodesia. Once in power Mugabe proceeded to consolidate his position by murdering thousands of his opponents.
In 2000, when Zimbabweans voted for a change in leadership, Mugabe resorted to terror, torture, mayhem and assassinations to hold on to power.
Some had hoped that President Obama would put and end to his predecessor’s embrace of kidnapping and torture as measures of international diplomacy.
That hope was dashed with the release of pictures showing President Obama watching bin Laden’s assassination live, in the White House, via cameras fixed to the helmets of his troops.
In a similar way there was hope that Pope Benedict XVI would put and end to his predecessor’s shameful shielding of child abusers.
That hope too was dashed when Pope Benedict XVI invited and received Mugabe the torturer and murderer as an honoured guest to celebrate Christian virtues.
I had hoped that Albright’s 20th century “experience round the world” would be taken to heart by 21st century leaders. I was wrong.
Andre Carrel is a retired public sector administrator living in Terrace, BC.