Did you catch the irony of Hillary Clinton denouncing Iran as a dictatorship during a visit to Persian Gulf monarchies?

Clinton created ripples when she characterized Iran as “moving toward a military dictatorship’’ in front of a student audience in Qatar. Papers such as the Boston Globe commended her “truth-telling” on such an important issue.

Hold on, though. Doesn’t the Globe know that Qatar itself isn’t exactly a model of Jeffersonian democracy? Although it performs better than the dismal norm of the region and is most famous in the West as the home of Al Jazeera, Qatar has a far from unblemished record.

In a submission this month to the United Nations, Amnesty International listed many concerns it has about the state of human rights in that country, including “restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, discrimination and violence against women, exploitation of migrant workers, arbitrary arrest and detention without charge, and arbitrary deprivation of nationality.” The last one is the most interesting, since the Qatari government has apparently deprived thousands of members of unruly tribes the right to be citizens of their own country. Hillary wasn’t very vocal during her visit in denouncing such measures.

From Qatar, Hillary went to Saudi Arabia, whose political system takes the cake. Iran has been in the spotlight for the past year for a wonderfully nonviolent mass movement that has confronted an increasingly repressive government in response to a stolen election. There is no similar struggle going on in Saudi Arabia. That nation is headed by an absolute monarchy in cahoots with the most fundamentalist clergy in the world. There is no civil society in Saudi Arabia. End of story.

“Human rights conditions remain poor in Saudi Arabia,” Human Rights Watch stated in its 2009 overview. “Authorities continue to systematically suppress, or fail to protect, the rights of fourteen million Saudi women and girls, eight million foreign workers, and some two million Shia. Thousands of people have received unfair trials or were subject to arbitrary detention. Curbs on freedom of association, expression, and movement, as well as a pervasive lack of official accountability, remain serious concerns. In May, the government cancelled scheduled municipal elections.”

But Hillary was too busy feasting on lamb and rice and cracking lame jokes about camels with King Abdullah to publicly raise her concerns about any of this.

To make matters more hilarious, Hillary informed a Saudi college audience of the Iranian government’s backing of terrorism.

“Iran has funded terrorists who have launched attacks within other countries,” she said. “Iran is the largest supporter of terrorism in the world today.”

Wait. Did she utter the wrong country’s name by mistake? Someone as smart and well-informed as Hillary knows that Saudi Arabia is the birthplace and global disseminator of Wahhabi Islam, the ideological fountainhead of Al Qaeda. And members of the Saudi ruling elite have been a major source of funding for the organization.

Of course, Hillary’s hosts were delighted at her remarks, targeted as they were at a country that has threatened their monarchies for three decades and is Shiite on top of it.

But we, here at home, shouldn’t let her—or the United States—get away with such hypocrisy.

Amitabh Pal is the Managing Editor of The Progressive magazine. To subscribe for just $14.97 a year, just click here.


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The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

The reach of this story extends from the lowliest working stiff to the highest court in the land.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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