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Diplomacy

Secretary of State Antony Blinken

Photo by BrookingsInst is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

The Biden administration has thrown out a report from the Trump administration that human rights groups criticized for devaluing LGBTQ rights across the globe.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the announcement during a press conference on Tuesday to discuss a 2020 report on the status of human rights that includes some 200 countries and territories.

"There is no hierarchy that makes some rights more important than others," Blinken said. "Past unbalanced statements that suggest such a hierarchy, including those by the recently disbanded State Department advisory committee do not represent a guiding document for this administration."

In 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, created the "Commission on Unalienable Rights," which was chaired by Mary Ann Glendon, an opponent of abortion rights and LGBTQ equality, and supported by Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. Last year, Pompeo announced the release of a report from the commission.

During that press conference, Pompeo said, "Americans do not only have unalienable rights but also positive rights: rights granted by governments, courts, multilateral bodies. Many are worth defending in light of our founding. Others aren't ... More rights doesn't necessarily mean more justice."

Amnesty International, Equity Forward, Human Rights First, and Human Rights Watch, among other advocacy groups, contacted foreign diplomats last fall to oppose that message. Human rights experts saidthat Pompeo's efforts could result in uncertainty among LGBTQ people that might affect whether they felt safe turning to U.S. embassies for support.

Ryan Thoreson, a researcher for Human Rights Watch's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights program, wrote at the time, "The report focuses at length on the US Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The report pays little attention to what followed these, including advancements in the rights of racial minorities, women, children, people with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as the growing realization of economic and social rights."

Blinken said on Tuesday, "One of the core principles of human rights is that they are universal. All people are entitled to these rights no matter where they were born, what they believe, who they love, or any other characteristic. Human rights are also co-equal."

During the press conference, the new secretary of state mentioned LGBTQI people multiple times.

"Human rights are also interdependent," he said. "If you're denied equal access to a job or an education because of the color of your skin or your gender identity, how can you obtain health and well being for yourself or your family?"

He said that an important part of monitoring human rights issues includes awareness of how the COVID-19 pandemic affected marginalized groups, including LGBTQI people. Blinken added that the Trump administration's reports on the status of human rights abroad had also removed a section about reproductive health and that the Biden administration plans to release an addendum later in 2021 covering those issues and including them in future reports.

The announcement is part of a broader promise by President Joe Biden, who gave a speech at the. State Department in February saying he would "reinvigorate our leadership on LGBTQ issues."

Biden issued a memorandum later that day which required executive agencies to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance officials both protect LGBTQ rights and promoted them whenever possible.

The memorandum also urged agencies engaged abroad to fight against the criminalization of LGBTQ people and give equal access to assistance and protection for LGBTQ refugees and asylum seekers.

"Around the globe, including here at home, brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) activists are fighting for equal protection under the law, freedom from violence, and recognition of their fundamental human rights," the memorandum read. "The United States belongs at the forefront of this struggle — speaking out and standing strong for our most dearly held values."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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Jamal Khashoggi

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

In October of 2018, Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi stepped into a Saudi embassy in Istanbul to deal with what was supposed to be routine paperwork related to his upcoming marriage. His fiancée was waiting outside. He never returned.

Though it took months for the details of the story to emerge, it was clear almost from the beginning that Khashoggi has been the victim of Saudi usurper—and friend to both Donald Trump and Jared Kushner—Mohammed bin Salman. When more of the story did emerge, it could not have been more disturbing. It showed how bin Salman dispatched a murder squad to intercept Khashoggi, beat him, torture him, dismember him, and then murder him … in that order. When the journalist was dead, a member of the team that had killed him donned his clothing and walked around Istanbul in an effort to plant a false trail. Finally, it seems that Khashoggi's remains were burned in an ovenspecially created for that purpose.

Thursday, Feb 25, 2021 · 2:19:32 PM EST · Mark Sumner

I have no information to go along with this, but …

As the horrific details emerged, Donald Trump continued to stand by bin Salman. Trump refused to sanction the "Crown Prince"—who inserted himself into that position after conducting an internal coup that saw multiple members of his own family either killed or sent into exile. Trump also refused to produce a required report about the murder, saying he had a "right to refuse" the clear letter of the law.

There may be no better signal of how President Joe Biden is returning justice to America's foreign policy than this: On Thursday, the White House will finally release the report. And it clearly shows bin Salman is responsible for the murder of American resident Jamal Khashoggi.

As CNN reported on Wednesday, court documents from a civil suit filed in Canada included documents explicitly showing bin Salman's orders to send the hit team after Khashoggi. Those documents show how the murder squad—which came prepared with bone saws and other tools to both torture the journalist and take his body apart when it was all over—was dispatched using a private aviation company that bin Salman took over just months before. This private fleet of planes gave bin Salman the capacity he needed to get a 15-man team in and out of Istanbul without having to line his bloody killers up for seats on a commercial aircraft.

It's just one more piece of evidence in a case that was already definitive in showing how bin Salman ordered the hit against Khashoggi, arranged the gruesome details, and gloated over his success. After which Trump and Kushner refused to hold him to account, with Kushner advising the crown murderer to just lay low for a bit until the press got distracted by other events. Trump certainly did not allow the murder of a U.S. resident journalist to get in the way of making enormous arms sales to bin Salman.

But as NBC News reports, Thursday will see a big shift in the relationship between the United States and the man currently calling the shots in Saudi Arabia. That's because the U.S. will release a report that clearly shows how bin Salman approved and directed the murder of Khashoggi.

According to NBC's sources, this is not a new report. This is the report that Trump refused to release in 2018. That means this report isn't just a condemnation of bin Salman, it's also another strong condemnation of Trump.

Trump knew all along that his pal bin Salman was a raging murderer. But then, Trump didn't care, just as he didn't care that bin Salman oversaw a growing number of executions each year, with hundreds of people being beheaded, hung, or crucified for defying his reign. For one thing, Trump likes seeing people executed. For another, bin Salman "pays in cash." Trump doesn't consider bin Salman a bad guy just because he seized control illegally, chased down members of his own family, carried out a brutal proxy war in which thousands of children have died, and went to enormous lengths to carry out the murder of a journalist that included cutting off the man's fingers one by one. Trump considers bin Salman a role model.

But he's not a model of what anyone should consider a just leader or a reliable ally. As Reuters reports, the report—which has until now been hidden behind a Top Secret stamp applied under Trump—makes clear bin Salman's complicity in the torture and murder of Khashoggi. The release of the report signals not just that the United States holds bin Salman personally responsible for this death, but that the nation will be reexamining its relationship with the government in Riyadh and the horrendous Saudi record on human rights.

Bin Salman still has plenty of leftover U.S. bombs for attacking civilian areas of Yemen. He's also unlikely to ever face justice for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. But at least the United States won't be hurrying back to kiss his feet any time soon.