By Richard Falk
A wide-ranging conversation with Richard Falk at the American Herald Tribune on October 5, 2017.
Here a few excerpts:
• Mohsen Abdelmoumen: You wrote the book “Achieving Human Rights”. Don’t you think that the many interventions of American imperialism, under the pretext of spreading human rights and democracy, have emptied the concept of human rights from its substance?
Prof. Richard Falk: I would place the stress on the discrediting effects of the disastrous American imperial intervention, and subsequent occupation, of Iraq starting in 2003. Especially when the allegation of hiding stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction proved false, the United States justified the intervention as a textbook liberation of the Iraqi people, an exercise in what was called ‘democracy promotion.’ Even earlier, the U.S. Government attempted to justify its regime-changing intervention in Afghanistan as beneficial for women, as an undertaking that was described under such headings as ‘women empowerment.’ As with Iraq, the intervention in Afghanistan has brought massive suffering to the people of the country, and discredited all claims that human rights and democracy could be achieved by military intervention.
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The greatest world order deficiency at the present time is the absence of any adequate mechanism to promote global collective goods such as climate change, the avoidance of nuclear warfare, and the challenges of global migration flows. The UN is too weak to play such a role, serving mainly as an arena in which sovereign states pursue national interests either antagonistically or cooperatively, but when an important global or human interest is at stake, then geopolitics dominates, and the UN is neutralized.
Some mainstream commentators and journalists in the U.S. have argued that American global leadership has since 1945 promoted global collective goods as well as its own interests. Such an argument, while never convincing, has lost all credibility in the years since the end of the Cold War, and since Trump became president, the U.S. role has actually been regressive with respect to global public goods as well practically all issues.
Israel continuously defies international law, and suffers no adverse consequences. International law supports all the major Palestinian grievances (relating to ending the occupation, removing the blockade of Palestine, the status of Jerusalem, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, the unlawfulness of the Separation Wall, and the numerous violations of international humanitarian law by Israel as the Occupying Power under the Geneva Conventions). Of course, when it seems to help Israel, it will make reference to international law (e.g. off-shore natural gas fields or sovereign rights) or by claiming its sovereign right to defend itself as it chooses.
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You are a personality with an exceptional pathway. Do you plan to write your memoirs to give your testimony so precious of a Just and committed man to all the Earth’s resistance?
Thanks for these gracious and generous words of encouragement. In fact, I have spent the past few months climbing the foothills of that impossible mountain I call ‘a memoir.’ I am not sure how high I will get, and even if the climb is worth the effort, but I suppose I should be patient and give the process an opportunity to work itself out in the months and years ahead.