International Conference on “The United States, Human Rights and the Discourse of Domination” held at FWS
May 26, 2014
During the Week of American Human Rights, the one-day international conference on “The United States, Human Rights and the Discourse of Domination” was held in Hananeh Hal of the Faculty of World Studies on Sunday, July 02, 2017. The Center on Foreign Policy and Public Diplomacy Research of the University of Tehran sponsored the program that was organized in cooperation with Iranian World Studies Association, Islamic Human Rights Commission in London, and the Faculty of World Studies.
In the beginning of the congress, Dr. Saeid Reza Ameli, Dean of the Faculty of World Studies, greeted the attendees and, reminding the importance of the meeting, called it a historical event. Comparing the current human rights status with the past, he said, “Today, we live in a more violent and more threatening world. Internationally, the people are suffering from more serious human factors. This social rigor is rooted in the aggressiveness of human policies. One of the most fundamental human rights is the right to live, right to be peaceful, and right to have a quality life. Anything that prevents humans from achieving this is antihuman. Unfortunately, today we see that innocent people are living in war situation in Yemen, Iraq, Nigeria, and Bahrain.”
“The international conflicts are rooted in the policy of ‘everything is for me’ and this policy is manifested through the ideas of ‘with us or against us’ or ‘American Exceptionalism’. The American people do not own this exceptionalism; it is owned by the dominating system of the country. War and the domination status have turned all standards of truth and life into relative concepts. It is that their human rights works in a way that they attack Iraq and kill nearly 600 thousand children through medical sanctions. On the other hand, they call Iran as an axis of evil; a country that has held more than tens of elections and is an outcome of a democratic system. Therefore, although ISIS attacks the Iranian Parliament, a symbol of democracy, the US calls Iran an advocate of terrorism”, Dr. Ameli continued.
Dean of the Faculty of World Studies added, “All these are the children of the American sick, selfish, and exceptionalist mind that considers itself free of all rules. US aggressiveness justifies its military presence in more than 140 countries, including our neighbors, such as Bahrain, Turkey, and Iraq. The country’s military budget was 437 billion dollars in 2003 and will be 824 billion dollars in October 2018.”
Reminding the audience of the violations made by the US in cases of human rights, he said, “The US has thousands of nuclear warheads but makes a fuss about one imaginary nuclear warhead while it already knows that Iran is not after nuclear weapons.”
Dr. Ameli also discussed the cultural and social violation of human rights by the US and said, “Nationals want to live by their own culture. It is a violation of their rights if one wants to impose its way of life on others.”
Talking about the increasing sanctions on Iran by the democrat and conservative governments in The US after the Islamic Revolution, the Dean of the Faculty added, “Sanction is a violation of human rights because it is the nations who suffer from sanctions and pay the costs, not the governments.”
Dr. Ameli continued his speech by talking about four examples of violations of human rights by the US. “First of all, talking about human rights is completely at odds with war and you cannot use war to promote human rights. Second example is the structural and institutional violation where many international institutions, such as the UN and World Bank, are tasked with satisfying American domination needs. The third case is global violation of human rights through American military interventions around the world and the guardianship the country feels toward other countries. It works in a way that initially the countries, states, are called regimes and then the military intervention by the US is justified. Finally, the fourth example of human rights violation by the US is the cultural and social violation of human rights through imposing its favorite political and cultural model on other countries.”
Mentioning the role of People’s Mojahedin Organization in terrorism, Dean of the Faculty of World Studies continued, “While more than 17 thousand Iranian people have been martyred by the terrorist People’s Mojahedin Organization, the group still, continuously, provides false pictures of Iran in foreign parliaments and, unfortunately, is under the protection of governments like the US.”
Dean of the Faculty of World Studies continued his speech by discussing the dangers of ISIS for the international community and the world. “Iran’s efforts to destroy ISIS is the most strategic effort to provide peace and security in Europe and the United States and no country like Iran has been more successful in fundamentally hurting the terrorist group. Although Iran has paid the most in fighting against ISIS and the main sources of terrorism around the world, it is still considered a source of danger for the United States.”
Dr. Ameli concluded his remarks by talking about the false picture that is broadcasted about Iran. “These false images are the reason for wrong reactions against us. We need to find a solution. In order for the realization of true and comprehensive human rights around the world, dominating, hateful ideology must be removed and the world must believe in the truth. The international community must not turn the truth into a relative concept by basing it upon own interests and realist approach of ‘more power, more rights’. Truth originates in what has been defined by God as human life rules; it is based upon collective interest and respect.”
Dr. Foad Izadi, Director of the Center on Foreign Policy and Public Diplomacy Research of the University of Tehran, was the second speaker of the opening ceremony. Remembering the US aids to Saddam Hussain during the eight-year war with Iran, he said, “Our country is accused of violating human rights. The US, in the name of human rights, is in violation of human rights. The latest sanctions by the United States are more expansive than the pre-JCPOA era sanctions. Our country must defend itself against the human rights related accusations. Public diplomacy in this affair must be followed more seriously. The enemies have formed a discourse against us and we need to do so and show a more active presence in international arena.”
The third speaker of the conference was Dr. Daniel Kovalik, Adjunct Professor of International Human Rights Law at University of Pittsburgh. In his speech, ‘The US and Imperialism in the Name of Human Rights’, he said, “In the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was much discussion in the media about the Bush Administration’s goal for “nation-building” in that country. Many Iraqis believe the invasion left their country in the worst condition it has been since the Mongol invasion of.”
“The stark truth is that the US really has no intention of helping to build strong states in the Middle East or elsewhere. Rather, as we see time and again, the goal of US foreign policy is increasingly and more aggressively the destruction of independent states”, he continued.
Commenting that with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the US uses more than one-third of the world’s consumption materials, Dr. Kovalik added, “The only way the US has been able to achieve its interests has been by undermining the ability of independent states to exist. This is why the US has teamed up with the world’s most deplorable forces in destroying independent states around the globe. This has done in the name of protecting democracy, freedom, and human rights, and has often been aided and abetted by “human rights organizations” which play a key ideological role in laying the groundwork for war.”
Professor of University of Pittsburgh continued, “In order to weaken Iran, a mostly Shiite country, and to affirm the American domination, Bush Administration decided to reorganize its policies in the Middle East. They tried to cooperate in clandestine operations in Lebanon with Saudi Arabia to weaken the Hezbollah. The US government also been active in clandestine operations against Iran and Syria, one of whose outcomes has been the creation of extremist, Sunni terrorist groups. A conflicting characteristic of the new strategy is that in Iraq most rebels against American forces has been conducted by Sunni forces, not Shiite ones.”
Making the argument that the US still intervenes in Syria in a way that prevents the Syrian government to overcome the terrorist groups in the country, he said, “Some terrorist groups are considered by the US to be terrorist as well and are attacked by American forces. Therefore, no party has a better situation than the other in Syria.”
Asserting the intentional role of the United States in promoting chaos in the world’s strategic regions, the Professor of International Human Rights Law concluded, “As an American and a Western, I say that I am against military action against Iran. In fact, I will do my best to prevent this tragedy.”
The next speaker of the conference was Dr. Beau Grosscup, Professor Emeritus of International Political Economy at Department of Political Science of California State University in Chico. In his speech, ‘United States War on Terror: Dodging the Terrorism Label’, he asserted that the United States owns the word ‘terror’ and said, “It means that the US is in a supreme position and it is the US that decides who are terrorists and who are liberalist fighters.”
He continued, “Israel can apply its Dahya Doctrine that justifies the wholesale destruction of civilian infrastructure, as in Lebanon and the Occupied Territories, employing ‘disproportionate force,’ use white phosphorus on Palestinian civilians, or assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists inside Iran, yet it is the Palestinians and Iranians who are terrorists.”
Dr. Grosscup added, “Saudi Arabia can ‘Shock and Awe’ Yemen, killing civilians by the score, yet never be labeled a terrorist state. Clearly, as it wages its War on Terror with a War of Terror, owning the word terror means the US is in the enviable (power) position of determining who the terrorists and freedom fighters are and making it stick.”
“Dodging the terrorism label also means controlling media battlefield reporting. After the disastrous Vietnam War experience with corporate media journalists who abandoned the military’s daily briefings in search of ‘the truth,’ the US military command has reasserted its monopoly over battlefield reporting. In addition to the traditional measures, Pentagon’s Iraq Media Project has successfully sanitized reporting from combat zones”, Professor Emeritus of International Political Economy continued.
Claiming that, typically, since the US owns the word terror, any one or a combination of machinations resolves the ‘credibility’ problem in favor of the US, Dr. Grosscup said, “Avoiding the terrorism label is a plan. The final end game is a US imposed ‘investigative silence’ over a sufficient length of time during which focus shifts to other issues. In short, owning the word terror, does not just mean dominating the discourse, it also means owning the ‘silence,’ investigative process and time schedule.”
Concluding his remarks, Professor Emeritus of California State University said, “The US declared war on terror after 9/11. The argument that one is terrorist and again a freedom fighter, from another perspective, is a flawed cliché because terrorism could be interpreted in different ways. The real meaning of terrorism today is where the US decides who are terrorist and who are freedom fighters. This is applied also in its public and private policy and discourse.”
The next speaker was Dr. Tanya Maria Golash-Boza, Professor of Sociology at the School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts of University of California in Merced. She lectured about ‘Detention, Deportation, and Human Rights in the United States’. Discussing immigration policies in the US, she said, “Over the past forty years, the number of people detained and deported by the US government has grown precipitously. In 1973, the federal government detained a daily average of 2,370 migrants; this number more than doubled to 5,532 in 1994 and then surged to 34,000 by 2009. Today, over 40,000 detainees are behind bars. Patterns of deportations have followed a similar trajectory.”
Talking about immigration detention in the US, Dr. Golash-Boza said, “When one enters the United States and does not have documents proving citizenship, the person is transferred to an immigration detention center. These centers are much like prisons but are not legally considered as prisons.”
“The immigrants are imprisoned without any criminal activities and are questioned without any courts or rights. Therefore, no legal system rules are considered for them”, she continued.
This Professor of Sociology added, “The issue of immigration detention in the United States is very important to the extent that if even Americans cannot prove citizenship, they are detained. Immigration detention is not a penal affair in the US, rather it is a cautionary act and a toll to ensure that people enter the US legally and do not impose a threat for the country.”
She concluded, “The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides for the right not to ‘be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.’ The framers of the United States Constitution found the deprivation of liberty to be a very serious denial of freedom. For this reason, they included two critical protections in the Constitution: due process and habeas corpus. Together, these protections ‘ensure that the authority to detain must be exercised according to law, and must be subject to judicial review.’ The writ of habeas corpus ensures that individuals will have recourse to a court that challenges the legality of their detention.”
Dr. Anthony J. Hall, Professor of Liberal Education and Globalization Studies at University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, was the next speaker who talked about ‘From the Indian Wars to the Global War on Terror, 1776-present: US Assaults on Human Rights in the Expansion of Imperial America’. He argued that war is not the ultimate cure for terrorism. “Fighting a Global War on Terror makes about as much sense as spying on the public indiscriminately in order to identify threats to our privacy.”
“The misrepresentation of the 9/11 crimes promote the lie that war can be a viable remedy for terror. What an absurdity! Warfare is the very quintessence of terror, a primary motivator, facilitator and medium of the most extreme forms of terror”, he continued.
Dr. Hall added, “There were many groups that would be transformed into savage enemies along the course of the imperial journey that would see the United States become the most militarized entity the world has ever seen. In its growth to transcontinental proportions, and then in its expansion from the status of a hemispheric to global superpower, the US government chose its friends and set up its foes with calculated geopolitical dexterity.”
“Many aspects of the genocidal treatment directed at Native Americans in the transcontinental expansion of the United States in the name of a Manifest Destiny were re-enacted in the treatment of Palestinians in the establishment and expansion of the Jewish state of Israel. This treatment was re-enforced by the linkages connecting the Old Testament theology of New England›s Calvinist founders with the Israeli embrace of the Jewish Torah as a book of divine revelation”, Professor of Liberal Education and Globalization Studies.
Discussing exceptionalism, the Professor of University of Lethbridge in Alberta concluded his speech. “An outgrowth of both the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the effort by the US superpower in 1947 to gain international consent for the UN establishment of Israel through UN Resolution 181, the horrific fate visited on the Palestinians can be seen as an extension of the Anglo-American empire into new frontiers of expansion in the Middle East. There are formidable geopolitical implications in the axis of self-understanding linking the ‘exceptionalism’ claimed by the United States and political preoccupations of those that see themselves God’s Chosen People.”
The next speaker of the conference was Dr. Sayyed Mohsen Fatemi, Ph.D. Post doctorate in Psychology, Lecturer in Psychology, and Associate/ Fellow at Department of Psychology of Harvard University. In his speech, ‘Psychological Subtleties of Human Rights in Islamic Perspective’, he argued, “The Islamic view of Human Rights departs from the utilitarian interpretation of humanity and critiques the approaches and policies that tend to keep humans within the confines of materialism. Modern slavery imposes diverse points of illusion and involves numerous forms of disguise. It is shrouded in the pretentious masks of progressiveness, development and betterment, but etiologically looks for domination, mastery and conquest.”
The next speaker of the afternoon panel was Robert Fantina, journalist and peace and human rights activist. He discussed ‘Double Standards in United States’ Human Right Practices’. “When discussing human rights, it’s helpful to define exactly what is meant”, he said. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948. Forty-eight countries, including the United States, ratified this declaration. It details fundamental human rights that are to be universally protected. The document consists of thirty articles, and is worth reading.”
He continued, “According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone is entitled to freedom and dignity, life, liberty and security of person, and the following are prohibited: Slavery in all forms, arbitrary arrest, detention or exile, arbitrarily deprived of his nationality, arbitrarily deprived of his property.”
“Florida Senator Marco Rubio recently said that the world looks to the U.S. as an example of democracy. This myth is not believed outside of the United States’ borders, and decreasingly within. There is simply too much evidence to the contrary”, Fantina added.
“The Universal Declaration on Human Rights mentions the prohibition of ‘torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments’ and states that everyone is entitled to life. In 2014, the U.S. government rightly condemned beheadings carried out by Daesh (aka ISIL, ISIS). In August of 2014, at least 22 people were executed in Saudi Arabia, and at least eight of them were beheaded. The following month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Saudi Arabia on an official visit; the U.S., of course, has full diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia”, this journalist continued.
He added, “In typical US style, interference in foreign elections are only acceptable when the US does it. In 2006, when commenting on the election in the Gaza Strip that brought Hamas to power, Mrs. Clinton said this: ‘I do not think we should have pushed for an election in the Palestinian territories. I think that was a big mistake, and if we were going to push for an election, then we should have made sure that we did something to determine who was going to win.’”
This peace and human rights activist continued, “In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq. This was, ostensibly, to rid that country of so-called weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein, then the leader of Iraq, had welcomed Hans Blix, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into Iraq to search peacefully for such weapons. Mr. Blix and his team were gaining unprecedented access to any area of the country they requested, and were finding nothing. Finally, before they had exhausted their search, U.S. President George Bush told Mr. Blix to remove his team from Iraq; his invasion as coming. Shortly thereafter, he began bombing Iraq. This resulted in the destruction of the Iraqi infrastructure, the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children, and the displacement of millions more.”
Fantina concluded his lecture by arguing that, “This is the mighty United States, that self-proclaimed beacon of peace and justice. This is international hypocrisy at its most blatant and deadly. People within the U.S. and without are working tirelessly to resolve these issues, but they are opposed by powerful interest groups. Yet such shocking cruelty and violations of international law and the human rights of millions of innocent people cannot continue forever. The end of the injustices perpetrated by the United States will be a welcome day across the globe.”
Sohrab Salahi, Assistant Professor of Law Department at imam Hossein University, was the next speaker who discussed ‘US and Human Rights Violations during the Occupation of Iraq’. “From a strategic viewpoint, occupation of Iraq in 2003 by the American forces was aimed at implementing Washington’s Greater Middle East plan to turn the United States into the world’s dominant hegemonic power. However, from a legal viewpoint, violation of human rights by the former Iraqi government in addition to preventing the proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqi Baathist regime’s support for terrorist groups, were three excuses used by Americans to invade Iraq”, he said.
Dr. Hassan Hosseini, Professor of Department of American Studies at the Faculty of World Studies of University of Tehran, was the next speaker who lectured on ‘Ruling the Waves, Waving the Rules; A Civilizational Analysis of Humans, Rights and Human Rights’. “Human rights in the contemporary sense of the word and practice is an example of this British and now American practice of ruling the waves and waving the rules”, he said.
The next speaker was Dr. Hakimeh Saghaye-Biria, Ph.D. in American Studies from Faculty of World Studies of University of Tehran. In her speech, ‘Human Rights and Americanizing Soft Power Discourses: Hegemony and Counter-hegemony’, she argued that, “The language of human rights is the newest Americanizing soft power discourse through which the United States seeks to legitimize its hegemony around the world. However, it is suggested here that the American utilization of the human rights discourse as a legitimization tool is backfiring just as the narrative of modernization backfired and gave rise to the counter-narrative of dependency.”
The other speaker at the conference was Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Hosseini, Assistant Professor at Imam Khomeini Educational and Research Institute. In his speech, ‘Defense of Human Rights in Islamic and International Law; A Comparative Analysis’, he argued that, “The principle of “non-intervention” and the principle of the “prohibition on the use of force” as stated in the UN Charter are among general rules governing international relations. In both Islamic and international law systems, the two principles have been accepted in substance. The two have, however, introduced cases of exception to both principles.”
The final speaker at the international conference on “The United States, Human Rights and the Discourse of Domination” was Dr. Foad Izadi, Director of the Center on Foreign Policy and Public Diplomacy Research of the University of Tehran, who lectured about ‘American Democracy and Human Rights Faults’. He said, “The latest presidential elections in the US was a special one and this was evident in the debates between the main candidates of the dominant parties. Ultimately, millions of Americans preferred Trump, as an antisystem candidate, over the other one. They expect to limit the role of money in their country’s policies and hope to do so with a change in the real politics of the US. Currently, American democracy is largely based upon money and the role of the public in politics is less than before.”
Member of the Faculty of World Studies continued, “In addition to economic inequality, there is the issue of racial discrimination in the United States. Today, about one-tenth of the American families own a wealth of more than 90 percent of the public. The gap between blacks and whites is another issue. Racial minorities in the United States encounter three racial injustices; physical violence, political violence, and legal violence.”
Dr. Izadi concluded his remarks by adding that, “Trump, as an antistructure candidate, could absorb American votes. Certainly, the future America will see more dissents and opposition movements.”