Selective outrage — there’s a lot of it going around

e13-iconJustin Doolittle writes: Wrapping up a two-day trip to Saudi Arabia recently, a high-ranking State Department official sharply criticized the ruling family’s egregious and intensifying human rights abuses.

“Lack of progress in Saudi Arabia has led to a great deal of frustration and skepticism in my government and in the international community,” an assistant secretary of state told reporters in Riyadh. “There hasn’t been sufficient action taken by the government to address the issues of justice and accountability,” this official asserted. “We heard from many people about people who are still unaccounted for, whose whereabouts and fates are unknown to their family members.”

The United States, justifiably incensed by the Saudi regime’s ongoing assault on human rights, is considering tabling a resolution at the March session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, which might include a call for an international investigation. “We understand growing concern, frustration, and skepticism among many in my country and many in the international community that has led to increasing calls for international investigation and an international process,” the visiting diplomat warned.

None of what you have just read actually happened, of course. In reality, the U.S. official is assistant secretary of state Nisha Biswal, she was speaking to reporters in Colombo, not Riyadh, and her blunt criticism was in reference to the government of Sri Lanka, not the ruthless, theocratic dictatorship that rules Saudi Arabia. [Continue reading…]

Among those who express most outrage about U.S. foreign policy, the most common refrain is that American officials are guilty of shameless hypocrisy. “[N]o government that only fumes selectively over fundamental issues of right and wrong deserves to be taken seriously,” Doolittle writes. Maybe not.

But shouldn’t the same standard then apply to those who are criticizing the U.S. government and its allies?

There are those whose outrage cannot be contained whenever the Israeli government bombs Gaza and yet offer barely a murmur when the Syrian government bombs its own cities. Why should their selective outrage be taken any more seriously than that of the U.S. government?

The fact is, if only those who are unblemished by hypocrisy have a right to speak out, then we would probably all have to remain silent.

Instead, we should probably be more concerned about whether the outrage is justifiable than whether the critic is without fault.

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