Hollywood superstar and power broker Steven Spielberg has recognized President Barack Obama with the USC Shoah [Holocaust] Foundation’s highest award, the “Ambassador for Humanity.” It is an odd award to present to a president who has been called “dangerously silent on human rights.” Unlike the Nobel Peace Prize, which Obama won in 2009 in anticipation of his future achievement, this award comes after a long record of failure.
Here are the top ten human rights failures under Obama.
1. Syria. It is odd that an institution devoted to the memory of the Holocaust would honor Obama after his abject failure to prevent or even mitigate the ongoing slaughter in Syria, which has claimed well over 100,000 lives and has involved the use of chemical weapons, which Obama claimed was his “red line” in the conflict.
2. Iran. In June 2009, Obama did nothing to stop the murder of pro-democracy demonstrators in the streets of Iran, who once stood a chance of toppling the ayatollahs’ dictatorship. By allowing the regime to consolidate its control, in fact, his passivity enabled human rights abuses on a nationwide scale, which are ongoing.
3. Ukraine. Obama’s “reset” with Russia achieved nothing except the invasion and annexation of the Crimea, whose residents are now subjected to various forms of repression by Russian authorities. Obama’s passivity in Ukraine may also have consequences for other former Soviet satellites as Russia reasserts its imperial goals.
4. Egypt. When he took office, Obama cut support for pro-democracy groups in Egypt, shifting away from the “freedom agenda” that he associated with George W. Bush’s interventionism. After the Mubarak regime fell, he supported the repressive Muslim Brotherhood government, ending all pretense at human rights credibility.
5. Honduras. The Obama administration actively supported would-be dictator Manuel Zelaya, who blamed Jews for his fall from power. In defiance of the Honduran courts and constitution, Obama went to extraordinary lengths to deny legitimacy to the newly elected government, aligning instead with Latin America’s leftist tyrants.
6. Freedom of Religion. The Obama administration co-sponsored a UN Human Rights Council resolution that restricted freedom of expression, in deference to Islamic states that want to criminalize criticism of Islam. The text of the resolution also called for similar regulation of the media, in defiance of the U.S. Constitution.
7. China. Like previous administrations, the Obama administration has done little on human rights in China–but unlike its predecessors, the Obama administration, in the person of Vice President Joe Biden, gave tacit endorsement to China’s one-child policy, which has resulted in female infanticide and forced abortion.
8. Palestinian Authority. The Obama administration put new pressure on Israel to make concessions, all but ignoring Palestinian violations of past agreements, including systematic incitement against Jews (and not just Israelis) via official Palestinian media. It also ignored ongoing support by Palestinian leaders for terrorism.
9. National security. The Obama administration extended the Bush administration’s surveillance and drone programs, many of which are considered problematic (rightly or wrongly) by human rights and civil liberties groups. Terrorists who might perhaps be detained are instead killed to avoid internment at Guantánamo Bay.
10. United Nations. President Obama ensured that the U.S. join the UN Human Rights Council, long after that body had demonstrated it did little but criticize Israel and coddle tyrannical dictatorships like Iran and Cuba. It failed to make much of an impact–but did offer up its own criticisms of alleged abuses by the U.S.
Against this list of failures, a few successes must be recorded. Obama has spoken out about gay rights, and also belatedly discovered repression in Russia, signing the Magnitsky Act in 2012. Ostensibly, he acted against the Gadhafi regime in Libya (again, rightly or wrongly) because of concerns about imminent mass killing. However, in general, he has downplayed human rights issues. The Spielberg award is little more than a political gesture.