Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2013
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 119A

HUMAN RIGHTS

Professor Andreas Teuber
Andreas Teuber


PAPER TOPIC I

Should the United States
Intervene in Amazonia?


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Susan Rice sits down with you at the table and takes out a sheaf of papers from her briefcase.

"Wow," you say to yourself, not feeling very articulate," wow, Susan Rice."

Rice begins immediately: "As you know, an anthropological expedition, operating in remote and seldom visited regions in South America inside Amazonia, has discovered that immense coffee plantations in the North-Western area are being worked by tens of thousands of Indians held in what amounts to a state of slavery.

We have information that these practices are apparently well known to the Amazonian Government, several of whose key officials own plantations in the region themselves.

Amazonia, as you know, is neither a member of the United Nations nor a party to any international human rights treaties, protocols or conventions.

France, Denmark and Britain introduced a resolution in the U. N. General Assembly requesting that the appropriate U. N. organs immediately establish a committee to conduct an on-the-spot investigation in Amazonia to see whether these practices are (indeed) taking place. As you may know from press reports, Amazonia sent a communication to the United Nations indicating that it had no intention of permitting such a fact-finding commission from entering its territory, and that it regarded the U. N. consideration of this question to be an interference in its own internal affairs.

A variety of independent reports have now been published - you may be aware of them - in newspapers and on the internet - making it evident that slavery is indeed present in Amazonia and practiced on a large scale.

It has also been discovered that those taken into slavery all come from three groups of indigenous peoples living in the region. Evidence reveals that after the adult members from these three tribes are taken into custody, their houses are destroyed and lands scorched, The adults are separated from their children who are then transported to and put up for adoption in areas far outside their home communities, We have also learned that all articles of cultural significance, artwork and artifacts, that belonging to the indigenous peoples of the these three tribes in Amazonia are taken, dumped into large sand pits and covered over with stones and earth.

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Britain, Denmark, and France have withdrawn their resolution calling for an investigation and have now substituted it for a stronger one "condemning the state of Amazonia for its disregard of human rights of its people by permitting the universally condemned practices of slavery and ethnic cleansing to persist within its territory" recommending that all states "take appropriate action through suspension of diplomatic relations and through economic sanctions to persuade the Government of Amazonia to stop this reprehensible practice."

Susan Rice is reading fast, very fast.

The resolution further states that if the Amazonian Government fails to respond within a year by taking steps to dismantle their system of slavery and abandon their practice of ethnic cleansing, a system whose form and continuation, we have recently learned, depends upon legislation adopted by the Amazonian Assembly, military intervention to alleviate the plight of the victims of the Amazonian system of slavery and ethnic cleansing would not be foreclosed.

The resolution also states that such intervention, while not ruled out, would be a means of last resort. It calls such intervention "humanitarian intervention" and explains that "it is characteristic of such intervention that it does not aim at conquest."

As clearly stated in the resolution Amazonia shall remain independent; and in order to guard against the temptation of self-serving action by any one state, it calls for a "united front" of several states to join together in the carrying out of this action.

The Government of Amazonia has sent a communication to the Secretary General of the United Nations stating, in no uncertain terms, that this whole subject is a matter of its own domestic jurisdiction, and that it considers the U. N. resolution to be a violation of its, Amazonia's, right to self-determination.

The communication further states that the U. N. resolution violates the United Nations' own principles, pointing out that in the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (adopted by the General Assembly in 1970) the principle is put forward that "no State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State."

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Consequently, "armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements, are in violation of international law" and this principle, this Principle of Non-Intervention exists among all States, whether they are members of the U. N. or not.

As you perhaps know, former President Jimmy Carter has held a press conference at his home in Georgia, urging the Obama administration not to back down, saying that the United States with its own past legacy of slavery has a special responsibility to bring about an end to the enslavement of peoples everywhere, reminding President Obama of his remarks on Human Rights Day several years ago when he said:

"The United States was founded on the idea that all people are endowed with inalienable rights, and that principle has allowed us to work to perfect our union at home while standing as a beacon of hope to the world. Today, that principle is embodied in agreements Americans helped forge -- the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions, and treaties against torture and genocide -- and it unites us with people from every country and culture.

"When the United States stands up for human rights, by example at home and by effort abroad, we align ourselves with men and women around the world who struggle for the right to speak their minds, to choose their leaders, and to be treated with dignity and respect. We also strengthen our security and well being, because the abuse of human rights can feed many of the global dangers that we confront -- from armed conflict and humanitarian crises, to corruption and the spread of ideologies that promote hatred and violence.

"So on this Human Rights Day, let us rededicate ourselves to the advancement of human rights and freedoms for all, and pledge always to live by the ideals we promote to the world."

Carter also announced his plans to visit Amazonia soon, saying he had an invitation from a former U. S. Ambassador to Amazonia who now calls Amazonia his home having retired there some years ago.

An editorial appeared in the leading newspaper in the capital city of Amazonia, condemning Jimmy Carter's press conference as "meddlesome," saying he is not welcome in Amazonia and adding that "no country had to intervene to bring about an end to slavery in the United States and although the American Civil War was a bloody affair, the United States took care of its own business" and the United States should leave Amazonia alone and let it "take care of its business in its own way." The editorial concludes with a reminder to its readership that "Amazonia is not a member of the U. N."

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A group of concerned American citizens took out a full page ad in The New York Times wherein they state, among other things, that "the U. N. resolution is an arrogant attempt by several Western European nations to impose their peculiar values and practices on another culture with different experiences and traditions." And in a direct reference to former President Jimmy Carter's remarks, the ad asks, somewhat rhetorically, "What right does the United States with its own experience of slavery have to set itself up as a model, to be so righteous?"

The ad further notes that the only reason that countries like Britain, Denmark and France introduced the U. N. resolution was because major corporations from these countries hope to expand into the markets that would be opened up by the dismantling of slavery in Amazonia. The ad ends with a reference to the "great American tradition of toleration, noting that "all Americans know the value of respecting differences and diversity," labeling the U. N. resolution "an all too thinly, disguised form of cultural expansion, indeed a form, of 'moral imperialism.'"

Susan Rice looks up from her notes:

My colleagues and I have established that all steps laid out in the U. N. Resolution short of intervention have now been exhausted.

You have been talking with them, no? Perhaps they explained all this to you. We are 100% certain that the U. N. itself will not intervene. We have polled the numbers. Indeed a new resolution has been introduced in the Security Council blocking intervention, declaring such intervention to be in violation of the U. N.'s own Charter, in particular Article 2(4) that declares in part:

All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.

Nonetheless, Britain, France and Denmark have announced that they will forcefully intervene in Amazonia to put an end to "the widespread and grave violations of the fundamental human rights of individuals that are taken place within the borders of that country."

The announcement repeats that military action is now being taken as a "last resort" and that it does not "aim at conquest." The coalition of three states (Britain, France and Denmark) further declares that the plan is to "go in, liberate those who are subjected to enslavement from slavery and get out." For those individuals who fear for their lives, once liberated, the coalition has made arrangements with other states, among them, Canada and Norway, to provide a "safe haven" for those who to seek asylum outside the borders of Amazonia."

Susan Rice grasps her sheaf of papers, taps them against the table and deposits them back into her briefcase. As she does so, you notice, on the cover of the file in which the papers are kept the word "CLASSIFIED" in big bold block letters.

"So," says Rice, "there you have it."

She waves to President Obama, gets up and leaves the cafe. As she is leaving, President Obama, Samantha Power, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel come back to the table and sit down.

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