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1/7/03 - HUMAN RIGHTS AND TERRORISM - 2003-01-07

Lorne Craner [crane-er] has seen the effects of terrorism. He is U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. On September 11th, 2001, he looked out the window of his Washington office to see the Pentagon burning. Along with New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon had been attacked by al-Qaida terrorists. As Mr. Craner said, “It is difficult to overstate the profound psychological effect these attacks and the deaths of three-thousand people from ninety countries had on the thinking of the American public.”

In the wake of the attacks, Americans wanted to take strong measures to punish and prevent terrorism. Some people even said the government would be justified in curtailing or ignoring human rights to fight the terrorists. Fortunately, most Americans realized that this would be wrong.

In fact, as Mr. Craner said, “security and respect for human rights. . .support each other. Many of the root causes of terrorism -- hopelessness, despair, a sense of victimization and injustice, and a desire for revenge -- are found in downtrodden people whose governments oppress them and prevent them from living lives of dignity. Fanatics and extremists manipulate those feelings for their own hateful purposes, and a vicious cycle is created where repression breeds terrorism and terrorism provokes more repression.”

The U.S. has made it clear that it will not condone the use of counterterrorism as an excuse to silence peaceful expressions of political or religious views. When the U.S. sees terrorists, it will fight them. This was made clear in Afghanistan, where the U.S. did not act indiscriminately but aimed directly at the terrorists and the Taleban that supported them. And in the process, as Mr. Craner pointed out, the U.S. “liberated millions of Afghan Muslims from oppression.”

Mr. Craner spoke at China’s Xinjiang [syin-jahng] University. He said the U.S. has condemned the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, an al-Qaida-linked terrorist group in Xinjiang. But at the same time, the U.S. reaffirms its friendship for the peaceful people of Xinjiang, including its many Muslims. The U.S. believes that China should release people like Rebiyah Kadeer [rah-bee-yah kah-deer], who have been jailed solely for political reasons.

As Assistant Secretary of State Craner said, “There is no excuse for terrorism, no matter the cause. . . . But just as terrorism can never be a legitimate response to grievances, so combating terrorism can never be a legitimate reason to ignore human rights.”