Obama Puts Human Rights on Back Burner, Activists Say

Sometimes confrontation isn't best tactic, administration suggests
By Gabriel Winant,  Newser User
Posted May 5, 2009 11:03 AM CDT
US special envoy J. Scott Gration, left, arrives at the Sudanese foreign ministry for meetings after his arrival in Khartoum, April 2, 2009.    (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Human-rights workers had high hopes for the Obama administration after President Bush’s inconsistent, too-hot-too-cold policies—but so far, the Washington Post reports, activists think President Obama has let rights take a back seat to more pressing concerns. For example, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said pushing China on human rights “can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis.”

Administration officials argue that what feels most satisfying—confronting regimes that violate rights—is not always most effective, even when the governments in question, such as Sudan’s, are extremely brutal. A Darfur genocide activist points out that the situation there is becoming ever-grimmer: “The Obama people must know this, which makes the decision to go the accommodationist route even more bewildering.”