For critics of American Foreign policy, Whataboutism and pointing out alleged Double Standards are paramount. A few years ago Truthout published a piece titled “US Provides Military Assistance to 73 Percent of World’s Dictatorships”. Its a bold claim, as it would undermine a key weapon of American Foreign Policy, Democracy promotion. So how accurate are these claims?
First we need to look at Leahy_Law. The Leahy Law is one of the most significant international human rights laws the U.S. Congress has passed since the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the Trade Act of 1974, which tied trade to the freedom of emigration. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy sponsored the initial Leahy Law as part of the Foreign Operations Appropriate Act in 1997, as he grew concerned that the United States was providing aid and assistance to Colombian and other Latin American militaries that had committed human rights abuses as they sought to counter drug cartels, but it soon expanded to cover all State Department assistance on any subject.
A permanent feature of law since 2008, Congress has continued to expand its reach and implementation ever since. The full text of the law is here but, in sum, it prohibits any U.S. assistance to any foreign security forces or military officer “if the Secretary of State has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” It does make an exception if “the government of such country is taking effective steps to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice.”
To implement this law, U.S. embassies, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and the appropriate regional bureau of the U.S. Department of State vet potential recipients of security assistance. If a unit is found to have been credibly implicated in a serious abuse of human rights, assistance is denied until the host nation government takes effective steps to bring the responsible persons within the unit to justice. While the U.S. Government does not publicly report on foreign armed forces units it has cut off from receiving assistance, press reports have indicated that security force and national defense force units in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Saint Lucia have been denied assistance due to the Leahy Law.
So while the Truthout article may be true in theory, that the US provides Military assistance to states labeled as Dictatorships by NGO’s such as Freedom House. The United States is not however complicit in Human Rights abuses, which is the intent the article intends to convey.
FMF serves as an important tool in the U. S. Government’s efforts to advance freedom for the benefit of the American people and the international community by helping to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world. Through FMF assistance, State and DoD work to enable our partners to deter aggression, restore international peace and security in the wake of conflict or disaster, reduce the illicit proliferation of arms, secure borders against illegal trafficking and transit, and ensure that security forces operate in accordance with international human rights laws and norms. Accordingly, FMF activities aim to build legitimate, and enduring partner capabilities that improve the ability of friendly nations to address crises and conflicts associated with state weakness, instability, and disasters, and to support stabilization following conflict — capabilities which in turn will increase the security of the United States.