It was surprising to see the column by (law professor!) Alan Dershowitz in The Times ("Leftist Cacophony for Human Rights Grows Silent on the Beijing Massacre," Op-Ed Page, June 11) criticizing the American left for not being more outspoken on the recent killings of students during the Beijing protests. Perhaps Dershowitz would be better advised to confine his writings to legal matters, where his expertise generally shows itself to good effect, and curtail his excursions into the foreign-policy arena.
I don't think any of the "democracy-bashers" he cites would hesitate to state that the death of hundreds of people at the hands of their government is a horrible thing. Obviously it is.
How much more horrible, then, are the cases that Dershowitz fails to cite: The 30,000 people killed by the U.S.-backed government of Guatemala between 1966 and 1976; the U.S.-backed military coup in Indonesia in 1965, which led to the killings of half a million to a million landless peasants; the thousands of Greeks executed by the British and Americans in 1947-48; the millions of Southeast Asians killed by U.S.-backed governments during the period from 1955 to 1975; the thousands who were killed in Nicaragua under the U.S.-backed Somoza regime, and the additional thousands who have been killed in El Salvador since the early '70s by the U.S.-backed government in that country. Where are the professor's outraged articles decrying the violence done to these unfortunate souls?
It takes no particular fearlessness or virtue to condemn events in which we have no involvement, such as the Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, or the current brutality of the Chinese government. Protesting actions where our country bears significant responsibility, on the other hand, is not only an act of courage carrying substantial risks to reputation and livelihood, but is also a vital first step in our efforts to bring the actions of our government in line with the principles championed with much fanfare by Dershowitz and others.
In reality, it is not the armchair flag-wavers, but rather brave workers like William Kunstler, Noam Chomsky, the PLO and the National Lawyers Guild who are responsible for moving us closer to "a single standard of compliance" for human rights around the world.