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Why we need an amendment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.democracy12

They lied to us about Mossadegh in Iran.

They lied to us about the premise for entering Vietnam.

They lied to us about the murder of Allende in Chile, the history of intervention in Haiti and Cuba, the back-room deals to buy and sell drugs, guns and dictators in Central America and beyond.

And of course they lied to us about Afghanistan, about Iraq, about Libya, about Syria.

Chances are they’re lying to us about Egypt right now.

The 21st century is barely a teen and already it is as obscene, violent and arrogant as its older brother 100 years before. Even in the past ten years, the same mistakes, the same carnage, the same lies, repeat like a flipping cathode ray television screen. Lie. Stall. Lie. Stall. Lie. Stall. And if that doesn’t work, lie and stall some more.

It was no small happening that on the same day that Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) was handed a 35-year sentence for exposing American war crimes in Iraq, former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak was freed from a Cairo prison and the democratically elected, now ousted, Mohamed Morsi was left in a secret cell.

This type of serendipity is indicative of the deep culture of secrecy pervading geopolitics today. Who benefits from this obsessive secrecy? Certainly not the half million dead civilians in Iraq. Nor the two million civilians killed in Vietnam during the Cold War. Nor the innumerable victims who have died in the blowback from the long list of covert actions conceived in secret and fought in darkness. Even the dead are told that it was for their own good, that somehow things could have been even worse. And, of course, we’ll never really know what could have happened, because we, the people, are always left in the dark.

How many ghostly and fake Al Qaeda threats and foiled terror attacks have we witnessed since the Snowden revelations alone? The recent American embassy closure panic was nothing more than a sad rehashing of the terror-temperature chart that was broadcast on American television in the early years after 9/11 (recall the “chances of a Bin Laden attack” craze). Looking back, it brings a smile. But don’t be too quick to laugh. It would be comical if there weren’t so many of us who are still duped by these very same tactics … who are actually swayed to hate the Mannings and the Snowdens out there … the very people trying to pull back the curtain of secrecy.

The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it.
— JFK, 1961

So why do we still believe our leaders when they say “trust us”? Why do we still wait in eager anticipation for them to read from carefully crafted scripts that they don’t even write? The answer is simple: we don’t know any better. And why don’t we know any better? Why do we continue to live in the dark? Another simple answer: our governments are legally allowed to lie to us. Totalitarian or democratic, East or West, it’s written into every state constitution in the world. And each time a government is given a mandate, we participate in the farce … we reaffirm that, contrary to what we tell our children, lying isn’t so bad after all.

If we are ever going to escape the 21st century with less bloodshed than the 20th century, we’re going to have to strip our governments of the right to lie to us citizens. In this information age, where gigatons of information zips around the globe each second, and where the geopolitical, financial and ecological stakes are so high, we need a new human right … one that is stamped into the first article of every state constitution, one that needs to become the centrepiece of the United Nations Charter.

The UN was created in the aftermath of the two most traumatic and disturbing wars of all time. Auschwitz. Dresden. Hiroshima. These atrocities made the battlefields and massacres of Gettysburg, Sevastopol and Waterloo a century earlier look like a track and field warm up. When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was penned in 1948, it was based on the belief that without basic human rights, violence, war and genocide were sure to continue, if not flourish, into the future. The resounding and hopeful spirit of “Never Again” led the way. It was a groundbreaking moment for the human spirit. A moment that, unfortunately, never had a chance to fly.

So long as elites and powerful forces are able to concoct wars and geopolitics in secret, we, the people, will never see a day of peace on Earth. Not even a single minute in fact … likely not even a second. Aggression, hatred, greed, jealousy and fear may be the ingredients of war, but secrecy is the heat that it needs to rise … the fuel that turns the disapproving into blind followers. So long as secrecy prevails as a fundamental right of states, peace, unity and brotherhood will always remain dreams … increasingly jaded ones.

In the spirit of 1945 and 1948, we propose the following amendment to the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to every constitution of every country in the world:


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