Today’s PARADE magazine released their annual article, “The World’s 10 Worst Dictators” (click on dictator to learn more). The descriptions of suffering and oppression were disgusting, but that isn’t what truly enraged me about the article. Below the dictator’s name and description of their rule is a small blurb titled “U.S. link.” In some cases the “U.S. link” explains how the U.S. has shut down trading, etc. to the countries until they stop violating human rights. In many cases, however, the “U.S. link” describes how America continues to do business with the world’s worst dictators, simply ignoring the fact that our money will continue to support their reign.
In fact, the United States is importing millions (sometimes billions) of dollars worth of goods from 6 of the 10 dictatorships listed in PARADE’s article. Robert Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, but in the past year he has gone from #6 on the dictators list to #1. According to PARADE, over 3,800 people have died of cholera since August, unemployment has risen to 85%, and inflation makes U.S. gas prices seem like a joke ($50 billion is enough to buy 2 loaves of bread). Despite this, American imports from Zimbabwe have actually risen in the past two years. The horrors of Darfur are slowly being released in the media, and the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s leader, Omar al-Bashir (#2). Despite the fact that both Bush and Obama have spoken out against al-Bashir, last year U.S. trade with Sudan increased to $148 million. Similarly, the rulers of Saudi Arabia (#5), China (#6), Turkmenistan (#9), and Libya (#10) are known to rule with an iron fist similar to that of Nazi Germany or the Taliban. Yet the U.S. imports billions of dollars worth of goods from them each year.
Is the U.S. guilty of sponsoring dictatorship? We need goods such as oil, but is the rape, murder, and imprisonment of millions of people worth it?