Moral Low Ground

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Yemeni Dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh on his way to U.S. for Medical Treatment Despite Obama Ban on Human Rights Violators Entering Country

Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh has left his homeland to travel to the United States for medical treatment with the approval of President Barack Obama, despite the President’s recent ban on human rights violators entering the country.

The New York Times and AFP report that Saleh, who suffered serious injuries as a result of a bomb attack on his presidential palace last June, will reportedly be treated for his burns and other injuries at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, although officials there deny he will be admitted there.

Saleh, who has ruled Yemen since 1978, has faced an internal uprising and international pressure for him to resign for nearly a year. Inspired by the successful revolts against tyranny and economic stagnation in Tunisia and Egypt, hundreds of thousands of Yemenis joined in the ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011 but were met with crushing brutality from Saleh’s security forces. Bombs, bullets and batons were used against peaceful protesters; by April, hundreds were dead and many more were wounded.

Saleh eventually agreed to step down in exchange for immunity from prosecution. He handed power over to his vice president until elections scheduled for February 21. Parliament has passed a law granting Saleh immunity for his crimes.

The longtime dictator also asked Yemenis’ “pardon for any failure that occurred during my tenure.”

He left Yemen for Oman on Sunday; he will arrive in the U.S. sometime next week.

The U.S. State Department said that the Obama administration had approved Saleh’s visit. It released a statement reading:

“The sole purpose of this travel is for medical treatment and we expect that he will stay for a limited time that corresponds to the duration of his treatment.”

But wait– did’t President Obama issue a directive last year that banned human rights violators from entering the U.S.?

The Presidential Directive on Mass Atrocities “bars entry into the United States of persons who organize or participate in war crimes, crimes against humanity, and serious violations of human rights.” “The United States has long sought to ensure that our country does not become a safe haven for human rights violators or those responsible for other atrocities,” the directive reads.

There is no doubt that Saleh is a human rights violator; once again, Obama’s blatant hypocrisy rears its ugly head. Not that the Presidential Directive on Mass Atrocities could ever be taken seriously, as Moral Low Ground proved the day after he issued it. Saleh’s admission is but one of many violations of the directive. It probably has something to do with rewarding a man who was, before he finally fell out of favor over the mass killing of demonstrators, a longtime loyal U.S. ally. He sure wasn’t the first, and he won’t be the last (see: Saudi royal family) brutal tyrant to be welcomed into the United States. Once again, the yawning gulf between what the United States says it believes in and what it actually does is in the spotlight. But is anyone paying any attention? Or are we too busy arguing over whether Eli Manning or Tom Brady is the better quarterback?

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