Unlike previous centuries and epochs, modern warfare is not restricted solely to the battlefield. Rather, it extends into the information sphere where the dissemination of propaganda and the construction of narratives are of equal importance to weapons and soldiers. For today, the legitimacy of a war in the eyes of public opinion in many ways determines victory or defeat. It is here, in the realm of public opinion, that an organization such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) becomes indispensible to the Empire, not so much for the facts that it presents, but the narrative that it shapes.
Put another way, HRW serves as intermediary between the facts on the ground and the western public who rely on the organization (and similar NGOs such as Amnesty International) to accurately tell the story of a given conflict. It is precisely this position as an “information middleman” that makes HRW both relevant and dangerous for the simple fact that the manner in which it presents information, along with the critical facts it chooses to omit or otherwise distort, can have a tremendous impact on how the world views a conflict and, consequently, how the world responds.
By examining the way in which HRW documented, investigated, and presented findings from the conflicts in Israel/Palestine, Ukraine, Libya, Syria, and Venezuela, it becomes clear that the organization, though theoretically objective and “disinterested,” is in fact an integral part of the western imperial system. Though HRW has done some good work, and likely will in the future, this cannot be taken as evidence that the organization is somehow not a part of the Empire. On the contrary, without HRW and similar organizations, Washington and its allies would not be able to champion themselves as “defenders of human rights,” “beacons of democracy,” and “humanitarian powers.”
HRW on Israel/Palestine
In analyzing HRW’s findings and, perhaps most importantly, the way in which they are presented, one conclusion becomes inescapable: when the facts are damaging to the western powers, HRW dilutes the impact of its own conclusions, and when its findings advance the western agenda, HRW exaggerates them. What can one call such obvious service to power under the guise of truth-telling? Words like cynical, insidious, and treacherous certainly come to mind.