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Posner Claims Obama on Sri Lanka Is Success, Wal-Mart's NYU Safe Space?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 4 -- When Michael H. Posner, soon to leave the US State Department's top human rights post, spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations on Monday evening he bragged about the Obama administration's rights work in Myanmar, Egypt and even Bahrain.

  Inner City Press asked Posner about the Obama administration's failure to act in 2009 as 40,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka, and only recently moving on UN Human Rights Council resolutions that seem unlikely to hold anyone in the Rajapaksa brothers' government to account.

  Posner said, instead, that Sri Lanka is a success because it shows that the administration's thinking can evolve if a government doesn't make progress. But what about the 40,000 killed?

  Posner recounted that recently Jacob Zimmerman from his office, along with the Department of Defense's Vikram Singh, went to Sri Lanka and ostensibly talked truth to power.

  Meanwhile, as shown by Inner City Press, Sri Lankan military leader Shavendra Silva was giving a talk before US Marines, and hobnobbing with Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia.

  Posner acknowledged that the US did not support, more closely after the bloodbath on the beach, any commission of inquiry. In another answer, he said that for the US, or Obama, pursuing national security and human right is the same thing.

 This seems unlikely, taking the relative silence on the crackdown on opponents and tweeters there as an example.

   Most of the questioners, selected by Slate's Jacob Weisberg, were already known to Posner. He was asked about labor rights in Myanmar, and gave a preview of what he'll say in his next job at NYU's Stern School of Business.

  There, he said, he wants to create a “safe space” for businesses to talk. Doesn't the UN's Global Compact already do that? There's more than enough safe space for businesses.

  Posner did chide the American Chamber of Commerce for opposing moves to expand workers' rights in China. When asked about Dennis Rodman's trip to North Korea, he quipped that he liked Rodman when he was with the Chicago Bulls, since he's a fan.

   He noted that of the 100 largest economies in the world, 50 are businesses. He said “we have an ambassador to Benin, but no ambassador to Wal-Mart.” But the Obama administration now has an ambassador FROM Wal-Mart, just as it has one from Citigroup in Jack Lew. Safe space, indeed. Watch this site.

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