“If you allow people to say, ‘Oh, declaring an emergency means that rights don’t apply,’ then there’s going to be lots of emergencies.”
In part two of our interview with Robert Destro, former assistant secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), we discuss the state of human rights in the United States and the rest of the Western world. Destro is also a law professor at The Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law.
Previously, in part one of this interview, we discussed human rights atrocities in China, from slave labor in Xinjiang to state-sanctioned organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners.
“You have to stand up against tyranny. Otherwise, it will eat you alive,” Destro says.
Jan Jekielek: What are you seeing? What are you seeing here on the ground? What are you seeing in other liberal democracies around the world right now?
Robert Destro, Ph.D.: Well, one of the things we’re seeing is the weakness of institutions. We have to have strong institutions. One of the parts of the genius of the framers of the Constitution was Federalist 51, where they said first, we divided up all the power between federal and state, and then we divided it among branches.
The whole idea was that you have places where you could go to complain. The idea was that the people who would protect you were the ones who were closest to you, starting with your family and then moving upwards, right? We have a decentralized understanding of how you protect human rights. In any country where it’s centralized, if those institutions fail, you’re done.
I mean, in Australia, we’re still waiting to see. We know that they’ve built internment camps in Australia for people allegedly exposed to COVID. You say camps? Where are the Australian courts? Australia’s got a federal system like we do, so they’ve got states. That’s happening in certain states, certain territories. But you say, “How does this happen?”
All of Germany is locked down. All of Austria is locked down. And people there are saying the Nazis are back because this whole idea of the individual liberty, individual dignity can be trampled for some generalized notion that there’s an emergency going on.
Mr. Jekielek: This is interesting. People will say and they do say and this is how this is all justified—it’s an emergency. We have to suspend. Well, they don’t say it this way, do they?
Mr. Destro: No.
Mr. Jekielek: We have to suspend human rights to deal with this emergency, right?
Mr. Destro: Yes. And you say, well, if you allow that … First of all, you have to say who is we, right? Who is the “we” who has the power to suspend human rights? The American understanding of human rights is that these are natural rights. I don’t have any more right to suspend your human rights as you have to suspend mine.
But if you allow people to say, “Oh, declaring an emergency means that rights don’t apply,” then there’s going to be lots of emergencies, because it’s that will to power. It’s the corruption of power. Hannah Arendt said the banality of evil. You turn it into a big bureaucracy, and then they don’t care who gets ground up in the process.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk about my home country of Canada, for example. I have it on pretty good authority that the general way in which provincial leaders are making their decisions is based on polls. It looks like a significant majority of Canadians support all sorts of restrictions like this. It looks like they’re making their decisions based on that information.
There’re people doing it that I know and I never expected would do such a thing in the interests of the public good. That’s what people believe.
Mr. Destro: Yes, but that’s the reason why you have bills of rights. That’s the reason why you have the Canadian Charter of Freedoms. We live in a representative democracy, not in a pure democracy. Again, the Federalist Papers are instructive.
The Federalist 10 talks about the tyranny of faction. When people get together and they say, “Well, it’s in my interest to oppress somebody else,” they’re not going to say it that way. They’re going to say, “Well, I need you to step aside because I’m afraid.” I mean, that’s what the McCarthy era was all about. People were afraid. That’s what the Nazis were able to present the medically unfit as a threat, as a drain on the system.
They were able to present Jews as an existential threat to the purity of the German people. It’s done all the time, and we all know that the media can be corrupted as well. Speaking specifically of Canada, because Canada spends a lot of money supporting the media.
The danger that we recognize here in the United States—not enough, I don’t think—is that when the government supplies the money, then it controls. That’s precisely the Supreme Court in the context of religion here in the United States—is that you’re not allowed to give direct money to religion. They will somehow control. That’s what happens. He [who] controls the gold makes the rules.
Mr. Jekielek: I have to ask you about this because all sorts of people have been kicked off of social media for making the suggestion that certain authoritarian regimes—for example the Nazis—what they did is somehow similar to what’s happening in places where these rights restrictions are happening.
Mr. Destro: Well, as soon as you’re not allowed to talk about something, then that means there’s something going on. The whole idea is that there is a government crafted narrative.
It’s like that scene in Star Wars where Obi-Wan says, “You’ve got the wrong droid. Move along.” You’re not supposed to be looking at this. Facebook has deplatformed people who were in support groups talking about the injuries they had from vaccines because that’s like saying, “Enough of this widowhood stuff. You’re making us uncomfortable.”
When there’s a political motive to it, it’s the most basic cutting out. You’re not allowed to participate in the community—what Oliver Wendell Holmes called the marketplace of ideas—anymore. His idea, the truth would out in the marketplace of ideas, is debatable. But the idea that people are not allowed to participate in it? I mean, that’s what’s going on in Germany right now. In Lithuania, you’re not allowed to go to a grocery store unless you have a vaccine.
Mr. Jekielek: Or some evidence.
Mr. Destro: Some evidence of …
Mr. Jekielek: Passport or whatever.
Mr. Destro: In Italy, same thing. They’re locking down those green passports. They do that in China. Your passport turns red, you’re not allowed to travel. This idea that the marketplace is different, that somehow human rights isn’t in the marketplace, it’s the fact that we’re market creatures. We trade with one another in ideas, as well as in goods.
The idea is like, who died and left them in charge? Who died and left the Premier of Alberta, for example? Part of his job description is not to follow the polls. It’s to respect, to enforce and defend the Constitution and Charter of Canada. He can say, “Well, polling tells me that this …” Well, look, stand up.
If that were the case, isn’t that what Orval Faubus did in Little Rock? Isn’t that what George Wallace did standing in the doorway? But he was driven by the polls. Human rights always loses when it’s driven by the polls. That’s what we call the counter-majoritarian imperative.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. This is interesting, because I’ve been learning the US system has been structured in such a way to prevent that from happening, which is different from other liberal democracies.
Mr. Destro: That’s why I say when I would teach constitutional law, you’d start your students with Federalist 10 which talks about the power, the nature of faction, and the dangers of faction. A faction is simply a group of people who have interest together that are adverse to somebody else’s. Then Federalist 51 is how do you set up a system, so that basically you set these factions against each other, so that not only will they control each other, they’ll control themselves.
It’s written right in those documents. The idea was that if we’re going to build a country out of disparate communities, then we have to figure out a way to control our own tendencies to prefer our own. It’s like the marbling in blue cheese. It’s shot through the whole system. As soon as you take any piece of it out, the whole thing comes down.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s being argued by a number of people I’ve spoken with that the coronavirus or CCP virus as we call it at The Epoch Times—emergency, right? Emergency is being used to take some of those blocks out of the systems so as to cause that, in effect.
Mr. Destro: People who want to control others will always find an excuse. I have no doubt that there are people who are doing things that way, who are doing it for an ulterior motive. But I also have no doubt that there are a lot of people who think they’re acting in good faith and they don’t see the implications of what they do. That’s the origin of the notion, well, first, they came for the handicapped, and then they came for the Jews, and then they came for the communists.
Then all of a sudden, there’s nobody around and now they’re coming for you. That’s what that’s about. It’s always reasonable when it starts.
Mr. Jekielek: Yes. I keep thinking about Annie Miller’s poem. I guess you never imagine that you’re in the middle of such a situation. It’s always somewhere else. It’s always far away. There’s always a good reason, and we’re very good at rationalizing things to ourselves as human beings.
Mr. Destro: It’s never completely far away. I mean, this is why, come back to the United States, the idea of police brutality. My father was a policeman, and he always said that the reasons for police brutality were lack of training and lack of discipline. He says, you give a young person a gun and a badge.
They’re going to abuse the authority they have unless they’re tightly controlled. Well, once those controls come down, then don’t be surprised at what happens. What you’ve given bureaucracies in this pandemic, you’ve given them a taste of power that they never had before and they’re abusing it. We all know that they’re abusing it. You give Facebook executives authority to censor other people’s speech on the grounds that it’s disinformation.
Well, how did you decide? Do you pay the fact checkers? Because if you do, as some of the lawsuits against Facebook say, then maybe they’re not independent. This question of holding people accountable. Here in the United States, we have the mechanisms to hold people accountable.
That’s why the threats against the independence of the judiciary are so serious, because that then becomes your bulwark. That’s why the tendency to centralize in bringing all the social credit scoring into Washington, I mean, I can’t think of a worse human rights violation.
Mr. Jekielek: What is the case for it in the first place? Tell me that part first.
Mr. Destro: For what?
Mr. Jekielek: For bringing the social credit scoring into DC.
Mr. Destro: Once again, it’s the tendency to decide who can participate in the marketplace and who can’t. The current way of admitting people to the marketplace is by letting them spend their own money and making choices. I can decide whether I want to go to Costco or I want to go to Neiman Marcus. That’s the freedom of the individual to make choices.
I can make choices among political parties. I can make choices about what I want to listen to, what media I want to listen to and what not. As soon as you start to restrict that market, then somebody else is in control or crafting a different society than the one we live in.
The idea that Google or Facebook or Amazon has a right to control what I say to you in my email account presupposes, first of all, that they’re allowed to listen in on the conversation, which we may stupidly have agreed to. But the fact is, that’s what they do.
The question is, can we hold them accountable or not? Because nobody died and left them, and nobody elected them to control the marketplace of ideas. The only reason they can get away with it is because the government lets them get away with it.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, okay, except millions of us made accounts and agreed to the terms of service. So actually we did.
Mr. Destro: Well, yes and no. We understand that we are the product. Facebook tells you, “Look, you get to use our platform. We get to listen in on everything you do, and then we can decide to sell you stuff. We will sell advertising based on that.” Well, that’s the business model, but it doesn’t say that you can—I didn’t agree that we could be manipulated. I didn’t agree that I could be censored. I don’t care what their terms of service say.
Because they say, “Well, we can police it for disinformation.” Okay, tell me how you define disinformation, because that takes us back to contract, right? If you’re playing hide the ball in a contract, then maybe we don’t have a contract, and maybe you have breached the contract. Or maybe there was no contract in the first place because there was no, as we say in law, meeting of the minds.
I never agreed to be censored by anybody. If you had said, “Oh, by the way, I get to censor everything you say,” and people say, “Well, I’ll go someplace else.”
Mr. Jekielek: That’s very interesting. This is a big debate, right?
Mr. Destro: Huge debate.
Mr. Jekielek: There’s a lot of people in our current situation here in the US and frankly, again, there’s very few examples where these types of COVID protocol are not affecting people’s lives dramatically. Very few places.
People are concerned that this is, and I’m kind of reiterating the question I asked in a slightly different way, that there’s a sort of fundamental societal change that’s happening as we speak. Just simply by virtue of the fact of what people in societies have de facto agreed to.
Mr. Destro: Well, that’s what the framers talked about, the first experiments with your liberties. Lincoln, in his address to the Lyceum in New York said, “We can’t be defeated from the outside, but we can from the inside.” The insidious nature of bureaucracies not taking over and not turning to the legislature, not respecting the courts.
The degree to which our own government—state, local, and federal—is just ignoring the distinction between legislating and executing. Look, Dr. Fauci was not elected to anything. He’s a bureaucrat. He may be an expert. He’s a smart guy, but nobody died and left him in charge of telling us what we have to do. Everything is a guideline, and a guideline is not a law.
If you want a mask mandate, send it up to the Hill. Show us the science. That’s the whole point of the legislative process is to slow things down. That’s why we have a House. That’s why we have a Senate. That’s why we have the veto power. It’s to slow it down.
This thing happens so fast, and it’s just like any other thing where people take things that don’t belong to them. How do you get them back? We don’t want to have to fight to get it back, but that’s what all these lawsuits springing up all over the country are all about.
Mr. Jekielek: Then there’s this other question too. It has been fascinating to discover over the past few years that judges in particular states can actually issue judgements that affect the entire country, for example.
Mr. Destro: Yes.
Mr. Jekielek: People have said this makes the judges some of the most powerful people in the country when they’re faced with this sort of thing. It’s interesting. There seems to be a lot of that happening now in response to some of these kinds of broad executive decisions.
Mr. Destro: Yes. The whole idea of a nationwide injunction is controversial because technically, certainly in the federal courts, a controversy is between the two parties to the controversy. It’s only really supposed to affect them.
But when you look at something like OSHA, what judges don’t want is for OSHA to say, “Well, all right. We’re stuck in New Orleans, which is the Fifth Circuit, and we’re stuck in the Sixth Circuit, which is Cincinnati, but we don’t acquiesce. We’re going to go ahead and enforce the mandate, even though a federal judge has told us it’s likely unconstitutional.”
That’s what the judges are trying to get at. The question of whether they should is eventually going to have to be decided by the Supreme Court.
Mr. Jekielek: Going back to this question of human rights. All of these mandates are some sort of restrictions on human rights. We’re being told that the science necessitates this.
Mr. Destro: Well, science is a process. Science is not a source of immutable principle. I mean, the whole point of science is that you falsify it. The idea that you come forward and say, “Well, the science says this.” If you’re a real scientist, the first thing you’re going to say is, “Well, what about I’ve got other evidence?”
The idea that you would shut down the conversation because there’s a consensus amongst … I mean, that’s what got Galileo in trouble. There was a consensus that it was geocentric, not heliocentric. The consensus is almost invariably wrong.
The whole point of having freedom of speech, freedom of speech includes science. It includes religion. It’s perfectly okay for me to question your beliefs. That’s what we do as human beings. We question. Anybody who’s got a little kid, “Well, why is that?” That’s ingrained in us. As soon as you see somebody shutting it down, you say, “Where’s the power? Where’s the money?”
Mr. Jekielek: I probably spent too much time on Twitter, myself. There’s one tweet that came up to me as I was preparing for this interview, which really struck me. I think there’s a lot of thought behind this, but basically Zubi says your human rights are not a reward for “good behavior.”
Mr. Destro: Very well said.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s just so interesting because somehow, is even the concept of human rights being transformed for us, and what’s been happening over the last couple of years?
Mr. Destro: Well the idea is, is it a natural right? Natural rights means human rights. It comes from your nature. If you argue that your behavior takes away those basic rights, then it’s not human rights anymore. It’s pure positivism. The state is in control. Positive law determines everything, not your natural endowment.
If it’s all positive law, somebody then has to agree somebody’s in charge of deciding whether you can speak or not. Otherwise, it comes from the muzzle of a gun, right? That’s why you have such a huge debate over the Second Amendment. Because if only the state has guns, then what happens in New Zealand and Australia and other places? They would never try that here, because there’s too many people who take self-defense very seriously.
That’s why there’s a debate about the nature of the Second Amendment. Is it an individual right of self-defense, or is it a collective as what they call militia right? That’s a big debate. But the underlying human rights debate is, do I have the right to speak because I am a human being and communication is part of my nature? Yes or no. If the answer is it depends, then the answer is no. Period. It’s either yes or no. Anywhere in between is a no.
Mr. Jekielek: Is there any situation in your mind that there are moral grounds for suspending human rights?
Mr. Destro: Never. There are moral grounds for prohibiting antisocial behavior, but there’s never moral or legal justification for denying the idea that you have human rights.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, okay. But isn’t this what proponents of lockdowns and all of these harsh policies will say? We’ll say, if you’re not following the rules, you are engaging in antisocial behavior.
Mr. Destro: See, but that’s not … Once again, go back to the beginning of the pandemic, two weeks to flatten the curve, right? If they had said two years to flatten the curve, people would’ve said no way. Remember, our government is based on “the consent of the governed.” When were we ever given an opportunity to consent to the specifics, not to the generalities?
That’s why we make rules by legislation in this country, where they have to duke it out and where it’s messy and compromises are being made. Do you think for a minute that if you actually had to put much of this stuff to a vote, that we would be locked down like this? You see that discussion mostly being made by states of emergency.
When you look at the case law, you’ll see. There’s a fascinating case in Pittsburgh when they went after the governor. They actually tried the case. I mean, literally—evidence and everything else. And the judge said, “You made it up as you went along.” It seemed logical at the time. I understand that, but that’s not legislation. There’s no due process here.
What due process means is following the rules, right? And the rules are that if you’re going to lock people down, there’s a way to do it. It’s not by some bureaucrat or even the President. The President is the executive. Execute means execute existing law, not make it up. Very clear Supreme Court precedent on that.
Mr. Jekielek: What’s the path forward, do you feel, here in the US—where [do] we stand right now?
Mr. Destro: We need to be talking about the human rights dimension.
Mr. Jekielek: We’re not really talking about the human rights dimension. I certainly don’t hear it talked about in terms of human rights.
Mr. Destro: No. That’s why I said, if you can control the conversation, then you control the narrative, you control the agenda. As much as I may respect Dr. Fauci’s expertise, nobody elected him to make policy for the entire country. Is it somehow inconsistent with my seriousness about COVID to raise the question who died and left you in charge? That’s what democracy’s about.
I should be able to go and complain. And nobody—not the government, not the private sector—should be able to tell me I’m not allowed to call you up and complain. People don’t want to be criticized. They don’t want disinformation.
Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is disinformation. This question about who left you in charge, the people are in charge because we trust ordinary people to make important decisions. This is well-documented. The reason people do not participate in the political process is because they don’t think it makes any difference.
Mr. Jekielek: If we’ve seen anything, over the past few years is evidence to suggest that they might be right.
Mr. Destro: But the worst thing you can do in a situation like that is stop doing it. You actually have to move forward—if you just have to move forward and keep complaining. It’s not an accident that people are being recalled on school boards or prosecutors. You use the abilities, the authorities that you have. The ballot box is one of the most important ones we have, so is money. Take your business someplace else.
Mr. Jekielek: To some extent you have to take it on faith that it’ll work out, right? Because sometimes it doesn’t look very promising.
Mr. Destro: Well, it never does. But the one thing that Martin Luther King, among the many wonderful things he did, was he called on both African Americans and others to believe that God made us equal. And that it was the content of our character, not the color of our skin. That was a moral argument.
You really have to think. Imagine the odds he and Charles Houston and all those people … Rosa Parks just refused to sit in the back of the bus. She got into all kinds of trouble. That’s how you challenge the system. This is one of those things—no pain, no gain. You have to stand up against tyranny. Otherwise, it will eat you alive.
Mr. Jekielek: Wait, what you’re seeing here, you’re saying that you’re seeing a certain kind of tyranny?
Mr. Destro: Yes, there’s no question. It is a kind of tyranny. Tyranny doesn’t need to be brutal. It can also be benign. The idea that you’re not allowed to talk about subjects that other people find uncomfortable, that’s tyranny. I mean, what else is it?
Mr. Jekielek: Also, it could be benign in the immediate sense.
Mr. Destro: Well, what I mean is benign in the sense of they’re just using electronic means rather than beating you up with trenches. But believe me, at the beginning, it’s always nice-nice. We’re always doing it to protect somebody else. But if you don’t go along, eventually you wind up in a camp.
Mr. Jekielek: I think that what you’re talking about to many of our viewers will perhaps seem obvious, but to others, it might feel like too much to accept.
Mr. Destro: Yes. I think that’s always the case. That’s what the debate about racism is. And without getting deeply into it, do people discriminate? Yes, they do. Do even people who are well-meaning discriminate? Yes, they do. That’s why we provide for employment discrimination cases. I’ve litigated a bunch of those. People always have a good reason for doing what they do, and they don’t like it much when you point it out.
That’s why we have rules that say, “Oh, by the way, if you’re the whistleblower and you retaliate against the whistleblower, that’s a separate offense.” We want to encourage people to come forward. Don’t shoot the messenger. People think they’re doing the right thing. They don’t like to be questioned. That’s human nature.
Mr. Jekielek: Ultimately, when you say it this way, this is kind of a foundational question of our time, isn’t it?
Mr. Destro: Yes. Well, it’s the human rights question. When I say to you don’t divorce human from human rights, it means don’t ask me to stop being a human being as a condition for exercising whatever rights I have.
I don’t get my rights from you. I get my rights from God or from my human nature, depending on … You’re not in charge. Little kids understand you’re not the boss of me, right? I mean, we know from watching a playgroup what humans are like. Why is that any different when we get bigger?
Mr. Jekielek: Ostensibly, we’ve gained some wisdom along the way and some knowledge.
Mr. Destro: But self-deception is … We all do it.
Mr. Jekielek: I’m thinking back to earlier in our chat. We talked about how the first stage of genocide is excluding people from society. I don’t know if you follow this, but Merriam-Webster changed the definition of anti-vaxxer, which is a very pejorative term, from someone opposed to vaccines to someone opposed to vaccines and vaccine mandates. They really did this. I had to look.
I thought it was like a Photoshop job. No, they actually did that. To me, it suggests increasing the group of others, meaning now you’re able to label them as anti-vaxxers, all these people that are opposed to tyranny in your terminology.
Mr. Destro: No question. But behind all this is the point I made earlier about holding perpetrators accountable—if I question a vaccine because I think it might do harm, that doesn’t make me an anti-vaxxer. But the way the law is set up is that I can’t sue the vaccine companies. That was set up in the 1980s.
Behind all this discussion about anti-vax is a monopoly on the government on both sides of that transaction. They’re protecting the vaccine manufacturer who is no different than any other [manufacturer]. Vaccine is a product. What? I’m not allowed to sue Keurig if my coffee maker blows up? Well, if something does damage, why can’t I sue?
There has to be an independent forum, which does not exist today, where they can go and bring their case. You can limit damages. There’s all kinds of ways you can do that. But nobody would ever argue that the vaccine court that they have within HHS across the way here is independent. Not even close to being independent. One of the reasons why this is so out of control is that we don’t use our normal due process ways of doing things.
A Russian judge told me when I went to Moscow for the first time, he said, “Yes, we’re independent. But they control if I want a new apartment.” I mean, the due process … There’s an old saying that in hell, law is king and due process is scrupulously observed.
The process of law, it’s the framework in which human rights exists. Equality means that I should be able to ask the same questions that you do without any consequences. And the fact that anybody would label us, that’s the first step in getting rid of your human rights. The cultural step before that is that you’re all a part of a collective.
That’s the whole communist idea. That was the whole German idea of the Volk. If you weren’t a part of the Volk, then you didn’t count. I mean, they could say, “Mr. Jekielek. You’re a Polak. Who cares what you say?” Right? I grew up right between an Irish, an Italian and a Polish parish, so I heard this all when I was growing up.
As soon as you can use pejoratives for people, whether you call it anti-vaxxer or anti-science or racist or whatever you want to call it, that’s the first step. Calling out behavior, completely legit. It’s the behavior. I mean, at the end, what we want to stop is antisocial behavior. And when asking questions becomes antisocial behavior, that’s the road to tyranny.
We all know that calling out people because of their beliefs or their skin color is antisocial behavior, because it’s none of our business. It’s not my business what you believe. It’s not my business who you have relationships with. What I want to know is, are you doing your job and are you treating everybody in the way you’re supposed to?
The same is true for bureaucrats. Show us your authorities. I’m not antisocial when I question your authority, right? And it’s true in federal courts. The person seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of the federal court always has the burden of proving that it has jurisdiction. You can raise that until the very end of the case.
In front of the Supreme Court they can say, “Do we have jurisdiction here?” And if they decide no, you’re out. Whenever raising questions becomes antisocial, that’s when you’ve got an authoritarian on your hands.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. This has been an illuminating discussion. Where do you see things going here in America, both in terms of the internal questions and vis-a-vis our relationships with some of these?
Mr. Destro: It’s almost too early to tell because we’re in the middle of it. Is the process going to work? I hope it does. When you look around the authoritarian nature of what we’re seeing coming out of Washington and out of other places—why does the IRS need to look at all $600 transactions? That’s the surveillance state.
Why should the federal government be in charge of social credit scoring? You don’t think political stuff isn’t going to be involved? Later, the system oftentimes will hold people accountable. You may remember a few years ago there was a star basketball player at the University of Connecticut who was charged with rape and the school railroaded him big time.
Eventually he sued and he won, but the whole Title IX controversy came out of guidelines that came out of the EEOC in the Department of Labor, Department of Education. These were guidelines. There was no statute.
You remember Lois Lerner who was using the IRS. They were informally deciding who got tax exemption and who didn’t. She was never held accountable. The exam that I’m giving my students is about the Bill Cosby case, but the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania threw out his conviction because of the egregious violations of prosecutorial discretion. They said basically it tainted the entire proceeding. You don’t take an extraordinary step like that.
This guy doesn’t get it. I mean, he doesn’t get the fact that he was called out by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania which has the authority to disbar him. He just appealed to the Supreme Court, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he doesn’t get the idea of due process.
The spying on General Flynn and the guy from the FBI who changed the email, and the judge says, “Oh, well, he’s been punished enough.” Excuse me. If I did that, I’d be in jail. A, it’s perjury. It’s criminal contempt of court. I mean, it’s crazy. The craziness is that when we talk about the rule of law, we’re talking about the process by which we protect each other. That’s all that is. That’s what that framework is all about.
Mr. Jekielek: I think you’re suggesting this here, your vision for having better due process, what it comes down to is to have it decentralized. That is the direction you’re advocating.
Mr. Destro: Well, and that’s what’s built into our Constitution. The basic principle of human rights certainly is described in both European instruments and in the Catholic social teaching out of which it grew was what we call the principle of subsidiarity, you do things at the lowest level possible.
You don’t take away from a family that which it can do for itself. You don’t take away from a local community that which it can do for itself. You want to empower individuals. That’s the whole idea of empowering individuals. Well, the same thing is true as the [organization]. And you also then have to [empower] them to protect each other.
The devastating part about the CCP is that all power is centralized. Where do you go to get your rights? Well, if the people who run the place don’t think you have any and think that you are a repository for potentially saleable human organs, then let’s not even bother to talk about human rights.
Mr. Jekielek: Okay. We have a clear kind of direction based on the US Constitution that you’re advocating here to help better things here in America. What about the relationship with China and these authoritarian regimes?
Mr. Destro: Well, I think we need to take people as we find them. I mean, that’s the most fundamental kind of respect that you have for another human being, you simply take them as you find them. I certainly found this to be the case in diplomacy. The fewer assumptions I went in and saying, “Look, I want to have a relationship with you.”
Now, I understand I’m representing a government, I get all that. But you have a family, you have needs. The human dimension of this is important. When you are looking across the table at somebody who does not see the human dimension, then you have to adjust your expectations accordingly and your behavior, because they’re not going to change.
The idea that you can change them is insane. The only people who can change China are the Chinese, and we have to trust them and ideally work with them to open up the kinds of discussions.
There are a lot of really good human rights lawyers in China. At the end of the day, it’s do we want to buy blood diamonds? Do we want to buy blood solar panels? Or don’t we? And if we don’t, then we have to start saying, “I’m sorry, we’ll shop someplace else until you get your act together.”
Mr. Jekielek: Well, Professor Robert Destro, it’s such a pleasure to have you on.
Mr. Destro: Well, thanks for having me.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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