Recent reporting indicates that President Donald Trump has invited Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, to the White House. This is a breathtakingly bad idea.
After all, Duterte is far from your typical world leader. Since he came to power in 2016, Duterte has taken the country in an increasingly troubling direction. More specifically, thousands of extrajudicial killings have occurred on his watch – apparently a result of the president’s controversial “war on drugs.”
A piece in Foreign Policy notes that “[a]bout 9,000 people have died since last year — dragged into alleyways, shot on the street, attacked by masked mobs, or killed at home.” Additionally, a case against the Philippine president (and other officials) was recently filed at the International Criminal Court.
In a New York Times article, Human Rights Watch’s John Sifton says that “[b]y essentially endorsing Duterte’s murderous war on drugs, Trump is now morally complicit in future killings.”
America’s human rights record has never been perfect and contradictions in U.S. foreign policy are nothing new. Nevertheless, with this utterly unwarranted invite, Trump is sending an unequivocal message to longtime strongmen, aspiring autocrats and the broader international community: The U.S. won’t even pretend to care about human rights on Trump’s watch.
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about Trump’s tenure vis-à-vis human rights and he really should avoid obvious blunders such as this one.
Trump needs to walk back this invitation. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that the president has said one thing and then done another.