Former president Jimmy Carter in a recent New York Times op-ed titled ‘A Cruel and Unusual Record’ says the United States and specifically the Obama Administration is engaged in such widespread abuse of human rights that we can “no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.”
The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights. Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended.
Our government is now violating at least 10 of the 30 articles in the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights including the prohibition against cruel and inhuman punishment, says Carter. This is made all the worse by the United States being a primary leader of adoption of the Declaration in 1948. We are now violating precepts that we used to champion.
The human rights abuses include the Obama Administration targeting people (including American citizens) to be killed aboard by drones or other methods without due process, a new law allowing the president to detain indefinitely, increased warrantless wiretapping, torture in Guantanamo and elsewhere under the cover of “national security,” and maintaining the Orwellian fiction that any male killed by a drone strike is defined as a terrorist until proven otherwise. (It is rather hard to defend oneself when dead.)
No response to Carter’s criticisms has challenged any of his claims. But major media response to them has been muted at best, especially considering that Carter is a respected former president. A Google search for news about his op-ed showed 3,810 articles, an underwhelming number indeed. Would it be conspiratorial to ask if mainstream media is mostly studiously ignoring Carter’s accusations?
At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.
This is Carter’s key point. Not only is the current administration engaging in massive violations of human rights, it is also counterproductive to the presumed goal of stopping terrorism. Instead, our blundering contempt for human rights, no doubt bolstered by a mistaken belief in American Exceptionalism that allows us to do whatever we want, is creating more enemies for us. Instead, our actions need to live up to our words.