Sunday, May 25, 2008

While The Rest Of The World Snickers

Every year, the US State Department issues a report on how the rest of the world measures up on the issue of Human Rights. The last seven years, the rest of the world stood appalled at the hypocrisy of the US in judging other nations on criteria that have been embraced in this country. Torture. Illegal detention of prisoners without charge. Denial of habeas corpus. Denial of due process. Domestic spying.

Evidence of the world's displeasure came in 2001 when the United States was voted off of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (now called the Human Rights Council), a position that we assumed was ours automatically because of our high moral standards. Now the US doesn't even bother showing up each year for the elections in order to avoid the embarrassment of not being voted back on.

An op-ed piece published by Sri Lanka's The Sunday Times May 18, 2008 shows just how deep that displeasure remains.

When the General Assembly meets next week to elect 15 members to the UN Human Rights Council, there will be a notable absentee on the ballot paper: the United States. A country which has persistently taken the moral high ground on human rights issues -- including rule of law, multi-party democracy, humane treatment of prisoners of war and protection of minorities -- the US continues to be challenged for its political hypocrisy and double standards.

The criticism against the US has been particularly virulent under the Bush administration as it rarely practises what it preaches -- or justifies its human rights violations on the grounds of fighting terrorism.

At the UN, most member states are livid that the Bush administration continues to point an accusing finger at countries such as China, Cuba, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Libya and Myanmar, accusing them of gross human rights violations, while the US itself has failed to maintain exemplary standards on human rights issues. ...

The US, after all, is described as "one of the world's greatest human rights defenders." So why is it that it cannot get a seat in the UN's premier human rights body? The strongest political indictment against the US is found in the latest 2008 annual report put out by the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) which says that the Bush administration's resistance to scrutiny of its counterterrorism policies and past abuses continues to be a major obstacle to human rights improvement in the United States.

"Despite some efforts in Congress to change practices violating basic human rights, there was no evident progress concerning the treatment of so-called enemy combatants, including those held at Guantanamo Bay, or the use of secret detention facilities."

The study, released in January, also points out that undocumented migrant workers continue to face an increased risk of detention, while other non-citizens are blocked from vindicating their rights in US courts. Additionally, persons convicted of crimes face harsh sentencing policies and in some cases abusive conditions in American prisons.

The catalogue of human rights abuses goes on and on -- as it does with other countries such as China, Cuba, Zimbabwe and Sudan. The crucial difference is that these countries, unlike the US, do not take a holier-than-thou attitude or preach morality to the rest of the world. After all, you cannot cast the first boulder, unless your hands are clean.

That certainly lays it out quite clearly, and the slightly mangled Biblical analogy was a fitting touch. We have lost our moral authority (if such a thing ever existed) and our moral standing in the world.

I am deeply ashamed.

240 Days.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

And the European countries, a least a TINY bit in the position to "take over", do not have the tiniest spine to do so. After all, that creates responsibilities. Instead, we cry crocodile tears. Sad. Thank you for posting this Diane.

11:16 AM  

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