A scathing indictment...

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John F
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A scathing indictment...

Post by John F » Mon Jun 25, 2012 7:20 am

...of the United States's record on human rights over the past decade, abroad and at home. The author knows whereof he speaks.


A Cruel and Unusual Record
By JIMMY CARTER
Published: June 24, 2012

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. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.

While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past. With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.

The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs. It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or “associated forces,” a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress (the law is currently being blocked by a federal judge). This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration.

In addition to American citizens’ being targeted for assassination or indefinite detention, recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications. Popular state laws permit detaining individuals because of their appearance, where they worship or with whom they associate.

Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.

These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.

Meanwhile, the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, now houses 169 prisoners. About half have been cleared for release, yet have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom. American authorities have revealed that, in order to obtain confessions, some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of “national security.” Most of the other prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either.

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.

As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years.

Jimmy Carter, the 39th president, is the founder of the Carter Center and the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.
John Francis

Alberich
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Re: A scathing indictment...

Post by Alberich » Mon Jun 25, 2012 7:46 am

Oh my! - what a horrible country is the United States! If Jimmy C says so, it must be true that we are bad. So dreadful - and, of course, he knows whereof he speaks. It is to laugh.

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Re: A scathing indictment...

Post by karlhenning » Mon Jun 25, 2012 9:00 am

Alberich wrote:Oh my! - what a horrible country is the United States! If Jimmy C says so, it must be true that we are bad. So dreadful - and, of course, he knows whereof he speaks. It is to laugh.
To state the obvious: ready scorn is not an argument.

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John F
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Re: A scathing indictment...

Post by John F » Mon Jun 25, 2012 9:49 am

Nor does it matter who's telling the truth, if the truth is being told. And it certainly is.
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Re: A scathing indictment...

Post by bigshot » Mon Jun 25, 2012 7:33 pm

Jimmy Carter didn't fail enough as president. He has to keep on failing. Advice from him on how to deal with mideast unrest is like taking navigation lessons from the captain of the Titanic.

jbuck919
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Re: A scathing indictment...

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Jun 25, 2012 8:12 pm

bigshot wrote:Jimmy Carter didn't fail enough as president. He has to keep on failing. Advice from him on how to deal with mideast unrest is like taking navigation lessons from the captain of the Titanic.
It would lend credibility to his column if it had been jointly written with a Republican ex-president, but Reagan and Ford are dead and I guess H.W. did a blood is thicker than water thing. :wink:

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John F
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Re: A scathing indictment...

Post by John F » Mon Jun 25, 2012 8:16 pm

Jimmy Carter wrote: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.
bigshot, exactly how is this bad advice? And how would you argue against it?
John Francis

jbuck919
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Re: A scathing indictment...

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Jun 25, 2012 8:32 pm

My problem with this is Carter's assertion that the US has been some kind of shining beacon of human rights (as opposed to a home for political refugees who conveniently embarrassed our enemies) since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Lost in all this is the unfortunate fact that the United States has been derelict in conforming fully to some of the principles of the declaration with regard to its own citizens, and with respect to some clauses is arguably moving backwards. If you don't believe me, read the document for yourself (the biggest deal starts at article 22). If this document were to come up for ratification today, it would never get past Republican opposition.

http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

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Agnes Selby
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Re: A scathing indictment...

Post by Agnes Selby » Tue Jun 26, 2012 1:17 am


John F
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Re: A scathing indictment...

Post by John F » Tue Jun 26, 2012 4:56 am

jbuck919 wrote:My problem with this is Carter's assertion that the US has been some kind of shining beacon of human rights (as opposed to a home for political refugees who conveniently embarrassed our enemies) since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
He doesn't say that, admitting "the country has made mistakes in the past." It's a matter of degree. In the past, we didn't torture prisoners of war, but now we have done so again and again, we know we have, yet the torturers still go free. Do you seriously suggest that all the abuses President Carter names, and more, are nothing new? Come on now.

It's a fact that America's so-called "War on Terror" has been the pretext for a radical change in its attitude toward universal human rights, let alone actually observing the precepts that we (aka Eleanor Roosevelt) embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust. It's time that an American of international stature - which Jimmy Carter unquestionably is, regardless of the Carter-bashing that's so fashionable in certain circles nowadays - told it like it is.
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Re: A scathing indictment...

Post by lennygoran » Tue Jun 26, 2012 7:50 am

John F wrote:...of the United States's record on human rights over the past decade, abroad and at home. The author knows whereof he speaks.

I'd like more specific answers from him on what we do--what would he do on Guantanamo for example. As for assassination attempts I believe these have been tried in the past--I don't know if Obama has got this on his mind--I hope not. I see improvement in many areas right now from the lying and tricky days of Johnson and Nixon. We've done some pretty awful things in the past--we may have looked the other way at what was going on in the concentration camps, our treatment of the Indians was horrendous and what we did to the Japanese in World War 2 a disgrace. What matches what went on then--haven't we at least tried to do better. As for the drones I'm in favor of what has gone on there. So what specifically would Carter do?

Regards, Len

jbuck919
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Re: A scathing indictment...

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Jun 26, 2012 7:55 am

John F wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:My problem with this is Carter's assertion that the US has been some kind of shining beacon of human rights (as opposed to a home for political refugees who conveniently embarrassed our enemies) since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
He doesn't say that, admitting "the country has made mistakes in the past." It's a matter of degree. In the past, we didn't torture prisoners of war, but now we have done so again and again, we know we have, yet the torturers still go free. Do you seriously suggest that all the abuses President Carter names, and more, are nothing new? Come on now.

It's a fact that America's so-called "War on Terror" has been the pretext for a radical change in its attitude toward universal human rights, let alone actually observing the precepts that we (aka Eleanor Roosevelt) embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust. It's time that an American of international stature - which Jimmy Carter unquestionably is, regardless of the Carter-bashing that's so fashionable in certain circles nowadays - told it like it is.
Yes, looking back, I realize that I was the one making the "assertion" (as a straw man) to prepare my own point, which I don't withdraw, but which is a bit off topic. Sorry.

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John F
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Re: A scathing indictment...

Post by John F » Tue Jun 26, 2012 8:01 am

I take it that your point is, "the United States has been derelict in conforming fully to some of the principles of the declaration with regard to its own citizens, and with respect to some clauses is arguably moving backwards." That's President Carter's point too, isn't it? If you differ with him, I don't get it.
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Re: A scathing indictment...

Post by John F » Tue Jun 26, 2012 8:10 am

lennygoran wrote:
John F wrote:...of the United States's record on human rights over the past decade, abroad and at home. The author knows whereof he speaks.
I'd like more specific answers from him on what we do--what would he do on Guantanamo for example.
That's beside the point of his commentary, which is about what our government is doing and shouldn't be doing, not about what it ought to be doing instead. It's up to those in power, and the voters who give them the power, to decide whether we really care enough about universal human rights (not just our own rights) to deny ourselves certain uses or abuses of raw power in the name of our national and personal self-defense or, sometimes, merely our self-interest. If we decide that we are willing to do that, then we don't need President Carter to spell out exactly what we should stop doing - beyond what he's already said in this piece.
John Francis

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Re: A scathing indictment...

Post by lennygoran » Tue Jun 26, 2012 8:28 am

John F wrote: That's beside the point of his commentary, which is about what our government is doing and shouldn't be doing, not about what it ought to be doing instead. It's up to those in power, and the voters who give them the power, to decide whether we really care enough about universal human rights (not just our own rights) to deny ourselves certain uses or abuses of raw power in the name of our national and personal self-defense or, sometimes, merely our self-interest. If we decide that we are willing to do that, then we don't need President Carter to spell out exactly what we should stop doing - beyond what he's already said in this piece.
I disagree--I just read the complicated tangle that is Guantanamo at wiki--let him spell out his position more clearly--solutions are what is needed, not just general statements. You talk about out government--our government has different parts to it and right now they are at each other's throats! Regards, Len :(

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Re: A scathing indictment...

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Jun 26, 2012 12:33 pm

John F wrote:I take it that your point is, "the United States has been derelict in conforming fully to some of the principles of the declaration with regard to its own citizens, and with respect to some clauses is arguably moving backwards." That's President Carter's point too, isn't it? If you differ with him, I don't get it.
We're now officially talking past each other. :) Carter and I are on the whole thinking of different clauses of the Universal Declaration that the US has not been observing, and you and he are correct that some of them have only been seriously violated more recently.

One reason that I have not come out with an unqualified "well done" for Carter's statement (I guess you noticed that) is that he includes both equivocal and unequivocal offenses in his condemnation. There is no doubt that mistreatment of prisoners is an outrage that should be earning us world opprobrium. Targeting terrorists abroad for assassination is a more ambiguous matter. You yourself have expressed general approval about removing these people as quasi war enemies. One of the most prominent of them, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was an American citizen, but also a traitor and as clear a terrorist enemy as any of them. There is nothing in the Universal Declaration about limiting means of waging war if, and it is a big if, it is agreed that war is what we're talking about. The drone attacks may be problematic for a variety of reasons (see the following NY Times editorial, which I'm sure you read at the time), but Carter appears to consider them violations of human rights and an abrogation of the US commitment to international principles regarding them on the same level as torturing prisoners, and as far as his argument as expressed in the column goes, I cannot agree with that.


The New York Times

May 30, 2012
Too Much Power for a President

It has been clear for years that the Obama administration believes the shadow war on terrorism gives it the power to choose targets for assassination, including Americans, without any oversight. On Tuesday, The New York Times revealed who was actually making the final decision on the biggest killings and drone strikes: President Obama himself. And that is very troubling.

Mr. Obama has demonstrated that he can be thoughtful and farsighted, but, like all occupants of the Oval Office, he is a politician, subject to the pressures of re-election. No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners located far from a battlefield — depriving Americans of their due-process rights — without the consent of someone outside his political inner circle.

How can the world know whether the targets chosen by this president or his successors are truly dangerous terrorists and not just people with the wrong associations? (It is clear, for instance, that many of those rounded up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks weren’t terrorists.) How can the world know whether this president or a successor truly pursued all methods short of assassination, or instead — to avoid a political charge of weakness — built up a tough-sounding list of kills?

It is too easy to say that this is a natural power of a commander in chief. The United States cannot be in a perpetual war on terror that allows lethal force against anyone, anywhere, for any perceived threat. That power is too great, and too easily abused, as those who lived through the George W. Bush administration will remember.

Mr. Obama, who campaigned against some of those abuses in 2008, should remember. But the Times article, written by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, depicts him as personally choosing every target, approving every major drone strike in Yemen and Somalia and the riskiest ones in Pakistan, assisted only by his own aides and a group of national security operatives. Mr. Obama relies primarily on his counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan.

To his credit, Mr. Obama believes he should take moral responsibility for these decisions, and he has read the just-war theories of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.

The Times article points out, however, that the Defense Department is currently killing suspects in Yemen without knowing their names, using criteria that have never been made public. The administration is counting all military-age males killed by drone fire as combatants without knowing that for certain, assuming they are up to no good if they are in the area. That has allowed Mr. Brennan to claim an extraordinarily low civilian death rate that smells more of expediency than morality.

In a recent speech, Mr. Brennan said the administration chooses only those who pose a real threat, not simply because they are members of Al Qaeda, and prefers to capture suspects alive. Those assurances are hardly binding, and even under Mr. Obama, scores of suspects have been killed but only one taken into American custody. The precedents now being set will be carried on by successors who may have far lower standards. Without written guidelines, they can be freely reinterpreted.

A unilateral campaign of death is untenable. To provide real assurance, President Obama should publish clear guidelines for targeting to be carried out by nonpoliticians, making assassination truly a last resort, and allow an outside court to review the evidence before placing Americans on a kill list. And it should release the legal briefs upon which the targeted killing was based.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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