Former President Jimmy Carter says the United States has abandoned its role as the world’s champion of human rights and cites the recent stories of targeted assassinations and drone attacks that have killed innocent civilians as “disturbing proof” of how the country has lost its “moral leadership.”
Writing in a New York Times op-ed piece
published Monday, Carter delivered a blistering attack on the administrations of Barack Obama and George W. Bush — as well as Congress — accusing all of sanctioning and conducting foreign policy and counterterrorism efforts in a way that would have been unthinkable in years past.
“The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights,” Carter wrote. “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,” he said. “As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.”
Carter — whose work on human rights and advancing democracy around the world was rewarded with the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize — also declared that U.S. actions had violated at least 10 of 30 articles in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted to protect people from “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
“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,” he said. “But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.”
The former president was highly critical of a wide range of counterterrorism and national security measures put in place in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Citing everything from “cleared” detainees still being held at Guantanamo and the waterboarding of prisoners to “unwarranted wiretapping” and “mining of private communications,” Carter said U.S. laws and polices now violate the basic rights to privacy, freedom of expression, and the presumption of innocence.
But Carter reserved his harshest criticism for the U.S. drones strikes that have killed innocent civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere in the effort to take out al-Qaida leaders and operatives.
“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,” Carter wrote, adding, “This would have been unthinkable in previous times.”
“These policies clearly affect American foreign policy,” he continued. “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.”
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