Widespread Abuse of Human Rights

Former President Jimmy Carter has joined civil libertarians in denouncing President Barack Obama for his “widespread abuse of human rights” by authorizing drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists. Obama has continued the drones strikes despite the public demand of Pakistan and other countries that he stop the attacks on sovereign territory. While the United States would never tolerate such attacks on our soil and would treat them as an act of war, Obama officials have said that the attacks will continue so long as it views them to be in our national interest. Carter also denounced Obama’s continued use of Guantanamo Bay, his continuation of abusive surveillance programs, denial of privacy protections of citizens and other violations.

While avoiding the direct mention of Obama’s name as opposed to referring to his Administration, Carter cited the clear violations of 10 of the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a New York Times op-ed on Monday that the “United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.” He noted that we are not only violating international law but that “[i]nstead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.”

Since January 2009, we have carried out an estimated 265 drone strikes in Pakistan alone — killing at least 1,488 people (1,343 of them considered militants).

The United States now routinely commits acts that would be deemed acts of war against other nations. For example, consider the recently reported computer virus unleashed by U.S. and Israeli intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program reportedly caused explosions at a critical plant and damaged the entire program. The use of Stuxnet and later Flame has been heralded as a great success — even the later now appears to have spread to other nations causing disruptions. The use of “cyber missiles” differs little in impact from a bombing raid or an assassination on foreign territory. In this case it caused an explosion — a classic form of sabotage. Imagine Iran sabotaging a U.S. nuclear plant. Not only is the use of these virus an obvious act of aggression, it has denied the U.S. the moral authority to object to current attacks by China and North Korea. We have started a cyber war. Just as with our torture program, our objections to the conduct of nations like China is viewed as blatant hypocrisy abroad.

Carter’s public condemnation highlights the widening gap between the Administration and civil libertarians — some of whom are unwilling to vote for a president who has committed such violations as well as publicly refused to allow CIA employees to be prosecuted for torture (let alone Bush officials). The current presidential race presents the greatest ethical challenge for civil libertarians in decades with good people falling on both sides of this ongoing debate.


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