(FinalCall.com) – Whether the military excursions in Afghanistan or Iraq or calls for intervening in Cuba or Iran, the United States government often cites human rights violations by “rouge governments” and torture as reasons for assaulting other nations and the need to respect international law.
So recent revelations by former President George W. Bush that he approved waterboarding, or simulated drowning recognized around the world as a form of torture, again point to American hypocrisy when it comes to respect for international law and human rights.
In a soon to be published memoir, the ex-president has reportedly admitted to approving the torture of alleged 9/11 conspirator Khalid Sheik Mohammed and said he would have done it again in his quest to save lives.
Interesting. There are probably few instances where the need to save lives or national security has not been used to justify torture. But these explanations or excuses are never accepted when the United States wants to tarnish and target a foe.
Language also doesn’t change the fact that experts and scholars the world over see waterboarding as torture and the former president’s contention that the CIA simply used “enhanced interrogation techniques” doesn’t justify violations of international law.
The cowboy president’s admissions also came as the U.S. human rights record came under fire as America submitted to a United Nations Human Rights Council Review for the first time. The review is done for all 192-UN member states.
“If the U.S. government delegation’s objective was to reclaim the mantel of global human rights leadership, it failed miserably in that effort,” said Ajamu Baraka, executive director of the U.S. Human Rights Network, who was in Geneva for the review process.
“What we heard instead was an eloquent defense of U.S. ‘exceptionalism’–its view of itself as somehow having a ‘special status’ that does not require it to conform to internationally recognized human rights norms and standards,” he said.
“On the positive side, it was gratifying to see the constant drumbeat of criticism from the international community over issues U.S. activists have been raising for years–such as the continued use of the death penalty, racial discrimination, the lack of a U.S. national human rights institution to monitor domestic human rights practice, and the lack of treaty ratification,” Mr. Baraka continued.
While Cuba, Venezuela, China and Iran chastised the U.S. for wrongs committed, “criticism came from a host of states, including U.S. allies such as the UK, France, Australia, and Switzerland,” the rights activists noted.
Some of the concerns raised during the review of the U.S. record include the continued use of the death penalty; racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system; the sentencing of child offenders to life without the possibility of parole; the U.S. failure to ratify key international treaties, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The U.S. is one of only two countries in the world not to have ratified the Child Rights Convention, with Somalia, activists said.
The U.S. also faced calls for investigations of torture charges and a shutdown of the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
Members of the U.S. delegation quickly denied torturing anyone and argued the Obama administration had enacted policies that ensure humane treatment of captives.
But the good advice came from Cristina Finch, of Amnesty International USA, at the Nov. 5 conclusion of the first Universal Periodic Review of the United States record on international human rights.
“Today’s review session clearly shows the deficiencies in the human rights record of the United States and the need for the government to take bold steps to improve its record,” said Ms. Finch. “The Obama administration has reengaged on human rights and for this we are grateful. But the facts speak for themselves; it is vital that the United States rebuild its leadership on human rights. The United States cannot take other countries to task for human rights abuses, when its own record at home falls short.”