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Jimmy Carter: US Foreign Policy Since 9/11 Has Been 'Catastrophic' for Global Human Rights

Common Dreams staff

Jimmy Carter: 'America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.' (Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)

In a scathing op-ed in Monday's New York Times, former US president Jimmy Carter issued a sharp rebuke against a series of Obama administration policies and positions that he described as an affront to human rights and argued are helping to create a US foreign policy that "abets our enemies and alienates our friends."

"While the country has made mistakes in the past," Carter writes, "the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past." Citing the events of September 11, 2001, the 39th president argued that the policy catastrophes since then -- supported by both the Bush and Obama administration -- have been "sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions" and were made possible by a citizenry, by and large, unwilling to dissent.

Specifically, Carter cites recent revelations about the US drone program which allows for Obama and select high-level officials to track, target, and kill suspected terrorists or militants -- including US citizens -- without due process or transparent oversight. This would be "unthinkable in previous times," Carter argues.

Among other issues, the former president criticized the continuing policies that govern the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where many prisoners who remain have been cleared of all charges, and many others have become locked in a Kafkaesque world where they can neither be tried -- due to the torture they underwent at CIA hands -- nor released due to political or extralegal constraints.

"At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe," Carter writes, "the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Read the full op-ed here.

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Agence France-Presse: Carter warns US abandoning role as rights champion

Writing in The New York Times, Carter charged that US counterterrorism police was in violation of 10 of the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration 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," he said.

Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his work in resolving conflicts since leaving office in 1980, is credited with having made human rights a central theme of US foreign policy.

But in his opinion piece, entitled "A Cruel and Unusual Record," the former president warned that the United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.

"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 wrote.

"But instead of making the world safer, America's violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends."

Among the abuses Carter cited were drone attacks that kill civilians, targeted assassinations of American citizens, powers to indefinitely detain terror suspects, the use of torture to obtain confessions and privacy violations through warrantless wiretapping and electronic data mining.

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Glenn Greenwald         Collapsing US Credibility

[...] One can reasonably object to Carter’s Op-Ed on the ground that it romanticizes a non-existent American past (systematic human rights abuses are hardly a new development in the post-9/11 world), but what cannot be reasonably disputed is the trend he denounces. Note that the most egregious examples he cites — assassinating U.S. citizens without due process, civilian-killing drone attacks, the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA — had some genesis under Bush but are hallmarks of Obama policy (his other example, the rapid erosion of constraints on government domestic surveillance, took place under both, with the full support of Obama). It’s a remarkably scathing denunciation of the record of his own political party and its current leader.

Many American pundits and foreign policy experts love to depict themselves as crusaders for human rights, but it almost always takes the form of condemning other governments, never their own. There’s no end to self-styled U.S. human rights moralizers who will oh-so-bravely (and inconsequentially) write one screed after the next about the oppressive acts of Syria, or Russia, or China, or Iran (the targets of their wrath are not just foreign governments, but usually ones serving the role as Current Enemy of the U.S. Government). 

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