Members of the U.S. military are seen next to a Bradley Fighting Vehicle

Members of the U.S. military are seen next to a Bradley Fighting Vehicle as preparations are made for the "Salute to America" Fourth of July event with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. on July 3, 2019.

(Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Due to Wars and Climate Destruction, US Ranks Worse Than Peers on 'Impunity' Index

"While accountability is critical to democracy, a democratic system of government alone is insufficient to fend off impunity."

The United States' contributions to the climate crisis and its perpetuation of violence, particularly abroad, resulted in a score on a newly launched "Atlas of Impunity" that placed the country well below other wealthy nations in terms of the government's willingness to be accountable for its impact both on U.S. residents and the global community.

Spearheaded by former U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband, the inaugural Atlas of Impunity was released Friday, the result of a collaboration between the Eurasia Group and the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.

The groups ranked 163 countries from across the globe, scoring their level of impunity based on five factors: conflict and violence, both within the countries and perpetrated against other nations; environmental degradation; unaccountable governance; economic exploitation; and abuse of human rights.

Miliband, now the president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, called the ranking of the U.S. at 118 "one of the major takeaways" of the index.

The countries were ranked on a scale of 0-5, with Afghanistan given the highest score for impunity at 5.00. Finland was ranked the most accountable nation, with a score of 0.29.

With a score of 1.91, the U.S. was ranked five places higher than Hungary, where President Viktor Orbán's far-right government has been denounced as autocratic.

The U.S. was found to act with the most impunity in the area of environmental degradation, scoring a 3.02 in that category. The U.S. is biggest historical emitter of greenhouse gases, but President Joe Biden's administration continues to approve fossil fuel extraction projects that are contributing to planetary heating and polluting communities.

"Impunity is the growing instinct of choice in the global order. It represents a dangerous world view that laws and norms are for suckers."

The country's "conflict and violence" score of 2.62 also contributed to its high cumulative score.

"The country's arms exports are an even bigger negative factor" than the economic inequality, racial injustice, and restrictions that Republican policymakers use to cut off democratic access, the report stated.

The U.S. is the world's largest arms exporter and has helped fuel the ongoing humanitarian crises in Yemen and the occupied Palestinian territories by supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia and Israel, respectively.

The country's impunity score was also driven up by "a small number of ratified human rights treaties" and "its history of racial discrimination, particularly against Black Americans." The authors noted that it performed well below other wealthy countries in terms of its efforts to ensure Americans are given equal economic opportunities:

While the U.S. performs well on most measures of economic exploitation, there is a higher degree of class inequality compared to similarly ranked countries. This likely stems from a long history of strike-breaking and union-busting that has undermined the power of organized labor. Individuals and corporate entities—both companies and labor unions—have a constitutionally protected right to petition the government, creating a robust lobbying landscape that allows the two major political parties to be very responsive to narrow interest group needs. This has contributed to low levels of taxation of capital income, a tax system with high levels of compliance but inconsistent enforcement, and a national minimum wage that has not risen with inflation.

"Impunity is the growing instinct of choice in the global order," said Miliband in a statement. "It represents a dangerous world view that laws and norms are for suckers."

Miliband noted in a New York Times op-ed on Friday that the Atlas illustrates how countries that are recognized as democracies are not immune from acting without accountability.

"While the fight for democracy is real, dividing the world into democracies and autocracies does not capture key aspects of the global power balance," he wrote. "While accountability is critical to democracy, a democratic system of government alone is insufficient to fend off impunity. Several democratic countries, including the United States, underperform against the highest standards to which they are committed on measures of human rights and conflict and violence."

"The most powerful countries in the international system are part of the problem," he added. "China and Russia both score among the 50 worst ranking countries on impunity. The United States performs much better, but still scores worse than economic and Global North peers. There is a quantitative evidence in our project for the adage that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

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