The United States of America is an intriguing country. Historically, two strands of thought have fought for space within its national psyche. The first strand is of a country built on the subjugation and annihilation (genocide?) of the native populations, upon which was built the continued subjugation and discrimination of the black (and later Hispanic and other) population. The second strand comprises of the great democratic experiment that is the United States of America with enshrined fundamental rights of the individual, that provides the space for people to question and highlight the gross errors of commission and omission of its own government and its military-industrial complex. The latter has also provided the space for those victimized by the former to voice their experiences and seek to change the conduct of its movers and shakers.
These two competing strands and the relative success of its state building experiment have provided to many Americans a notion that their country is exceptional and that the USA is a benign super-power which is a force for the good in this world. However, the great democratic experiment in the USA ensures that its society also turns up individuals and groups who question the very basis of this claim and the hypocrisy of its conduct. A few recent examples provide an eye-opener to USA’s conduct of its foreign relations and the administration’s real commitment to human rights.
A bipartisan Task Force on Detainee Treatment constituted by The Constitution Project was established after President Obama decided not to constitute a national commission to investigate its counter-terrorism programs. The report can be accessed at http://detaineetaskforce.org/
The fact that the USA engaged in torture and rendition after 9/11, supports friendly dictators who violate human rights, kills innumerable number of civilians world-wide every day while admonishing regimes that do not toe its line are facts that the rest of the world have come to know and accept.See here http://www.democracynow.org/2013/4/19/exclusive_allan_nairn_exposes_role_of
However, since the USA is the super-power which ostensibly seeks to value human rights within its borders, and acts as a self-appointed guardian of human rights, the annual report issued by its State department is taken as a bench-mark by some. The following statement by the Task Force’s co-chair to Democracy Now should be an eye-opener:
“…..you look at the United States State Department, in its annual country reports on human rights practices, has characterized many of the techniques used against detainees in U.S. custody in the post-9/11 environment—the State Department has characterized the same treatment as torture, abuse or cruel treatment when those techniques were employed by foreign governments. The CIA recognized this in an internal review and acknowledged that many of the interrogation techniques it employed were inconsistent with the public policy positions the United States has taken regarding human rights. The United States is understandably subject to criticism when it criticizes another nation for engaging in torture and then justifies the same conduct under national security arguments.”
See the video http://www.democracynow.org/2013/4/17/after_obama_shuns_probe_bipartisan_panel
On the much talked about Guantanamo Bay detainees and military commissions, a new book “The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay,” by Jess Bravin highlights the thinking behind the establishment of these commissions, the turf battles that took place and the role of the US President George Bush in this whole exercise along with senior administration officials. Anyone guilty of war crimes?