America's human rights rhetoric tarnished by actions
10 Dec, 2010 21:40
62 years ago, the United Nations adopted its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, making today, International Human Rights Day.
America's first lady at the time, Eleanor Roosevelt, helped inspire the 1948 agreement – a global pledge critics say the US is failing to follow.Which speaks louder… actions? Or words? In September US President Barack Obama addressed the international community at the United Nations pledging America’s commitment to International Human Rights. The 1948 document includes 30 articles, which outline basic standards of life – inalienable rights – for all people.Article 3 says everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.Political commentator Nima Sharaizi accuses the US of falling short of fulfilling several of the principals it helped create. “With every drone attack, with every invasion and occupation of a country. With every overthrow of a foreign government that the United States happens not to like or happens not to agree with. Every one of those are a violation of that one article,” he said.Article 5 says no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. ”With every detainee, kidnapped and rendition and tortured in Guantanamo or Baghram or elsewhere, that’s yet another violation, “said Shariazi.The land of liberty is also the land of the incarcerated with the world’s largest prison population. 2.3 million people are behind bars, while more than three thousand languish on death row. Article 25 – Everyone has the right to a standard of living, including food, clothing, housing and medical care.“At the dawn of a new millennium, we set concrete goals to free our fellow men, women and children from the injustice of extreme poverty,” said Obama during his September 22nd speech to the United Nations General Assembly. US figures indicate nearly 44 million Americans are living in poverty, while even more people lack access to affordable health care.As 2010 comes to an end, 15 million are officially unemployed and an estimated 1 million US families are set to lose their homes this year alone.“As President, I have made it clear that the United States will do our part,” Obama. Last month, the UN Human Rights Commission released a report including 228 recommendations on how the US could improve its human rights record. A record stained with accusations of police brutality, racial profiling of minorities, and Islamophobia.“Oakland PD, LAPD, Chicago PD. This isn’t just happening in once city, this is happening all over America and it has to stop,” said Sharon Moseby, the mother of a Los Angeles, CA police shooting victim. The country most vocal in chastising others for what it sees as human rights abuses is now taking heat for violating a universal declaration it co-wrote.Maybe American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson put it best when saying, “what you do speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you say.”The Obama administration is on a mission to revamp the US reputation regarding human rights, but little has changed explained Brian Becker, the national coordinator for the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition in Washington, DC.“The Obama administration is on an effort to rehabilitate the image of the United States, which became known as torture Inc. during the Bush years,” he said. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 5 says no one shall be subjected to torture, degrading or inhumane treatment and clearly the United States government under Bush did that, continues to extol that.” He explained Obama’s need to rescue the American image is why agreed to have the United States subjected to the UN Human Rights Panel for the first time. Journalist Pepe Escobar, a Latin America correspondent for the Asia Times said much of his time has been spent covering the Middle East and Central Asia, where he witnessed human rights violations by the US. “At any one time around 2003, 2004, and 2005 there could have been thousands of unaccounted prisoners over there. Anything from a stranded Taliban to street kids in Kabul, just because they were suspected of being terrorists,” Escobar said. He told the story of a German citizen who was kidnapped, tortured and held as terrorists by the UC. In fact, the individual merely shared the same name as another person who was actually wanted. “He was a German citizen, but he had the name of terrorist,” he said. “When the US discovered they were mistaken, they pressured the German government not to reveal that he had been kidnapped by the CIA and he was tortured for five months. That says everything about human rights under the Bush years.”