Friday, August 24, 2012

The America That Once Championed Human Rights, Freedom And Democracy Is No More

by Michael Payne

America has, over many years, done an excellent job of portraying itself as the bastion of human rights, freedom and democracy. However, there is only one problem with that wondrous self-assessment; it is simply not the case as it has become very evident that, based on this nation's hubristic actions around the world and it continued repressive actions domestically, it has forfeited the right to that distinction. We might say that a nation that no longer practices what it preaches, should just stop preaching.

At the end of the Second World War, when America had established itself as the premier military power, it had to choose whether it would exercise this power as the facilitator of peace or if it would use this power as a dominating force. We now are well aware of what role America chose to take as illustrated by its succession of wars and the building of a massive military empire. War is in and peace is out.

After America had come to that critical crossroads and had chosen the entirely wrong direction here is what has transpired. While it once vigorously promoted itself as the leading proponent of world peace, freedom, democracy and the champion of human rights it no longer adheres to those principles that it once considered to be sacred. In the following, let's see how this government's actions around the world are actually the opposite of what it wants the world to believe.

Starting with the issue of human rights: The general definition of human rights is: "The basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled, to include the right to life and liberty, freedom of thought and expression, and equality before the law." Now let's add a few associated excerpts from the Universal Declaration of Humans Rights of the United Nations:

"Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."
"No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile."

Now let's discuss human rights to a greater degree, not just those of Americans, but of people in nations around the world; and then let's see what the self-proclaimed champion of human rights record has been in recent times, especially since the year 2000.

Here is how America has clearly and severely violated the human rights of people in other nations. Does a nation that champions human rights invade and occupy sovereign nations at will, regardless of the international laws that prevail? Borders of other nations mean nothing to this government; airspace can be violated at any time it deems appropriate. International laws are to be strictly adhered to by all other nations but, in the case of the U.S., it all depends on whether this government agrees with them or not.

What about the human rights of all those families in Iraq who had the doors of their homes knocked down by U.S. troops; people who had the "right to security of person" and should not have been subjected to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" at the hands of U.S. troops? Or when their country's national infrastructure and most of its important institutions were demolished? Or when the people of Fallujah watched in horror as their city was virtually destroyed? What about the rights of the several million people of that nation who were forced out of their homes or were involuntarily sent into exile in surrounding countries? How can this nation's leaders continue to criticize other nations for their alleged violation of human rights when they bring such misery and destruction upon other innocent human beings? That is the epitome of hypocrisy.

The human rights of hundreds of innocent civilians have been grossly violated by U.S. "pilots" in Afghanistan or at bases in the U.S. who sit before computer screens and systematically launch deadly Reaper and Predator drones and missiles that, no matter how much the military tries to deny it, do not have the absolute ability to distinguish between suspected terrorists and innocents, and rain death upon one and all. That is not mere conjecture, those are the proven facts.

Is that what human rights are all about? Or does it even matter since those on the receiving end of those missiles and bombs are just those "other kinds" of people? This rapidly escalating use of drones is the perfect example of how American now believes it can operate in this world; this government makes its own rules and bends and breaks international laws as it sees fit.

Is there any way that this government can even begin to defend or justify these violations of human rights? Is this what America has now become? Once the most admired and respected nation it has now become the most feared military power in the world. America has now made the following statement a part of its national credo; "Don't do as I do, just do as I say."

Now let's turn to another important issue, the one dealing with the American people's rights and freedoms under the Constitution. It seems like the people of America don't comprehend the great extent to which their rights and freedoms have been restricted or entirely eliminated by legislation that has been enacted and put into practice by this government, its presidents and the Congress. There was the Patriot Act of 2001 that gives the government extensive powers to wiretap, have easy access to citizens' records, and the use of search warrants; this was followed by the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 that, in effect, eliminates habeas corpus and allows for indefinite military detention of anyone, including any American citizen, without charge or trial.

And then we have the final issue, the current deteriorating state of our democracy, the cornerstone of America; this government; of, by and for the people used to work in this nation and this society but, since our entry into the 21st century it has come under a massive attack by the masters of Corporatism who use vast sums of money to control the outcomes of our nation's elections. The richest corporations and CEO's are using their power and pervasive influence in these elections to assure that those that "they own" are reelected. These actions pose an extremely dangerous threat to our very frail democracy.

This deceitful, anti-democratic agenda seems to be working beautifully as several GOP controlled governorships and legislatures have enacted voter suppression legislation that, if allowed to be fully put into effect, will disenfranchise millions of voters in several key swing states because they do not have photo ID's, typically drivers' licenses. The nations of the world are witnessing the emergence of the real America as they watch the rapid dissolution of its famed democracy.

This assembled evidence represents concrete proof of how this country has now gained a solid reputation as one whose actions and behavior are exactly the opposite of those that it tries to project to the world. "It's not what you say, it's what you do." Or as some might put it, "America talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk." The world sees America for what it is, for what it has now become; a nation that still attempts to portray itself as the symbol of human rights, freedom and democracy, but one that has now forfeited all rights to that distinction.

#Michael Payne

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