Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Setting a Bad Example

Amnesty International rips into America's human rights example, saying "When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a license to others to commit abuse with impunity."

There is a grain of truth to this. We've seen all too often nations with abysmal human rights records quickly discovering that if they say "war on terror," we'll excuse virtually any atrocity. The Chinese have done it in their Western Provinces, the Russians have done in Chechnya, and let's not even talk about our deal with the Uzbekistan government (Obsidian Wings has the line there). The point is, we are rapidly reaching a point where law is irrelevant. I think much of International Law is crap, to be honest. Any system of legal guidelines which says that stopping a genocide in Kosovo was illegal can frankly go to hell, in my opinion. But we can't just chuck out the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Conventions, and our own constitution, and expect other nations and groups to listen to us when we (half-heartedly) tell them to respect the "rule of law." It doesn't work.

To be clear, Amnesty is definitively NOT saying the US is the worst human rights violator in the world. That would be delusional, what with North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Belarus, etc etc to choose from. But none of those countries are seen as examples by the rest of the global community. For better or for worse, the US is a beacon. Other countries look to us to understand what freedom and democracy means. That is a privilege that the US has earned over years of being the world's most consistent shining light for humanity. But it comes with a heavy responsibility, to conduct ourselves within the most scrupulous ethical guidelines, to not take the easy way out, to try an elevate the status of moral behavior around the world rather than depressing it and/or trying to get away with the absolute bare minimum. When the world sees America the Free locking up persons in isolated detention camps with no trials, no attorneys, and no rights, is it any wonder that they go back and do the same?

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