Monday, June 25, 2012

Jimmy Carter's Challenge to Obama

In today's NYT, an op-ed from former president Jimmy Carter that's reminiscent of a phrase Mr. Obama likely knows from playing hoops:

In your face.

To quote:

Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.

These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.

Meanwhile, the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, now houses 169 prisoners. About half have been cleared for release, yet have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom. American authorities have revealed that, in order to obtain confessions, some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of “national security.” Most of the other prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either.

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.

As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years.

Does Mr. Carter specifically call out Obama?


Is Mr. Carter himself blameless on the human rights score?

No. Right up to his overthrow in 1979,  Iran's Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi could count on the stalwart support of the Carter White House, even as the shah's SAVAK secret police was incarcerating, torturing, and "disappearing" ant-shah dissenters.

But as Glenn Greenwald (in his own encomium to both Carter's and Misha Glenney's NYT ope-ds earlier today at Salon), Mr. Carter is the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize, and did a hell of a lot more to earn that did the new shiny-bright Mr. Obama early in his presidency.

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