Today is International Human Rights Day, and it’s a sad day for America.
A sad day because George Bush has so tarnished the reputation of this country, which was one of the prime movers behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A sad day because it comes upon the heels of the disclosure that the CIA destroyed tapes of its torturing of detainees. But let’s not kid ourselves here, or engage in nostalgia.
There were no good old days of the CIA, at least not when it comes to honoring human rights. Long before the reign of Bush and Cheney, the CIA was teaching and practicing torture all over the world, from Brazil and Argentina to El Salvador and Guatemala and all the way over to the Congo, Laos, Vietnam, and the Philippines. But what is shocking about the Bush and Cheney is just how brazen and sweeping their claims are. They go up to Capitol Hill and plead for the leeway to engage in what Cheney delicately calls “advanced interrogation techniques.” They go into the Supreme Court and argue that noncitizens and citizens alike have no habeas corpus rights and can be detained indefinitely. And Bush goes on TV to say that he’s spied on Americans without warrants, and that he’s held detainees in secret prisons around the world. All of these acts are an offense to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which we’re supposed to be celebrating today.
Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Articles 6-11 guarantee due process rights and a fair trial to every person. The Bush-Cheney junta has made a mockery of these articles.
What’s more, the United States is not living up to its obligations under the Declaration to guarantee economic and social rights, as Anuradha Mittal has pointed out in an op-ed for the Progressive Media Project. She cites Article 25, which says that all people have “the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being” of themselves and their families, “including food, clothing, housing, medical care, and necessary social services.” She notes that “nearly 35.5 million Americans, of which 12.5 million are children, went hungry last year.” Then there are the 47 million Americans without health insurance. And the millions of immigrants who are being denied necessary social services. These, too, are violations of the International Declaration of Human Rights. May the day come—and may it come soon—when America can actually celebrate this day without being a hypocrite.