A Second Chance on Human Rights – NYTimes.com

The human rights terrain changed over the last four years, but there appears to be more for the US to do, according to Eric L. Lewis (and its not going to happen, according to Benjamin Wittes):

Yet when it comes to human rights and security, Mr. Obama has become trapped by his instinctive distaste for political combat. He backed off, under pressure, from his pledge to close Guantánamo. He allowed Congress to obstruct his plans to move detainees to the United States, even when their innocence was beyond doubt. He reversed himself on trying terror suspects in civilian courts. He embraced the principle of indefinite detention without trial, albeit with enhanced procedural safeguards. And he expanded the use of drone strikes, including the targeted killing of American citizens, without accountability or oversight.

via A Second Chance on Human Rights – NYTimes.com.

Not everyone agrees with this premise.  Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International, sees Obama as a disappointment, his policy requiring a “reset.”


8 thoughts on “A Second Chance on Human Rights – NYTimes.com”

  1. Successes for human rights domestically have outshined the one spotlighted human rights internationally of terrorist and related terrorist detentions. Some may blame a lack of transparency within the Obama administration but there is information proving a shift in ideology since Obama’s first election. In 2007, Obama wrote in an article:

    “to build a better, freer world, we must first behave in ways that reflect the decency and aspirations of the American people. This means ending the practices of shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, of detaining thousands without charge or trial, of maintaining a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law.”

    Recently, “The administration has declared any man killed by a drone to be an enemy terrorist, and defends such killings regardless of resulting civilian casualties.” I can admit some successes but there are an equal number of failures, such as Guantanamo Bay, which should receive more attention. In Pakistan and Yemen, citizens once against terrorism are now sympathizers as they face the risk from drones daily. Why do issues like these not receive the attention that other human rights issues receive?

  2. Of the four human rights issues that are listed in this article, the most troubling to me is the ongoing drone war in Yemen and Pakistan. I find it difficult to understand the passive acceptance of executive assassinations in a country wherein so many profess a belief in “limited government”. I agree with the author of the article that oversight and accountability need to be introduced into any drone use.

    Moreover, the use of drones outside of the rule of law is establishing a troubling precedent for nations “unfriendly” to the United States. If the United States can use drones to assassinate militants in Yemen and Pakistan what is to stop Iran or China from using drones against people they consider to be terrorists?

    Here is an article in the NY Times about the human cost of air attacks:


    And one about possible testing by China of armed drones:


    And an article about Iranian drone technology and Hezbollah:


  3. Indeed, President Obama should realize that he is in a position to decide what kind of American legacy the U.S. will leave in the history of human rights. According to a study published recently by Stanford University and New York University, when civilians are killed or injured the US rarely admits it, and “there is still no official acknowledgement that a drone strike on a tribal assembly last March killed about 45 people.” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-19842410) “Once people are dead, the US doesn’t try to work out who was a civilian,” one British researcher said in this article. Perhaps the administration and the CIA will be able to justify their decisions to launch drone strikes to areas determined to be housing terrorists or millitants. But totally neglecting the aftermath consequences and refusing to make honest studies that could surely enhance U.S’s capacity to launch more effective attacks against threat to national security- this is neither humane nor reasonable. As Leah has mentioned, in a bigger picture it is better to give more attention to different aspects of human rights issues as they seem to be intensively intertwined with US relationship with the Muslim world.

  4. The Obama administration has not only the opportunity to reshape a legacy of human rights policy, but it has the responsibility to represent the American people and values in the international community. Recently, Russia has held a conference condemning the U.S. for human rights violations. From child abuse and the KKK to Guantanamo and drone strikes, Russian officials have tried to make it clear that they are watching the U.S.:

    “They criticize and judge everyone except themselves. We think the US should not try to monopolize the role of leader, teacher, and mentor in the field of human rights,” Mr. Dolgov says. “If they want to do this, they should be aware that they are also being monitored.” (http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2012/1024/Russian-report-criticizes-US-on-human-rights-US-responds-bring-it-on).

    I’m not saying we need to kowtow to the human rights standards of nations such as Russia, but we are being watched by the nations of the world. What we do or don’t do, impacts the international standards of human rights and can help or hinder our goals for peace, security, and democracy.

  5. “That a second chance is not about doing the same mistakes again but about learning the lessons and trying again, harder, with a new vision.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dominique-de-villepin/obama-second-chance_b_2088204.html. Now that Obama was re-elected is the extra time that he has to get things done that wasn’t done during his term. The new America will be an America without majority, this means an America with a balance, that moves forward, but even more importantly, that moves together. It is a change in many aspects of the policies, however, Villepin argues that there is a bigger change to be made. America’s, Europe’s and China’s choices must be the cornerstones of a major global choice between anarchy or common good : this means rebalancing globalization, defining institutions for a worldwide governance and tackling the common global challenges of this century, for Latin America, for Africa, for South-East Asia.

  6. In May 2010 after the attempted Times Square bombing the Department of Homeland Security informed New York officials that grants to the city were cut 27 percent for mass transit security and 25 percent for port security. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “For the Obama administration to announce these cuts two weeks after the attempted Times Square bombing shows they just don’t get it and are not doing right by New York City on anti-terrorism funding.”

    Over the past year the administration has repeatedly emphasized that “the tide of war is receding” and that “it’s time to do some nation-building here at home.” Here are some news headlines to review:

    “The Obama administration notified Congress on Friday that it intends to give Egypt’s new government an emergency cash infusion of $450 million.”

    “The Obama administration has released details of a plan to infuse another $300 million into West Bank and Gaza construction projects, spending it deems critical toward attaining the “success of a future Palestinian state.”

    “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday announced $45 million in additional aid for Syrian opposition activists, the latest U.S. push for influence in a civil war that’s raged beyond the international community’s control.”

    I am going to limit my words here. My main point is that in a time of global challenges and fiscal pressures, we will have to pick our investments and “interventions” carefully. We must not fool ourselves into wishful thinking.

    Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/obama_bombing_attempt_nyc_anti_terror_aP3bWkcJDfhMCrks0MNrqO



  7. This is one of my favorite arguments detailing President Obama’s record on human rights issues like Guantanamo Bay and the Drone war. I really believe that closing Guantanamo bay’s military prison and being seen as a global human rights leader again is critical to stopping terrorist recruits and providing security to our country. I was on my mission when congress blocked the president’s plans to close Guantanamo, but I think it’s extremely important that Congress and the president work together to move past this ugly stain on American foreign policy.

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