Jimmy Carter: U.S. Under Obama Is A “Widespread Violator Of Human Rights”

From one Nobel Peace Prize winner to another.

No doubt further cementing his reputation as the least popular former President among former Presidents, Jimmy Carter is gaining attention now for a New York Times Op-Ed  in which he accuses the United States under President Obama of persistently violating human rights in the name of the War On Terror:

A former U.S. president is accusing the current president of sanctioning the “widespread abuse of human rights” by authorizing drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists.

Jimmy Carter, America’s 39 th president, denounced the Obama administration for “clearly violating” 10 of the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, writing in a New York Times op-ed on Monday that the “United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.”

“Instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends,” Carter wrote.

In the Op-Ed itself, Carter makes a case that we have heard before:

The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.

Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.

While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past.

(…)

In addition to American citizens’ being targeted for assassination or indefinite detention, recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications. Popular state laws permit detaining individuals because of their appearance, where they worship or with whom they associate.

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.

(…)

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.

Leaving aside Carter’s invocation of the Universal Declaration On Human Rights and his claptrap about “making the world safer,” there is a good point here that I doubt many will pay attention to, and that’s a comment coming from someone who is most definitely not a fan of James Earl Carter. Thanks to drone wars that end up killing civilians, or soldiers of ostensible allies, targeted assassinations of American citizens, warrantless wiretaps both legal and illegal, and a policy of rendition and detention that seems to stand for the proposition that we have the right to hold someone indefinitely just by labeling them a “terrorist” we’ve strayed quite far from the ideals that Republican and Democratic Presidents alike once said this nation adhered. In the process, we’ve arguably made it more difficult for us to stand as a credible critic of nations that actually do violate the rights of their citizens or the citizens of other nations. Moreover, as Jonathan Turley points out, in the name of the War On Terror we are now committing acts that would have been considered acts of war in a different time, and arguably still are. Perhaps some of these actions are necessary, maybe even wise, but for the most part they’ve been implemented without any real consideration of the consequences that might result from them further down the road.

There is, of course, another issues that these policies raise which Carter doesn’t touch upon, which is possibly even more important than the “international reputation” issue that concerns him so greatly. Over the past decade, the adoption of these policies has led to the amalgamation of even more power in the hands of the Executive Branch in general and the Presidency in particular. We now have a President who personally authorizes the targeting of people who will be killed by drone strikes using a list that he keeps to himself and on criteria that is disclosed to nobody. We have a President who has authorized the assassination of American citizens based on the determination by him and a few other people that said citizens are terrorists, and then acted in Court to deny any effort to subject that decision to judicial review. And, we have a President who authorizes actions that arguably acts of war against foreign powers with no public discussion as the Constitution would seem to require. This started under the Bush Administration, it’s been expanded under the Obama Administration, and you can guarantee that it will expand even further in the Administration that succeeds Obama, whether that happens in 2013 or 2017.

Interestingly enough, Carter never mentions Obama by name, or Bush for that matter, but it’s fairly obvious who he’s talking about. Unfortunately, he has been, as James Joyner described it, “a giant pain in the ass for his successors” often enough in the past that he’ll probably just be ignored this time.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Military Affairs, National Security, Politicians, Terrorism, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. I am willing to concede at this point that James was more right about the “third Bush term” than I wanted him to be.

    Especially if we get a health care rollback …

  2. Jeremy says:

    Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, eh?

    But it really does frighten me. While I’ve always tried to tone down those who were worrying about the oncoming fascist apocalypse, we are really entering an age when the US does not care about human rights, and this will disastrous for us all.

    Anyone fleeing to Canada?

  3. CB says:

    As an Obama voter in 08, and as someone who’s vote is based 90% on foreign policy, I can guarantee that I will not be voting for him again. Most definitely not what was expected.

    Unfortunately, he has been, as James Joyner described it, “a giant pain in the ass for his successors” often enough in the past that he’ll probably just be ignored this time.

    And for that, we should be ashamed.

  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Carter was an embarrassment over 30 years ago and since then he’s actually gotten worse.

    That aside, the following portion of the blog post I found to be noteworthy:

    Thanks to drone wars that end up killing civilians, or soldiers of ostensible allies, targeted assassinations of American citizens, warrantless wiretaps both legal and illegal, and a policy of rendition and detention that seems to stand for the proposition that we have the right to hold someone indefinitely just by labeling them a “terrorist” we’ve strayed quite far from the ideals that Republican and Democratic Presidents alike once said this nation adhered

    .

    Really? I think you need to review FDR’s internment camp program during WWII and the court cases that followed.

    There’s also the fact that applying a proper war moral compass to the 21st century’s war against terrorism is unsound both logically and practically.

    It used to be that we went to war, and fought against nations, whose soldiers wore military uniforms, and who fought against us on battlefields, under recognized rules of warfare. No longer. Al Qaeda is not a country. They don’t field armies or navies. Their disciples don’t wear military uniforms. They don’t meet us on proper battlefields. They’re terrorists. The rules of engagement are and need to be different. For obvious reasons. Although ironically enough those reasons apparently are not all that obvious to various segments of the chattering classes. That’s unfortunate. Hopefully it won’t become the death of us. Literally.

  5. bk says:

    @CB: Because, of course, foreign policy under a Romney administration would be far more humane.

  6. CB says:

    @bk:

    did i ever say i would vote for romney? his clown car foreign policy team would dial the crazy up to 11. im left wondering what options i really have.

  7. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Alternate title: Nobel Peace Prize Winner accuses fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner of widespread violations of human rights.

  8. al-Ameda says:

    So, the forced analogy of Carter to Obama is obviously false.

    He’s still bitter that his attempted desert helicopter rescue of the hostages in Iran failed, while Obama’s missions to take down Bin Laden and Qaddafi succeeded.

  9. al-Ameda says:

    @Jeremy:

    Anyone fleeing to Canada?

    All I know is that Vancouver B.C. is a wonderful place – whether you’re just visiting, or planning your exile. Excellent sushi in the Kitsilano neighborhood too.

  10. Septimius says:

    This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.

    There used to be a lot of dissent from principled civil libertarians. Those principles died on January 20, 2009. Now, our president personally acts as judge and jury and orders the execution of suspected terrorists from the comfort of the oval office. Where are all the principled civil libertarians now? Where are the cries about our constitution being shredded? Good for Jimmy Carter. He may be a jackass, but at least he’s consistent.

  11. Mikey says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Al Qaeda is not a country. They don’t field armies or navies. Their disciples don’t wear military uniforms. They don’t meet us on proper battlefields. They’re terrorists. The rules of engagement are and need to be different.

    This is true. The problem is how we’re dealing with it. There’s no legal framework–it’s all being done ad hoc and there’s no real oversight. Congress has completely abdicated its duty to craft legislation that would force accountability in the Executive Branch.

    What Obama is doing is entirely predictable, because a President will always take actions that extend and reinforce his power if he’s allowed to do so.

  12. Davebo says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Provided you have oodles of money and like the Japanese! For me, the fishing alone would be worth it.

  13. al-Ameda says:

    @Davebo:

    Provided you have oodles of money and like the Japanese! For me, the fishing alone would be worth it.

    When I lived in Seattle I used to go up to Vancouver often, it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. As is usually the case, nice lifestyle places are expensive paces.

  14. Carson says:

    “Go ahead. Make my day.”

  15. Carson says:

    “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead” (Admiral David Farragut)
    “No terms except unconditional surrender!” (General U.S. Grant)
    “My aim…was to make them fear us. Fear is the beginning of wisdom”
    General William Sherman

  16. bk says:

    @CB: Well, since you earlier stated that your vote is based 90% on foreign policy, it appears that you have answered your own question – unless you feel that Obama’s foreign policy amplifier goes up to 12.

  17. CB says:

    @bk:

    good point, but im leaning toward option C…staying home and digging a bomb shelter

  18. Dazedandconfused says:

    @CB:

    I feel your pain, but lessor of two evils is the way things are if one is to place real fates and real “humans” above rhetoric.

  19. TonyW says:

    At least Carter has the cajones to say it. He is likely the last progressive leader this country will ever have.