The United States is now being harshly criticized for human rights abuses by many of the same countries that the U.S. itself has criticized in the past for human rights abuses. Nations such as Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran have all received criticism of their own for human rights abuses, but they jumped on the opportunity to blast the U.S. for the same thing following an official Senate Intelligence Committee report revealed that the CIA had used controversial interrogation methods that were tantamount to torture. The report also found that the CIA lied about the effectiveness of methods deemed questionable, greatly inflating the extent of reliable information obtained from these methods of interrogation. President Obama argued that the report had seriously compromised America’s image and standing around the world. CIA Director John Brennan admitted that his agency had indeed made mistakes and was learning from them, but argued that using the controversial methods had nevertheless proven effective in obtaining key information that ultimately protected Americans.
The condemnation for human rights abuses by the U.S. from around the world was particularly strong with nations that have been criticized by the U.S. for human rights violations including, but not limited to, China. According to the Chinese Xinhua state news agency, in apparent anticipation of the report that disclosed what was considered torture by American officials, released a scathing 500-page report with the provocative title, “How Long Can the US Pretend to be a Human Rights Champion?” It suggested that the U.S. is neither a real role model for the world to follow, nor a credible judge of human rights violations for the rest of the world, and it urged the U.S. to focus efforts on taking care of its own affairs and to stop pointing fingers at other nations and leave alone to take care of their own internal matters. Hong Lei, China’s Foreign Minister, also used the opportunity to declare that China is a strong opponent of torture, and that the U.S. should use this opportunity of the Senate Intelligence Committee report to give some serious thought about its practices and values and, ultimately, to make some changes.
Russia has made a habit of trying to deflect criticism leveled on it by the United States by pointing out what it considers inconsistencies and hypocrisy by the American government. Earlier this year, it dismissed criticism of its involvement in Ukraine by pointing out the American invasion of Iraq a decade ago that went against the wishes of much of the rest of the world, and did not have the backing of the United Nations (U.N.). Russia used this opportunity to launch criticism on the United States that is similar to that which it has itself received from the U.S. in the past.
In 2010, the Magnitsky Act was passed in the United States, punishing Russians involved in human rights abuses, and both the U.S. and U.N. issued scathing reports of human rights violations in Russia in 2012. The Russian Foreign Ministry responded to this report by strongly condemning what it considered systematic human rights abuses practiced by American officials. The ministry’s commissioner for human rights, Konstantin Dolgov, suggested that the report’s findings served as a shock, and suggested that most of the information was still being withheld from the public. He asked human rights organizations around the world to apply strong pressure on Washington to release more about its controversial interrogation techniques. He also echoed Putin’s arguments rejecting notions of American exceptionalism, suggesting that these allegations of abusive interrogation methods were not consistent with claims from many Americans that serves as a model for democracy and human rights around the world.
According to a twitter account by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iran’s leader also blasted the U.S. following the release of the report, suggesting that Americans should be ashamed of these revelations of torture, and suggesting that the American government had become a symbol of tyranny against humanity. He also went on to claim that the U.S. government debased and lied to their own people. The Iranian Fars News Agency was also highly critical of the allegations, and insinuated that this was just the most recent link in a long chain of similar human rights abuses that included dropping the atomic bomb on Japan and using Agent Orange in Vietnam.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry openly questioned why the U. N. issued harsh allegations of human rights violations inside of that country, while turning a blind eye to what it called torture practices by the American CIA. It also mentioned the racial protests that have taken place in the U.S. when two police officers were not indicted during separate incidents that resulted in loss of life.
Many of these criticisms from the various nations expressed cynicism about how and why this report came out, suggesting that it was used merely for leverage in the political tug of war between Democrats and Republicans, but that the end result would be no charges or indictments of any potentially guilty parties. For its part, the U.N. was not entirely silent in the wake of the report. Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said that there needed to be some measure of accountability within the United States.
Numerous other nations around the world are taking this opportunity to go ahead and condemn the U.S. for human rights abuses with these recent revelations of torture by the CIA. Much of the media editorials in western Europe suggested that the U.S. can no longer consider itself a model for freedom around the world, although not all of the press coverage was entirely condemnatory. According to an editorial for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, this report was a positive step, and it was suggested that the U.S. needed such a public airing of its dirty laundry in order to restore the credibility that it had lost during the Bush administration.
By Charles Bordeau
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