By Larry Jones
On December 10, people throughout the world observed the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed by the three-year-old United Nations in 1948. That visionary statement has been consistently ignored by its most prominent signatory, the United States. Here are some examples:
Just one day before the December 10 anniversary, the case of a Canadian citizen came before a federal appeals court in New York. Maher Arar had sought damages against the U.S. government for arresting him as he changed planes in at Kennedy International Airport on his way home from a vacation in Tunisia. Even though the Declaration of Human Rights states that any human being arrested has the right to an attorney and a fair trial, none was provided for Arar. Instead, in what has become known as “extraordinary rendition,” he was shipped off to Syria where he was viciously tortured.


The Declaration specifically states that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” a provision regularly and often broken by the current Bush regime. Arar’s case is still pending in the U.S., even though the Canadian government has found that he had no connection to any form of terrorism.
As this site has reported on regularly, the cases of inhuman torture as a result of the Bush war policies are overwhelming in their numbers and absolutely gut wrenching in their inhumanity. On December 11 a bipartisan Senate report resulting from nearly two years of study and released by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ari revealed that “senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques [read torture], redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees."
After outlining the kinds of torture authorized by the Bush regime, including forced nudity, painful stress positions, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and use of dogs, the report stated that: "Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.” Donald Rumsfeld, then Secretary of Defense, denied the report’s finding and said that it was the Senate committee which had strengthened the hand of the U.S.’s enemies.
In his 2006 book, Humanitarian Imperialism, French author Jean Bricmont denounces the use of the human rights pretext to justify deadly actions by countries like the U.S. against countries in the southern hemisphere. Of the Declaration of Human Rights he has said: “I defend the aspirations in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights of 1948. It contains a collection of economic, social, political and individual rights. The problem arises when lack of respect, real or presumed, serves to legitimize war, embargoes and other sanctions against a country and when human rights becomes the pretext for a violent assault on that country. Moreover it often happens that only part of the Declaration is cited. When people talk of human rights, economic and social rights are often considered relatively unimportant compared with individual and political rights.”
This emphasis by the powerful nations such as the U.S. on individual rights as opposed to economic and social rights has led to the downsizing on those very structures within the United Nations designed to address the latter. The U.N. Economic and Social Council which is supposed to promote economic rights and employment has seen much of its authority given to U.S.-controlled institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, whose strictures support America’s own geo-political needs. Their overarching thinking is that removing trade barriers and allowing capital accumulation by Western business will have a “trickle-down” effect on the world’s poor. However, the oppressed have been left holding an empty bag as their countries fall further and further into debt.
So not only has the U.S. observed but a few of the 30 articles of the Declaration of Human Rights, it has effectively undermined those aspects which would guarantee food and health, as in Article 25(1): “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care…”
Author and critic Noam Chomsky recently pointed out that ever since the Soviet Union could no longer be used as the all-weather excuse for U.S. military actions around the world, “humanitarian intervention” has become the new watch word. Chomsky writes that since “policy decisions substantially flow from institutional structures, and since these remain stable [including under President-elect Obama, LJ], examination of the record provides valuable insight into the ‘emerging norms’ and the contemporary world.” He then goes on to point out how, under the guise of doing good, the U.S. under its various presidents has carried out atrocious crimes which were justified as “protecting
the national interest.” (See
Included in “humanitarian interventions” to protect America’s “national interest” are such horrendous military actions as the genocide against indigenous Americans, dropping A-bombs on Japan killing hundreds of thousands of innocents, the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, the support of death-squad dictatorships in Central America, the deadly bombing of Panama’s slums while getting rid of President Manuel Noriega because he wouldn’t enthusiastically support the U.S. in its terror war against Nicaragua, the overthrow of Grenada because of its left-leaning government, the illegal invasion of Iraq sold to us with a pack of lies, and now the enlargement of the war against Afghanistan known for its massive killing of innocent civilians. This, of course, is merely a very small sample of the horrors committed by the U.S. in the name of “protecting the national interest.”
So what does “national interest” mean? It has always meant and still means using whatever means are necessary to guarantee the U.S. ruling class’s domination over its sources of wealth. Never mind that this has come at the cost of many millions of innocent lives and the ruination of third world economies. This won’t change in any significant way under Barack Obama.
On the December 12 airing of his PBS Journal, Bill Moyers discussed the miserable state of the economy with Emma Coleman Jordan, Professor of commercial law and economic justice at Georgetown University. Among other issues, they talked about the sit-in by the workers at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago after they were illegally laid off. They demanded that Bank of America, which had just received billions in bailout money, restore monies to the company, one of their creditors, so the workers could at least receive their back pay. Near the end, Moyers asked a question which today is on the minds of many.
BILL MOYERS: You have described a private sector in disarray and a public sector that's incompetent and out of touch. How do we not leave people feeling despair?
EMMA COLEMAN JORDAN: Well, the despair is going to be dissipated by action by citizens, like those people who went into the plant - Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago. People have got to stand up. They've got to demand accountability.

True. What kind of future we get is up to us!!




World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.