27 June 2012

Jimmy Carter, drone attacks and moral authority

Jimmy Carter was, in the opinion of this non-American, one of the better presidents the United States has had in recent history. Americans didn't agree of course, and dumped him after one term, but his record speaks in his favour. And nowhere, does it speak more eloquently than on the subject of human rights.

As governor of Georgia, he was the first statewide office holder in the Deep South to state publicly that racial discrimination had no place in the future of the state and went on to appoint many African Americans to state boards and offices. Although once a supporter of the death penalty, he became a staunch opponent and is now known for his outspoken opposition. Recently, he has expressed the view that the Democratic Party should be more pro-life, even though as president he found it difficult to uphold Roe v. Wade because of his strong Christian beliefs. He is a man who wrestles with moral issues and has the courage to change his mind as a result.

After leaving the presidency, he founded the Carter Center to advance human rights and alleviate unnecessary human suffering, and in 2002 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work "to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development," the only president to receive the prize for work done after leaving office.

This is a man whose voice carries moral authority and he recently used that authority to denounce the Obama administration for sanctioning the “widespread abuse of human rights” by authorizing drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists. He accused the administration of violating 10 of the 30 articles of  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and declared that the “United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.” Not stopping there, he criticized the government for failing to close Guantanamo and for “unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications.”

Condemnation of a sitting Democratic president by a former Democratic president is very serious criticism indeed, and one hopes that Barack Obama will listen and rethink his kill lists and his assassinations. If he does, he may return some moral authority to the Democratic Party ... and to his country.

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