Former Vice President Dick Cheney may have expressed the pervasive American double standard on human rights best during a NBC "Today" show interview when host Matt Lauer asked if Cheney's support for waterboarding would carry over to its use by a foreign adversary against an American suspected of spying or caught conducting a covert operation.
"We probably would object to it," responded Cheney, "on the grounds that we have obligations towards our citizens and that we do everything we can to protect our citizens."
As for how that attitude matched up with his enthusiastic support for waterboarding detainees in the "war on terror," Cheney explained that "we weren't dealing with American citizens in the enhanced interrogation program." He then added, "the fact is, it worked."
In other words, one set of rules on torture applies to the United States and another set applies to the rest of the world, with gradations depending on how close a country or an individual is to the United States. The only consistency is the hypocrisy, and the only measure is whether something "worked."
Similar double standards were also on display this past week with disparate attitudes applied toward "terrorism" depending on who is doing the terrorizing.
On Friday, President Barack Obama announced the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen of Yemeni extraction who had turned on the United States and joined with al-Qaeda operatives to plot attacks against Americans.
Because Awlaki allegedly collaborated in terrorist attempts to kill Americans, including the botched "underwear" bombing over Detroit on Christmas 2009, he was hunted down and killed by a CIA drone attack with no due process beyond Obama putting Awlaki's name on a "capture-or-kill" list.
However, also last week, with virtually no attention in the U.S. news media, Venezuela expanded on its appeal to the United States to extradite CIA-trained Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles to face charges of not only masterminding the mid-air bombing of a Cubana airliner in 1976 but engaging in acts of torture and other crimes while serving in a Venezuelan intelligence agency four decades ago.
The United States has been harboring Posada since 2005, with the Bush administration and now the Obama administration refusing to take action to ensure that Posada faces justice for these grave crimes. Instead of extraditing Posada to Venezuela, the U.S. government has bungled minor cases against him for illegal entry and perjury.
As a result, Posada, now 83, has gotten to live out his golden years in relative comfort in Miami supported by the influential Cuban-American community, much as his terrorist co-conspirator Orlando Bosch did.
In being spared punishment for the 1976 Cubana Airline bombing, which killed 73 people including the Cuban youth fencing team, the pair also enjoyed the invaluable assistance of the Bush Family, including George H.W. Bush, Jeb Bush and George W. Bush.
Venezuela's new extradition request results from investigations into political repression from the 1960s to the 1980s, including thousands of kidnappings, "disappearances" and acts of torture.
Posada has been implicated in some of these human rights crimes because -- after receiving CIA training for covert operations aimed at Fidel Castro's Cuba -- Posada in 1967 went to work for the feared Venezuelan intelligence agency, known as DISIP, where he became chief of operations.
One recently revealed case implicating Posada involved two women -- Brenda Hernandez Esquivel and Marlene del Valle Esquivel -- whose home in Maracay was raided in 1973 by state security agents searching for "subversive elements."
In the raid, three men were killed, one after opening the door and two others after surrendering, the complaint alleges. Later, the women were taken to DISIP's local headquarters where they say they were abused by Posada, who was known as "Commissioner Basilio."