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America's Moral Deficit

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Trita Parsi begins his 2/27/08 opinion piece in the Inquirer titled 'Negotiating with Iran without Betraying Human Rights' by slapping the wrist of the current administration for its "apparent disregard for the expressed wishes of Iranian human-rights defenders".

That warning may have fallen on some sympathetic ears even as early as six years ago. But unfortunately that is no longer the case. Once the undisputed global champion on human rights, the U.S. today is a country with monumental problems of its own where its activities are increasingly viewed by the international community as interference in their internal affairs.

Its reprehensible record has been harshly criticized on numerous occasions by many rights organizations including the U.N. Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). On a session that concluded in Geneva on 7/18/06, the committee members pressured the United States for answers on the following issues:

  • The sentencing of children to life without parole and the disproportionate incarceration of minorities;
  • The militarization of the border;
  • The failure to prevent human rights violations and respond in a non discriminatory manner to Hurricane Katrina;
  • The failure to end racial profiling practices, specifically the profiling of South Asian convenience store employees in Georgia;
  • Warrantless spying on ordinary Americans;
  • The abuse of women in prison; and
  • The indefinite detention, rendition and torture of non-citizens. 

Ann Beeson, Director of the ACLU's Human Rights Program was quoted as stating that "the review by the Human Rights Committee was a stark and all too accurate condemnation of the state of rights in America." A copy of ACLU's report to the HRC, Dimming the Beacon of Freedom: U.S. Violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights can be viewed here.

The next president of the United States should recognize the necessity of reducing tensions with Tehran through dialog, but restoring America's own appalling human rights record will go a long way in redeeming the credibility and the moral authority it so desperately needs to make diplomacy work with Iran or any other nation.

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Daniel M Pourkesali is a Project Manager with an Aerospace company in Northern Virginia specializing in development and manufacturing of flight dynamics, engineering and control systems.

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