Former President Jimmy Carter urged the United States to regain moral leadership in its foreign policy, writing in a New York Times op-ed Monday that the U.S. “is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.”
The former Democratic president’s op-ed came on the heels of rising criticisms of the U.S. drone program after a New York Times article explored the methodology behind the attacks and other outlets questioning official civilian death tolls.
Carter criticized the U.S. drone program as “only the most recent disturbing proof” of the human rights violations committed by the U.S. Revelations that the program both kills innocent civilians and targets areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are declared war zones only in a broad reading of a post-9/11 U.S. authorization for force demonstrates the weakening of “basic rules of law and principles of justice.” Carter articulated the shift in U.S. foreign policy demonstrated by the drone program:
The [United Nations Declaration of Human Rights] has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs. It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’ [...]
These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.
Carter added that, amid the Arab Sping’s upheaval, “the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Instead, he writes, “America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.”
Last week, the U.N. official dealing with state executions submitted a report to the Human Rights Council urging the U.S. to lift the veil of secrecy around the program, in order to ensure that the strikes comply with international law. Despite evidence of the Obama administration’s use of drones, the administration has only acknowledged the existence of the program once, in an April 29 speech by top counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan.