American political elites are completely unable to look themselves in the mirror and objectively examine their own actions.
The same is probably true for elites of most other countries, as well: It’s difficult — maybe impossible — to honestly examine your own history, and your current situation, without some sort of bias or whitewashing.
Whether this is because of blind patriotism or indoctrination is not always clear. But what is clear is that the US is far more diligent in examining the crimes of others than digging into the depths of its own wrongdoing.
The United States is quite complacent in its position as world lecturer and moral crusader: The US frequently chastises other countries for human rights abuses — accurately, in many cases — but they are very hesitant, even unwilling, to be introspective, to look at abuses committed by the self-proclaimed “Leader of the Free World” both at home and abroad.
Nowhere was this hesitance more clear than during the push for the release of the The Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture; a report which, while valuable, is only a tiny fraction of what could and should be released to the public, in this “free” and “democratic” society in which an informed public is supposedly important.
Further, the US is willing to turn a blind eye to abuses committed by allies; Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt being the most significant examples.
As such, it’s always interesting to get an outside perspective.
This rarely happens, as most countries are intimidated by US military power, thus unwilling to get into any kind of spat.
However, China, a US “rival”, just released a report calling the World’s Moral Beacon on this hypocrisy, shining a revealing and unpleasant light on the reality that the media and elected officials would like us to ignore.
This report was released as a response to the State Department’s annual report on the state of human rights around the world, initiating what Michael Forsythe, writing for The New York Times, called an “Annual Tit for Tat”.
Making their intentions clear from the start, the authors begin the report by immediately commenting on the hypocrisy of the US criticizing other nations for human rights abuses:
On June 25 local time, the State Department of the United States released its country reports on human rights practices once again, making comments on the human rights situations in many countries while showing not a bit of regret for or intention to improve its own terrible human rights record.
Plenty of facts show that, in 2014, the U.S., a self-proclaimed human rights defender, saw no improvements in its existent human rights issues, but reported numerous new problems. While its own human rights situation was increasingly grave, the U.S. violated human rights in other countries in a more brazen manner, and was given more “red cards” in the international human rights field.
Continuing in the Foreword, the authors summarize the many areas in which the United States has not lived up to its own high rhetorical standards, including the ever-present problem of police brutality, racial discrimination, the rights of women and children, income inequality, the rise of domestic terrorism due to “reckless neglect” by the government, and the decline of democracy due to the increased impact of money in politics.
Below are a few key excerpts from the rest of the report, separated by topic.
Police Brutality and Civil Rights
In the U.S., problems concerning respecting and protecting civil rights are severe. The nation is haunted by spreading guns, frequent occurrence of violent crimes, the excessive use of force by police that infringed on citizens’ personal rights, as well as wide criticism of illegal eavesdropping that violated citizens’ right of privacy…
Law enforcement authorities were run with a loose rein, with some even turning a blind eye to fugitives. Police officers were ignoring sex crimes on a regular basis. A report released in November by the inspector general of New Orleans found that of 1,290 sex crime calls for service assigned to five New Orleans police detectives from 2011 to 2013, 840 were designated as miscellaneous, and nothing at all was done (The New York Times, November 13, 2014)…
There was excessive use of violence by police. The Wall Street Journal reported on December 3, 2014, that many of the law enforcement agencies did not submit the statistics about killings by police when enforcing laws to the FBI. The report found at least 1,800 police killings took place in 105 police departments between 2007 and 2012. The Associated Press reported on December 7, 2014 that at least 400 deaths happened every year as a result of the law enforcement activities by the U.S. police officers, most of who [sic] were not prosecuted…
Money in Politics
Money is still a deciding factor for the U.S. politics. Total spending in the 2014 midterm races was projected to top 4 billion U.S. dollars nationwide, making it the most expensive midterm election in history (www.latimes.com, October 28, 2014). Outside groups with political agendas picked up a larger share of the bill. More money than ever in the midterm came from secret sources. The influence of average Americans on the election results diminished (www.usatoday.com, November 2, 2014). “K Street” in Washington, D.C. — located between Capitol Hill and the White House and known as a metonym for the country’s lobbing industry — became the fourth power center in the U.S. after administration, legislation and justice. Behind legalized lobbying was the political manipulation by money and capital. Unfettered corporate political donations became “legalized bribery” (www.usatoday.com, October 11, 2013)…
The voting rights of racial minorities and other groups are under suppression…
The American citizens have increasingly lost confidence in electoral politics. According to most polls, Americans approached the 2014 elections in a sour mood.
The Economy and Income Inequality
Despite the gradual recovery of the U.S. economy in 2014, unemployment and poverty still threatened the basic right of survival for the U.S. people. The living conditions for homeless people continuously deteriorated; the income and property gaps caused by distribution inequality continued to enlarge; ordinary people’s rights of health and education could not be well ensured as relative resources were more frequently used to serve the rich…
The income inequality has been continuously growing. Over the past decade, the incomes of the richest Americans have grown by 86 percent, while the incomes of everyone else have grown at just a little over six percent, according to media report (www.aljazeera.com, January 8, 2014). A Pew Research Center study showed that the percentage of people who classified themselves as middle class has shrunk to 44 percent in 2014 from 53 percent in 2008. At the same time, the study showed, those who classified themselves as lower- or lower-middle class has risen to 40 percent in 2014 vs. 25 percent in 2008 (www.usatoday.com, September 25, 2014). In 2013, the difference in income between the country’s rich and poor was the highest in almost 80 years (www.washingtonpost.com, September 2, 2014). In 2014, 65 percent of all Americans believed inequality was growing (www.pewtrusts.org, June 11, 2014)…
Racial discrimination has been a chronic problem in the U.S. human rights record. Facing discrimination in employment and payment, the ethnic minorities are trapped in graver poverty. In 2014, multiple cases of arbitrary police killing of African-Americans have sparked huge waves of protests, casting doubts on the racial “equality” in the U.S. and giving rise to racial hatred factors.
Racial bias in law enforcement and judicial system is very distinct. Compared with other ethnic groups, African-Americans are more likely to become victims of police shooting. Police killings of African-Americans during law enforcement have practically become “normal” in the U.S. According to an analysis of federally collected data, young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts — 21 times greater. The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that African-Americans, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police (www.propublica.org, October 10, 2014)…
Ethnic minorities are targeted in law enforcement sting operations. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives overwhelmingly targeted racial and ethnic minorities as it expanded its use of controversial drug sting operations. At least 91 percent of the people agents have locked up using those stings were racial or ethnic minorities, and nearly all were either black or Hispanic (www.usatoday.com, July, 20, 2014)…
Racial discrimination sows the seeds for race-related hate crimes. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of domestic hate groups rose from 602 in 2000 to 939 in 2013. An annual Justice Department survey of crime victims found that more than 293,000 hate crimes were committed in 2012. That’s 800 a day. Nearly 20 percent of the hate-crime perpetrators were 17 and younger (www.usatoday.com, April 16, 2014).
The Rights of Women and Children
The U.S. disregarded the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In the U.S., women’s susceptibility to poverty, workplace discrimination, domestic violence and sex harassment was worrying. The children’s rights to life and health were threatened under the pall of school violence, sex molestation, gun violence, and hazardous work environment.
A large number of women and children lived in poverty. According to statistics, about 42 million women (about one in three American women) and 28 million children lived in poverty or were right on the brink of it (www.time.com, January 13, 2014). One in 30 American children were homeless, and child homelessness increased in 31 states and the District of Columbia, according to a report released by the National Center on Family Homelessness (www.theguardian.com, November 17, 2014).
Women were faced with wage discrimination. Nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers were women, and these workers often got zero paid sick days. The average woman was paid 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, and that figure was much lower for African American and Latino women; African American women earned only 64 cents and Hispanic women only 55 cents for every dollar made by a white man (www.time.com, January 13, 2014). In virtually every job category, the average woman earned less than the average man. Even in those low-paid jobs that tend to be dominated by women, such as nurses, men earned more (www.thinkprogress.org, April 8, 2014).
US Crimes Overseas
In the field of international human rights, the U.S. has long refused to approve some core human rights conventions of the United Nations and voted against some important UN human rights resolutions. More than that, the U.S. continued to go even further to violate human rights in other countries, including infringing on the privacy of citizens of other countries with the overseas monitoring project, killing large number of innocent civilians of other countries in drone strikes, and raping and killing locals by U.S. soldiers garrisoned overseas.
The Central Intelligence Agency abused torture. As of December 2014, 136 prisoners remained locked up in the Guantanamo Bay military prison (www.latimes.com, December 8, 2014). As disclosed in the Senate Intelligence Committee report released on December 9, the CIA paid a contractor 80 million U.S. dollars to come up with ways to torture people. To acquire intelligence from suspects of terrorism and extremism, the CIA used brutal methods, such as sleep deprivation, waterboarding, long-term solitary confinement, slamming prisoners’ head against the wall, lashing, death threat and even the appalling “rectal rehydration” (www.intelligence.senate.gov, December 3, 2014).
Massive overseas surveillance program violated other countries’ sovereignty and civil rights…
Frequent use of drones producing massive civilian casualties in other countries. Statistics showed that as of November 24, 2014, U.S. drones claimed the lives of 1,147 people in attacks against 41 persons, which meant the death of 28 civilians including women and children to kill every ‘bad guy’ the U.S. went after (www.theguardian.com, November 14, 2014)…
Frequent violation of human rights by U.S. troops overseas. On July 25, 2014, two American soldiers based near the northern Italian town Vicenza, Gray Lamarcus and Ides McCough, were accused of raping and beating a six month pregnant Romanian woman (www.thedailybeast.com, July 25, 2014). On October 15, 2014, the Philippine police accused American marine Joseph Scott Pemberton of murdering a transgender (www.cbsnews.com, October 15, 2014).
To date, the U.S. still denies that the right of development is a human right. In September 2014, when a draft resolution on the right of development was tabled for a vote at the 27th session of the Human Rights Council, the U.S. once again was the only nation to vote against it (www.ohchr.org, adopted resolution A/HRC/RES/27/2).
I typically don’t like this kind of whataboutism, and I think China should focus on its own crimes rather than taking the time to condemn the crimes of others.
However, when the world is dominated by a rogue superpower which is unable to look itself in the mirror, and which anoints itself as the moral beacon of the world, I think it is justified to provide a kind of wake-up call — even though, in all probability, it will be ignored.
The message is essentially this: Don’t lecture others on human rights abuses when you’re not even making a substantive effort to fix your own. I think this is correct.
That is not to say that a given country cannot point out the abuses of other countries if abuses are taking place on their own soil, as there will always be problems even in the most well-behaved of nations.
But when a powerful country like the United States issues forceful condemnations of others while hesitating or even refusing to acknowledge their own crimes, let alone take action to mitigate them, a report like China’s is valuable.
If it’s bad for them, it’s bad for us, as well. This is a principle that the United States government must begin to recognize and act upon.