Volume 18 • Issue 27 | November 18 - 24, 2005

The Penny Post

The betrayal of American ideals

By Andrei Codrescu

When the U.S. had a foreign policy that included human rights, the world loved us. We were beloved everywhere in Eastern Europe where political dissenters had been imprisoned and tortured by the communist secret police. Our defense of human rights in Eastern Europe was responsible for bringing down the “evil empire,” not Ronald Reagan’s arms’ race with the U.S.S.R. The commie fiefdom collapsed from within because of the horrid way its governments treated their citizens. We gave those people hope of freedom from oppression and they believed us.

When Bill Clinton officially “decoupled” our foreign policy from human rights, he proclaimed for all the world that China and Saudi Arabia could go on imprisoning and torturing their people without any interference from us. Officially giving business priority over human beings was the first step in the ongoing betrayal of the American ideals that once made people love us.

Eastern Europeans continued to love us after the fall of the Berlin Wall because they still saw us as defenders of basic human rights. Romania, for instance, is one of the best friends the U.S. has had since 1989; it stood by us on Iraq, despite the disapproval of some of its European neighbors and allies. In former Soviet republics, especially the Ukraine, the U.S. is being supported and still admired because of its past defense of human rights. Nobody in Eastern Europe or the former U.S.S.R. seems to have heard that American policy has been “decoupled” from human rights. But when George W. Bush praised what he called “the new Europe,” he didn’t praise the recently liberated countries of the old “evil empire” for their liberal constitutions and laws against human rights abuses (modeled, incidentally, on U.S. laws), but for their support of his Iraqi adventure. He praised them for believing what turned out to be lies.

And then came the revelation – the New Leak!— that the U.S is operating torture camps in Eastern Europe for captured terrorists. If this is true, it is horrifying. If this is true, not only is the United States no longer interested in human rights abroad, we are deliberately violating our own principles of human dignity in the very places where they meant the most. Has the Bush gang placed its torture camps in Eastern Europe because it is employing the torturers of the old communist secret police? They did know their jobs, after all, and they have been unemployed. For everyone else, the gang in power seems determined to waste every shred of good will capital acquired since the end of the Cold War, a capital that is a thing of the past, like the budget surpluses of the 90s. When nobody loves us anymore, will even we remember America’s original principles? Or will they be preserved, along with torture, only in the memories of Eastern Europeans?

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