Friday, 30 May 2008

End Our Rogue Nation Status!

Over one hundred nations agreed this week to outlaw cluster bombs. But along with Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel, the U.S. opted out of the agreement. These munitions infamously kill and maim disproportionate numbers of non-combatants, and are prone to leave behind live fragments which can detonate months and years later.

In yet another embarrassing break from an international movement toward a saner and more humane consensus, our government has chosen to defend the indefensible, and support the manufacture of weapons primarily used by our military and those of the other holdout nations. Whether on banning torture, rights of habeus corpus, or actions in response to global warming, this administration again thumbs it nose at international attempts to address serious issues of human rights with common sense agreements.

We have become one of those rogue nations we claim to oppose.

With respect to torture and global warming at least, there is good reason to hope that the next administration, whether led by Obama or McCain, will steer us back toward the mainstream of the community of nations. This has nothing to do with liberal vs. conservative arguments, but rather with common decency. The rule of law, whether it be state, national, or international, best serves us when abhorrent extremes are marginalized. Such laws and treaties need not be perfect to have some positive impact. Sure, some of the signatories to these agreements do so only for propaganda purposes, but that's no reason to oppose them. In fact, by being on record, nations may held to account later when their actions do not match their commitments.

Though some of his more recent votes have been disappointing, McCain has been outspoken in the past in opposition to the Bush administration's relaxations of the prohibitions against torture. We can hope that should he become Commander in Chief he would be truer to his earlier sentiments and move us toward a more enlightened foreign policy.

Disappointingly however, both McCain and Clinton voted against an unsuccessful Feinstein amendment in 2006 which aimed to limit the deployment of cluster munitions in proximity to civilian populations. Obama voted for the amendment. If our government's voice joins the majority strongly in support of banning such capriciously destructive weaponry, one can imagine the pressure on other holdout nations to join such treaties would be greatly increased.