America’s Diminished Moral Authority

By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
February 2, 2004

There was a time when America could lead the world with her steadfast support for human rights. Even though there may be differing opinions, America did play large role in shaping the world so that all the nations of our world could abide by the international norms and laws. The dictators, the undemocratic military junta or warlords would pay heed if Washington had had taken notice of their atrocious deeds. Now things have changed so much so that the human rights violators, more or less, laugh at America’s call for democratic reform or preserving human rights. They ask in mocking tone, what moral authority America has raising these “daring” questions?

When Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen was sent to Syria for further “investigation”, for thorough beating and crushing of his bones by two inch thick shredded cable for no apparent legal reasons, held in captive for close to a year in grave like cell, does it help “when, as in a November speech, President Bush eloquently denounces the Syrian government for leaving its people "a legacy of torture, oppression, misery and ruin"? [1]

And then when the press notices Maher Arar issue at long last, the Bush administration said that they got “assurance” from the same “oppressive” Syrian regime. Isn’t this the clear violation of International treaties that U.S. is signatory of which prohibit sending anyone to another nation knowing perfectly well in advance that that person would be subjected to malicious torture by the disreputable foreign government? [2]

The U.S. government, the Justice Department leaded by Ashcroft is doing all they can to invalidate Maher Arar’s claim of innocence, bolstering their emphasis that they had not transgressed by sending Maher Arar to Syria. They maintain that Maher Arar was a member of the notorious Al Qaeda network, that the proof the U.S. government holds against Arar cannot be presented in public court due to its “sensitive classified” nature of information.

And Arar said, "I've said many times, I have nothing to hide. If the government has anything against me, they should show it in court." [3]

Does a private citizen still possess the right to be subject to fair and impartial justice? Isn’t this too convenient, as it has always been for the despotic regimes of the past and present from faraway lands, to suppress civilian’s rights by decreeing the merits of national security or “patriotic” vroom?

Azerbaijan government is notorious in detaining dissident activists without trial or formal charges for indefinite period. The other day, the U.S. State Department boldly asked the Azerbaijanis to either charge their dissidents or release them following the rule of law.

Who are you kidding with? This is the tone that the Azerbaijani reporter used replying back to the U.S. State department’s deflated puritanical plea. The reporter asked with equally bold vigor: Does this request “applied to the detainees in Guantanamo Bay or just to Azerbaijan”? [1]

Did the State Department have any response to that lawful question? Not at all. “When Azerbaijan came up at the department briefing the next day, the "charge or release" formulation was dropped.” [1]

Agreed that there are palpable fear from the maniac terrorists whose hatred filled messages and actions allude to boundless horror. Terrorism is not an abstract issue anymore. It is a real problem. It is a problem that is getting plenty of ammunition by the constant erosion of civil and human rights around the world, including in the occupied Palestinian territory held by Israel for decades of impunity.

And there are despotic, disguised brutal dictators in the Arab and other parts of the world, who are able to utilize the same Washington’s absence from moral authority artifice to subdue their restless populace from asking for democratic reform.

Terrorists are not from the planet mars. They are getting plenty of sympathetic gestures, material support from clandestine groups, and the lack of moral authority of the world body has become one of the largest factors in the disastrous failure of winning the hearts and minds of very people from whom discontents, desperation that the terrorists exploit in their endless recruiting process.


1. Tom Malinowski, “Absent Moral Authority”, Washington Post, February 2, 2004.

2. “Mr. Arar’s Lawsuit”, Washington Post, February 2, 2004.

3. Graham Fraser, “I want to be able to clear my name”, Toronto Star, February 1, 2004.

4. Ian James, “Guantanamo Tribunals Questioned”, Boston Globe, February 2, 2004.


Mahbubul Karim (Sohel) is a freelance writer. His email address is: