On April 19, the U.S. Department of State released its 36th annual "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices," which provides official commentary on the current state of human rights in 199 different countries and regions. On April 21, the State Information Center of China released its 2012 "Human Rights Record of the United States," which examined human rights issues using detailed data and facts.
In comparing U.S. commentary about human rights in other countries with its own domestic human rights situation, it is easy to see how U.S. beliefs about human rights are narrow-minded and have led to serious negative effects.
First, the U.S. has focused too much on libertarian ideals, while simultaneously ignoring the impact of individual liberty on the rights of other citizens. The growing number of citizens with firearms, for instance, has caused almost 100,000 deaths each year. In 2012, for example, the number of casualties that resulted from a school shooting in Oakland, California and similar incidents shocked the world. However, the issue of gun control in the U.S. still has difficulty making any substantial progress. In two different cases, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that local and state gun control laws were unconstitutional.
Second, the one-sided emphasis on civil and political rights has ignored the protection of economic, social and cultural rights. The U.S. government has yet to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which has already been signed by 160 countries throughout the world. In the U.S., almost 46 million people are living below the federal poverty level, and almost 9 million people are unemployed. The U.S. is also one of the few developed Western nations that does not provide universal health coverage for its citizens.
Third, this one-sided emphasis on rights also ignores real issues. In the 2012 U.S. presidential election, for example, several Asian-American voters encountered obstacles to voting and were subjected to discrimination. The special rapporteur for the U.N. Human Rights Council accused the U.S. of failing to ensure that African-Americans and Latino-Americans were able to fully exercise their right to vote. Likewise, current African-American unemployment rates are twice as high as those of whites, African-American median household income is less than 60 percent of the equivalent income of whites, and African-American poverty rates are three times as high as those of white people. American women's wages are only 77 percent of those of men, black women make 62 percent of what black men make and Latino women only make 54 percent of what Latino men make. The Muslim population accounts for less than 1 percent of the total U.S. population, but 14 percent of religious discrimination suits involve Muslims, making up 25 percent of workplace religious discrimination. An online film that insulted the prophet of Islam has also triggered a wave of Muslim protests throughout the world.
Fourth, the U.S. maintains a double standard with its viewpoints on human rights while bashing the human rights of citizens of other countries. After the end of the Cold War, for instance, the U.S. became the country to have declared the most wars. U.S. troops in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries have caused countless deaths of innocent civilians, not including the number of corpses burned or religious desecrations. In Iraq, after prominent U.S. usage of white phosphorous bombs and uranium during the Iraq War, infant birth defect rates have increased substantially. The U.S also refused to comply with the provisions of the Geneva Conventions in reference to the rights of prisoners of war, and it continues to hold 171 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay without trial, torturing them by a variety of methods. The U.S. military also has a track record of raping local women, which has triggered anti-U.S. protests.
Finally, the U.S. accepts as the sole criterion only its own standards and systems for the protection of human rights, ignoring the economic, political, social and cultural differences that exist in other countries. This shows a lack of respect for other countries' freedom of choice in protecting human rights. Thanks to its leadership role in the international community, the U.S. is able to throw unwarranted accusations at the human rights situations of other countries but refuses to join U.N. organizations like the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, among others. In 2012, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution for development rights, and the U.S. was the only country to vote against it.
The U.S. government's intolerant view toward human rights not only makes its citizens blind to their own domestic human rights situation, but also leads it to arrogantly critique human rights in other countries, with disastrous consequences to the state of international human rights.