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Exceptionalism Again: The Bush Administration, the “Global War on Terror” and Human Rights

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 August 2010

Extract

When former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, gave his farewell address in December 2006, he expressed his dismay at the Bush administration's conduct during its anti-terrorist campaign. The United States had given up its vanguard role in the promotion of human rights, he averred, and appeared to have abandoned its ideals and principles. There have been many statements similar to this one made in the period since September 2001. Even close allies, such as the British government, for example, have called for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility on the grounds that, as a symbol of injustice, it had tarnished the United States as a “beacon of freedom, liberty and justice.”

Type
Part IV. Law, War, and Human Rights
Copyright
Copyright © the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois 2008

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References

1. Secretary General, Kofi Annan, Harry S. Truman Library, at http://www.un.org/apps/sg/sgstats.asp?nid=2357 (11 Dec. 2006); statement by the UK Attorney General, “UK told US won't shut Guantanamo” at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4759317.stm (11 May 2006).

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5. On different rules, seeReisman, W. Michael who argues that America's role as the “ultimate custodian of international order”Google Scholarmay require it “to act extra-legally or supralegally with respect to those [international] institutions when an urgent issue of minimum world public order is at stake.”The United States and International Institutions,” Survival 41 (Winter 1999-2000): 6364Google Scholar.

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8. Bolton, John R., “Should We Take Global Governance Seriously?Chicago Journal of International Law 1 (Fall 2000): 206Google Scholarand quoted inRuggie, John Gerard, “American Exceptionalism, Exemptionalism, and Global Governance,” in American Exceptionalism and Human Rights, ed. Ignatieff, , 324Google Scholar. The second Bolton quote is fromPatrick, , “Multilateralism and Its Discontents,” 18Google Scholar. And see too the 2000 quote from Condoleezza Rice who criticized the Clinton administration for giving priority to “the interests of an illusory international community” whose support was allegedly necessary for “the legitimate exercise of power.” Ibid., 13.

9. Koh, Harold Hongju, “America's Jekyll-and-Hyde Exceptionalism,” in American Exceptionalism and Human Rights, ed. Ignatieff, , 112Google Scholar. Seymour Martin Lipset sees the classic emphases of exceptionalism as“liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism, and laissez-faire.” In American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword (New York: Norton, 1996), 31Google Scholar. Note also the title of chapter one of Stephanson's, Anders book, Manifest Destiny: American Expansionism and the Empire of Right (New York: Hill and Wang, 1995)Google Scholar: “Choice and Chosenness, 1600-1820.” Stephanson argues that from the very beginning the United States “was a sacred-secular project, a mission of world historical significance.” Ibid., 28.

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15. Sands, , Lawless World, 205Google Scholar. Sands also quotes George W. Bush on 11 Dec. 2003 stating: “International law? I better call my lawyer…. I don't know what you're talking about by international law.” Ibid.

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19. Ibid., 442.

20. Gaddis, John L., Surprise, Security, and the American Experience (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004), 13.Google Scholar

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23. Vice President's Remarks at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/08/20060828-4.html (28 Aug. 2006) at 5.

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26. Ibid., 35, referring to the work of John Thompson.

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29. “Detention and Interrogation of Captured ‘Enemies’: Do Law and National Security Clash?” transcript prepared from a tape recording, the Brookings Institution, http://www.brookings.edu/com/events/20051212judicial.htm (12 December 2005), 1321Google Scholar. For the views of a powerful voice within the OLC between 2001 and 2003, reflective of Berenson's perspective, seeYoo, John, War by Other Means: An Insider's Account of the War on Terror (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006)Google Scholar.

30. Vice-President Cheney quoted Roosevelt as stating during WW II: “Modern warfare against treacherous enemies is a dirty business. We don't like it-we didn't want to get in it-but we are in it and we're going to fight it with everything we've got.” Remarks at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention (28 Aug. 2006) at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/08/20060828-4.html.

31. This phrase is typical of the language used in major Bush administration speeches. This one is taken from Bush's address to the American Legion National Convention, Salt Lake City (31 Aug. 2006) at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/08/20060831-1. html. Secretary of State Colin Powell argued against the Gonzales claim that Geneva did not apply. See Sands, , Lawless World, 154.Google Scholar

32. Bush's American Legion speech(see above, note 31).

33. Sweig, , Friendly Fire, 27 and 160Google Scholar. Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy secretary of defense, reflected this myopic point of view when he said in February 2003, “we're not talking about the occupation of Iraq. We're talking about the liberation of Iraq… therefore, when that regime is removed we will find [the Iraqi population]… basically welcoming us as liberators.” Quoted in Roberts, , “Transformative Military Occupation,” 608Google Scholar.

34. Sikkink, Kathryn, Mixed Signals: U.S. Human Rights Policy and Latin America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004), 113Google Scholar, quoting the memoirs of former US Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.

35. Katzenstein, Peter J., “Same War-Different Views,” 740–41.Google Scholar

36. UN Doc. S/PV.5104, 17 Dec. 2004, p. 8.

37. Cronin, Audrey Kurth, “How al-Qaida Ends: The Decline and Demise of Terrorist Groups,” International Security 31.1 (Summer 2006): 7, 39, and 4647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

38. President Bush Delivers Graduation Speech at West Point (1 June 2002), http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/06/20020601-3.html. Vice-President's Remarks at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention (28 Aug. 2006), http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/08/20060828-4.html at 6.

39. Cronin, , “How al-Qaida Ends,” 45.Google Scholar

40. What the existence of this Convention can mean for signatory states, at least those that have developed national legislation based on the Convention, is illustrated by the Al- Skeini case, heard before the UK Court of Appeal in December 2005. Baha Mousa died in UK custody in Basra, and the family accused British troops of having violated the European Convention on Human Rights and the UK Human Rights Act. The Court of Appeal concluded that because the UK was “exercising extraterritorial jurisdiction” the case could come before a UK court. SeeRoberts, , “Transformative Military Occupation,” 598–99Google Scholar.

41. Mertus, Julie A., Bait and Switch: Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy (London: Routledge, 2004), 211–14.Google Scholar

42. Donnelly, Jack, Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), 268, n. 9.Google Scholar

43. Dunne, , “‘The Rules of the Game Are Changing,’” 271.Google Scholar

44. The former two were opened for signature in 1966 and the latter in 1984.

45. See in particular, Borgwardt, Elizabeth, A New Deal for the World: America's Vision for Human Rights (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2005), Intro. and chap. 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

46. As President Clinton put it in 1999 during a visit to Guatemala after the publication of the Historical Clarification Commission report on that country: “For the United States, it is important that I state clearly that support for military forces or intelligence units which engage in violent and widespread repression of the kind described in the report was wrong, and the United States must not repeat that mistake.” Quoted in Sikkink, , Mixed Signals, 181.Google Scholar

47. Foot, , “Human Rights in Conflict,” Survival 48.3 (Autumn 2006): esp. 115–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

48. FT Interview, “Bush Ally Hopes to Win over Islamic World,” Financial Times (15 January 2007), 8.Google Scholar

49. A point made inChayes, Abram and Chayes, Antonia Handler, The New Sovereignty: Compliance with International Regulatory Agreements (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), 2526Google Scholar.

50. Human Rights Watch 2006, quoted in Dunne, , “‘The Rules of the Game Are Changing,’” 281.Google Scholar

51. “Statement of Senator John McCain, Amendment on Army Field Manual,” at http://mccain.senate.gov/press_office/view_article.cfm?id=150 (25 July 2005)Google Scholar. McCain, however, put his signature to the 2006 Military Commissions Act, which permits evidence obtained through abusive means to be used in any trials of detainees.