Every year the State department puts out a series of human rights reports, assessing the state of human rights in countries around the world. Here, for example, is the most recent one. It seems to me this has become a largely pointless exercise.
The premise, I suppose, is that because the United States performs more or less OK according to reasonable human rights metrics, it has the moral rights to admonish countries that do not. Recent news, however, have revealed that in fact that United States "renditions" program sends people to countries that freely torture prisoners in order to extract useful information - most famously Syria and other middle eastern countries. The latest news, in todays Times, tells us that the U.S. has been sending people to Uzbekistan where
...the most common techniques were "beating, often with blunt weapons, and asphyxiation with a gas mask." Separately, international human rights groups had reported that torture in Uzbek jails included boiling of body parts, using electroshock on genitals and plucking off fingernails and toenails with pliers.Given that the U.S. sends people to the worst human rights offenders, in what sense is the U.S. any better, from a moral standpoint, than the worst human rights offenders? And why should anyone view the State Department's human rights reports any differently than if they were produced by Iran, North Korea, or Zimbabwe?
Update: Henry Farell writes a post that tackles this question.