Time for a Course Correction

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights-a visionary document recognizing the "inherent dignity" and "the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family," and establishing "as a common standard of achievement" the fundamental rights and freedoms that belong to every human being.

Since then, December 10 has been observed as Human Rights Day throughout the world.

On past anniversaries Americans have had much to celebrate. The adoption of the Universal Declaration is a monument to the skill and determination of an American, Eleanor Roosevelt. And since then, America has played a critical-if intermittent-role in the advancement of human rights throughout the world.

This year is different. America and the world have been shocked to learn of the abusive measures sanctioned and carried out by our government in the course of its campaign against terrorism. We have watched as America's solemn obligations under the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions have been cast aside.

These actions have done enormous damage to America's honor and prestige and have undermined the integrity of the international legal norms which past administrations of both political parties did so much to put in place and reinforce.

Fortunately, as this Human Rights Day approaches, the Congress of the United States is poised to reassert America's commitment to those norms and obligations. The amendment offered to the defense bill by Senator John McCain will begin the process of restoring American honor and reclaiming our rightful place within the family of nations.

Mark D. Agrast is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.

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