Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch since 1993, has investigated human rights abuses around the globe, with special expertise on issues of justice and accountability for atrocities committed[…]
By the overreaction to terrorism.
When I try to look forward, say, 50 years and look back at how will people consider this moment, I think that the . . . you know the early part of the 21st century is going to be dominated, in retrospect, in part by the overreaction to terrorism. You know terrorism is certainly a real threat, but it is a threat that, you know, pales compared to other huge threats that face humankind – ranging from . . . from global warming, to medical threats, to . . . to developmental threats and the like. And I . . . I think that people are gonna look back and say that we lost our soul in a certain respect in this overreaction. I don’t think that that’s inevitable. I think that we can regain the values on which our civilization has been built. But it is going to take some time. It’s gonna take different leadership from the leadership we’ve had in the United States for the . . . the first part of the 21st century. And it’s gonna take not simply sort of a change in practice, but a real act of repudiation – a real effort to regain those values and to display them visibly in . . . in the conduct of this government to say that rights are something that are not just for other people, but that bind the United States. That’s something that the U.S. government is not used to saying. It’s not something that even the American people are used to thinking about, because most Americans think of human rights as foreign. You know Americans have constitutional rights. Americans have civil rights. But human rights, those are for other people. And . . . and I think it’s only dawning on people that human rights are important because it’s one way to constrain the U.S. government from some of its worst instincts – many of which we’ve seen over the last several years.
Recorded on: 8/14/07