On Monday, Nicaraguan Vice President Rosaria Murillo announced the Central American nation would sign on to the Paris climate agreement. Nicaragua had initially renounced the landmark accord because it felt the deal did not do enough to combat global warming, but Murillo explained that Paris “is the only instrument we have in the world that allows the unity of intentions and efforts to face up to climate change and natural disasters.”
That leaves only two countries — the United States and Syria — that reject humanity’s best effort to date to fight what many scientists believe could be an existential threat to human life on Earth. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a besieged dictator fighting for his regime’s survival in a brutal civil war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and created the worst refugee crisis since World War II. US President Donald Trump is a climate change denier who has staffed his administration, including the top environmental protection posts, with like-minded individuals, many of them representing or funded by fossil fuel interests.
That Trump and Assad are the only two members of a fraternity that is opposed to taking action against what is arguably the greatest threat facing the world today might strike the casual observer as a sad and shocking state of affairs. But this is far from the first time that the United States has stood alone, or nearly so, against the global community as it united for peace, justice and the environment.
Here are some examples:
— The United States was the only one of 192 nations to sign but not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which committed signatories to reduce the greenhouse emissions that 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists believe cause global warming. Canada withdrew from Kyoto in 2012 under the conservative government of Stephen Harper.
— Every member of the United Nations except the United States has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which among other things forbids the use of soldiers who are younger than 15 years old. On the campaign trail, Barack Obama called this situation “embarrassing.” But not only did the Obama administration do nothing about it, it also repeatedly waived a ban on US military aid to countries whose militaries enslave, conscript or employ children.
— The United States and Palau are the only nations to not ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
— Earlier this month, the United States was the only Western nation to vote against a UN resolution condemning states in which homosexuality is punishable by death. The US was joined by nations in which LGBTQ people face harsh punishment, imprisonment and execution, including Saudi Arabia. The Trump administration explainedit rejected the resolution out of fears it would lead to “condemning the death penalty in all circumstances.” The US is the only Western nation that practices capital punishment.
— The US and Israel were the only two UN members to not vote in favor of a 2014 resolution calling for a prevention of the militarization of outer space.
— Last November, the US, Ukraine and Palau were the only nations to vote against a UN resolution titled, “Combating glorification of Nazism, Neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”
— The US and a handful of nations refused to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
— The US and Albania were the only two countries to vote against a UN resolution in which members pledged not to wage nuclear war against non-nuclear states.
— The US alone repeatedly rejected UN resolutions declaring food, health care and education to be human rights.
— The US was the only nation to vote against a UN resolution affirming the right of people of all nations to choose their own economic and social systems.
— The US alone voted against a world charter for the protection of Earth’s ecology.
— Only the US rejected a UN resolution affirming the human rights and dignity of migrant workers.
— The US was the only one of 112 UN members who voted to reject a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.
— The US was the only UN member to vote against a convention on the prohibition of chemical and biological weapons.
— The US, almost always alone or with a small group of allied nations, has repeatedly voted against dozens of UN resolutions condemning Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.
— The US, sometimes alone and sometimes with a small handful of allies, repeatedly voted against UN resolutions condemning apartheid in South Africa.
— Until its historic 2016 abstention during the waning days of the Obama administration, the US perennially stood alone or with a handful of tiny, dependent states in voting against UN resolutions condemning Washington’s crippling economic embargo against Cuba. The US simultaneously waged a campaign of state terrorism against its socialist neighbor that left thousands of civilians dead and cost the Cuban economy billions of dollars.
There are literally scores, if not hundreds, of other examples of how the United States has actively worked to undermine international institutions and agreements that promote peace, justice and human rights, and deter violence around the world. Leading American and international observers have called the United States a “rogue state.” Is that an accurate assessment?