The problem is, the rest of the world looks at the carpet and sees a huge lump under the fringe.
Some say that the U.S.'s reputation and moral authority on human rights was blown to smithereens when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. The tattered nature of the U.S.'s moral authority on human rights was particularly noticeable when, during the height of the scandal in April, the State Department laughably delayed release of its annual report on human rights around the world.
Here's where the rubber meets the road. Sudan was recently elected to a seat on the United Nation's Human Rights Commission. If you haven't been following international news very closely, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution last week declaring the current bloodbath in Sudan as "genocide". Sudan's response?
When the United States inveighed against Sudan's recent election to a seat on the U.N. Commission for Human Rights, Sudanese diplomat Omar Bashir Manis said it was ironic that Washington raised objections given the "atrocities" American forces committed at Abu Ghraib.There's your damage.
Sudan's election to a seat "is not at all different" from the United States winning a seat, said Manis, whose government is accused of uprooting 1.2 million Sudanese in the Darfur region.
Although many might question his suggestion of moral equivalence between the United States and Sudan on rights performance, the allegations have been damaging for the Bush administration.
When the U.S. stands accused, in the Court of World Opinion, of acts of abuse that defy colloquial expression it's kind of hard to claim higher moral ground. More importantly, with the abuse charges still festering like an open national sore, out comes documentation that sought to justify the acts in Abu Ghraib.
Then, just to rub a bit of desert sand into the wound, last Thursday the Army's Inspector General released a report on Abu Ghraib that is being universally condemned as a whitewash.
I can not and will not support a government, acting as an agent for the citizens of the United States, that tacitly condones the acts perpetrated in Abu Ghraib (and other facilities we don't even know about yet). That the Bush administration continues, to this day, to cover up these heinous crimes (while deflecting criticism from anyone in a position of responsibility) has so diminished our moral authority as a country that we may never be able to claim the high road again in my lifetime.
This is the worst sort of damage that any one person could inflict on America. Yes, 3,000 people died on September 11, 2001, ostensibly at the hands of Osama bin Laden. But how many millions around the world will die from human rights abuses now and in the coming years because George Bush has single handedly destroyed America's moral authority?
The destruction of America's moral imperative will be George W. Bush's longest lasting legacy.