It is in the best interests of nation states to look good. This truth applies to the powerful every bit as much as it does to the weak. Looking good; maintaining the image of operating on sound moral and ethical principles, is good for business, and in a globalised capitalist economy reputation is everything. So when the United States – the self-appointed policeman of the world – interacts with other states it is keen to create the visage of an altruistic and ethical operator. However much its motives might be ultimately self-serving and imperialistic, it will act in such a way as to hide such motives behind the rhetoric of human rights and international law.
One example of this would be the US’ relationship with Colombia. The Republic of Colombia is infamous for right-wing, authoritarian governments which have repressed and oppressed the people of the country with its military and security forces, and has been known to use rightist paramilitary organisations to terrorise the population. Human rights abuses and political murders are a common feature of Colombian life, and this is well known to the United States. Yet due to US petroleum and other lucrative trade interests in the country the United States continues to do business with the Colombian government.
With respect to the well-known noxious behaviour of successive Colombian administrations towards their own people the United States has laboured to absolve these governments in its economic use of diplomatic language, and where this has not been possible it has acquiesced to the demands of critics Stateside to the inclusion of human rights provisos in trade and aid deals with the Colombian government. On the surface these limitations have created the impression that the US is an honest broker in the relationship, but revelations contained within leaked documents published by WikiLeaks have exposed US State Department designs to subvert such regulations such as the Leahy Amendment; an amendment to the Andean Regional Initiative (ARI) and Plan Colombia which prohibits the US supplying aid when there is evidence that such will be used for human rights violations or by human rights violators. A section of one leaked file reads:
As proposed by the Administration, the “Leahy Amendment” conditions in the foreign operations and defense appropriations forbidding assistance to military and police units credibly alleged to engage in gross violations of human rights would continue to apply, as would the current caps of 400 each on the number of U.S. civilian contractors and U.S. military personnel supporting “Plan Colombia” activities in Colombia. (The new proposed military activities, i.e., infrastructure protection and anti-kidnapping assistance, are not, however, “Plan Colombia” activities.)
Congressional Research Service, Report RL31383
In effect what we have here is the United States enacting laws which are meant to curtail human rights abuses while it continues to support such violations by providing military aid through avenues that are not explicitly covered by US law. The net result of this is that the United States continues to assist the Colombian government in the persecution of its own people while maintaining the legal fiction at home that its hands are clean. One can only conclude that the US replicates this duplicitous diplomatic behaviour around the world.