Wednesday, June 01, 2005




With that, President Bush summarily dismissed Amnesty International's report calling the U.S. to task for gross human rights violations in its ongoing purge to rid the world of evil-doers. Typical of our current White House, any criticism, any allegations of wrongdoing are quickly brushed aside. In this case, the report was deemed by Bush in a press conference yesterday as silly allegations by people who hate America.

The AI report, casts wide its net of criticism, encompassing everything from prisoner torture and abuse at a wide range of detention facilities from Guantanamo Bay to Cuba to secret detentions of suspected terrorists. It's a long document, and I admit to only skimming it, but the documentation is extensive. Among its demands of the White House:

*End all incommunicado detention.
*Give the Red Cross access to all prisoners everywhere, even those held in secret prisons.
*Give detainees due process under the law.
*Establish an idependent commission to investigate abuse allegations.
*Make sure that individuals who violate human rights are brought to justice.

One gripe: AI's use of the word "gulag" to describe Gitmo. I've read Solzhenitsyn. I don't think Guantanamo comes even close to what Stalin had going on, and such rhetoric only gives Bush further ammunition in his almost obligatory dismissal of real facts.

The facts are bad enough, and it's certainly not acceptable for a country such as ours to simply say, well, at least we're not as bad as Saddam was. That many Bush apologists even suggest such a frightening moral relativism shows that our torch is in danger of dimming. Sadly, most people tend to shrug when they hear the reports of human rights abuses at American hands. They're bad people, they say. They're terrorists, and we have to protect ourselves. I'm can hear the right-wingers now telling me all about how I want to coddle terrorists and sit with Osama and his boys in a circle, hold hands and sing, "Kum-ba-ya."

I'm sure most detainees are indeed guilty as charged. Well, perhaps not charged since nobody's actually ever "charged" with anything anymore. We also know that some innocent people have been swept off the streets and faced almost indefinite detention and abuse before being cleared and released. We know this; it's documented. Well, then the system works, some say. I suspect those who were cleared after months - even years - of detention and abuse would disagree that the system worked for them.

And there's a larger question here, and that is, do we actually stand for something here in the United States or don't we?

What's going on now is virtually unprecedented in our history, especially considering the tens of thousands of people involved. With even the remotest suspicions of terrorist ties, you can be plucked off the streets by American soldiers or agents and held in secret prisons without the opportunity to contact anyone in the outside world. If your family comes to ask where you might be, they are told nothing, not even that you have been arrested. Nor will anyone else in the outside world ever know. You have no right to a lawyer, no right to challenge your detention. You don't even have the right to know what charges have been filed against you. Hell, there probably are no charges. You can be held indefinitely and apparently abused, tortured and possibly even killed (There's plenty of documented evidence of detainees tortured to death). In fact, the government appears to have built a place at Guantanamo to hold you for the rest of your life if it decides not to ever charge you with anything.

Sounds positively medievel doesn't it?

That's what's going on these days. The Bush Administration has unilaterally decided that the Fourth Amendment doesn't count for an entire class of people to be determined at the administration's whim. And lest you think this is somehow necessary for national security, guess again. This isn't an episode of 24, where Jack Bauer has to torture and kill to find the nuclear device. Even administration officials admit that torture doesn't work to extract reliable information. It's used merely as a means to "soften up" detainees before the real interrogation begins.

But then, we can't really say what goes on in those places, can we? And we should never question the Bush Administration. That would be unpatriotic. I'm sure we can trust them, can't we? At least if we're fair-skinned and don't speak with a funny accent?

Read Amnest International's reports for yourself:
"Guantanamo and Beyond":
"Human Dignity Denied":

Quote of the Day

"The president has this obsession, which he inherited from Reagan, of brush clearing. I don't get it. What do you get when you clear brush? You get a photograph of yourself with a chain saw and a cowboy hat."
Larry McMurtry, on President Bush's so-called ranch near Crawford, Texas

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