The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Amnesty criticism of U.S. 'absurd', Bush says - Yahoo! News

"Amnesty International appeared to base some of its allegations on detainees, 'people who hate America, people that have been trained in some instances to disassemble, that means not tell the truth. So it was an absurd report,' Bush said."

The word is dissemble. Describing an alleged terrorist as a person who disassembles is a bit like saying the atomic bomb disassembled Hiroshima.

Of course the administration thought Amnesty was great when they were criticizing Saddam. On several occasions Cheney and Rumsfeld cited AI reports about Saddam's atrocities. I am not sure what the administration's quibble is when they admit that over 100 people have died in US custody. Are we supposed to believe they slipped in the shower? One test of a nation is whether it treats all people the same with regard to their rights. If rights are reserved only to citizens (and the administration has shown that for "enemy combatants" even citizens have no right) then it is hard to claim that you are a leading voice for human rights. Human, for those who don't know, includes pretty much everybody, especially before they have had a trial and been convicted. Having seen a "Jew in Germany" last night I am haunted by that Holocaust refrain by Martin Niemoeller, the German pastor imprisoned by the Nazis:

At first they came for the Jews, but I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
And then they came for the Communists, but I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
And then they came for the gypsies and the Jehovah's Witnesses and the homosexuals and the handicapped and the mentally ill, but I didn't speak up because I was none of those things.
Last of all they came for me.
And there was no-one left to speak up for me.

Our conduct in the war on terror is nothing short of embarrassment, a stain upon our national character. For all our talk about the lessons we learned from our internment of the Japanese, of our lessons from the McCarthy era, of our lessons from genocides in Armenia, Kosovo and Rwanda, and of our commitment to freedom, we have an especially hard time adhering to this in times of crisis. Our founders new that in such times of stress on the state, democracy would have a hard time adhering to its basic principles. That is one reason they drafted the Constitution -- to protect and enshrine the rights and principles of all against the tyranny of the majority. Our conduct in the War on Terror so far is nothing like the scale of that in the Ssecond World War against the Japanese and nothing like the perverseness of the conduct of the Serbs, Hutus, of the Nazis and their allies. But it would be nothing but a lie for this adminsitration to insist that we have not departed from our basic principles that we will not deny liberty without due process, that we will treat people no matter their crimes with humaneness, and that we will remain a beacon to the world by our conduct. AI has it right. If we can do it, what is to stop all the other tin pot dictators in the world from thinking "who is left to criticize the way I treat my people?" How can we stand for freedom when we treat the principles of freedom so poorly ourselves? Shipping people, often innocent, to Third World dictators to be tortured and forgotten about. Beating and tormenting those in our custody. I end my emails with James Madison's reminder, the man who more than any other helped shape our Constitution:

"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy"

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