Friday, April 28, 2006

Abu Ghraib & human rights

The Economist recently published an editorial urging the United States to remain vocal in its criticism of China's human rights record. The article explicitly acknowledged the question of recent U.S.-led abuses, and the question of the nation's arguably diminished authority in such questions.
many would add, its own abuses at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib have robbed America of whatever moral authority it once had to lecture others on human rights. ... As for Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, these were indeed dreadful unAmerican aberrations for which America should make amends. But they are mistakes that would hurt human rights twice over if they deterred the United States from continuing to speak up for freedom and dignity in every country—however potentially powerful or lucrative it might be.

This is a strong argument, yet, as an American, ashamed, dismayed, disgusted at the abuses that have been perpetrated by my compatriots, ostensibly in the service to our freedom and security, I feel that indeed the current administration and congressional leadership is reduced to impotence and hypocrisy in raising these questions, even in cases where the abuses are clearcut. It is small consolation, that now, so long after the inhumane treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib became public knowledge, a Lt. Col. (not exactly, "high ranking") has been sentenced. When will we see the questioning and charges reach the top? When will Donald Rumsfeld be called to answer for the actions of his Department of Defense, and his role in the matter?

We must ever remember to observe dignity and respect for all human beings (even those alleged, suspected, convicted of atrocities of their own). This is at root the most fundamental principle of American society: respect and dignity for all. Without it, we are not Americans, we are not leaders, we are not human. As Percy Shelley once wrote in the Mask of Anarchy:

‘What is Freedom?—ye can tell
That which slavery is, too well—

... it is to feel revenge
Fiercely thirsting to exchange
Blood for blood—and wrong for wrong—
Do not thus when ye are strong.
It is a sentiment that world leaders would be wise to heed. What is needed in the USA is a dramatic change in leadership, a new turn, a clean break from the absurdities of Bush administation foreign policy, as soon as possible.

This is not a political blog. My intention is not to make it one, at least not principally. But these matters are of such importance that I feel compelled to address them. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

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