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Charles Cutter

The Diplomacy of Outrage
By Charles Cutter (www.cuttersway.com)
May 27, 2005 - 6:47:00 AM

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(Note: Charles Cutter will be on vacation for several weeks. His weekly column will resume on July 8.)

"It’s far past time for President Bush to prove he is not covering up the misdeeds of senior officials and political cronies who designed and authorized these nefarious interrogation policies." This is Amnesty International’s plea regarding Bush & Co.’s ongoing use of torture as a military tool.

If it sounds a bit on the weak side, it is. It’s a diplomatic form of outrage - a meaningless attempt to reason with sadistic cowards.

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert falls into a similar trap: "People have been murdered, tortured, rendered to foreign countries to be tortured at a distance, sexually violated, imprisoned without trial or in some cases simply made to ‘disappear’…in the name of freedom…The government, like an addict in denial, will not even admit that we have a problem." (5/26/05)

"In denial" means perpetuating a self-deception; the Bush administration and its defenders are simply lying. Their underlying message is that concern over human rights is an issue for sissy liberals; real Americans aren’t squeamish about a little torture.

Mr. Bush has nominated William Haynes II - currently General Counsel for the Department of Defense - to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The status of his nomination, in light of this week’s judicial filibuster compromise, is uncertain. What is clear is that Mr. Haynes constitutes a "real American" to the Bush administration - he’s not squeamish about violating the law when it gets in the way of torture.

The organization Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) sent a letter to Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, criticizing the nomination: "Mr. Haynes recommended that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approve interrogation techniques that amount to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under U.S. and international law. Moreover, he oversaw a group of agency lawyers who prepared a memo asserting that the President is not bound by anti-torture laws…Mr. Haynes is an architect of some of the most troubling policies regarding the treatment of detainees…"

PHR has also called for an independent commission to investigate abuses committed by the American military: "Without an independent investigation into the almost daily revelations of US forces using torture, we will never put a stop to these heinous acts."

Amnesty International has echoed that sentiment, calling on Congress to "appoint a truly impartial and independent commission to investigate the masterminds of the atrocious human rights violations at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers, and President Bush should use the power of his office to press Congress to do so."

While it’s important for such groups to investigate, document and report on human rights violations, their methodology for seeking a remedy seems ineffectual. They continue to appeal to Mr. Bush and a government controlled by right-wing extremists to mend their ways. It’s an exercise in futility: George W. Bush is not going to stop being George W. Bush, any more than Adolf Hitler stopped being Adolf Hitler.

As proof, consider White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan’s response to the charges brought by Amnesty International: "…[T]he allegations are ridiculous and unsupported by the facts. The United States is leading the way when it comes to protecting human rights and promoting human dignity."

Lies and hypocrisy of this magnitude make one nostalgic for the innocuous parsing and exaggerations of the Clinton-Gore era.

The challenge to be confronted, at this point, is not simply cataloging the litany of human rights offenses orchestrated by this American government; the breadth and depth of the evidence is already sufficient. The challenge is - how do we stop the abuse?

Appealing to Mr. Bush’s humanity? Seeking a Congressional inquiry? Enlisting the support of the American public?

Seems like a waste of breath, doesn’t it?

Since Americans refuse to be outraged, maybe it’s time for the world to respond. How about an economic boycott? Breaking off diplomatic relations? A war crimes tribunal? Instead of welcoming Mr. Bush as a head of state, all civilized nations should refuse him entry - lest he be arrested and tried as a war criminal.

Of course, hoping for this response is as effective as writing an anti-Bush letter to Tom DeLay. How many foreign governments are willing to suffer the economic backlash they would incur by truly condemning this country’s actions?

So there it is: The U.S. government, the citizens of America, and the nations of the world allow Mr. Bush to pursue his own brand of international terrorism. Despite domestic and international law, despite philosophical principles, despite exhortations of religious "values," the torture continues.

You can never go wrong underestimating the humanity of the human race.


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