Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Dark Shadows

Reading the news these days is like watching a soap opera. Didn't actually watch "Dark Shadows" when I was a kid. It was too scary. I was a "General Hospital" aficionado, myself. But the soap opera otherwise known as the US government contains key elements of soapdom: outrageous behavior, repetition, and elements of fear and paranoia running throughout the show.

This morning's episode of As The US Government Turns featured a WaPo-broken story about secret CIA terrorist prisons , called black sites, run on foreign soil. Black site prisons are so stealth that not even Congress, who is charged with oversight of the CIA, has knowledge of them.
The BBC says that "Individuals with close links to the intelligence agencies say the US government sees a compelling case for keeping suspected al-Qaeda operatives incarcerated secretly on foreign soil. That way the suspects are not able to contest their detention in American courts and can be interrogated over a long period."

Oh, well. That seems fair, then. Wouldn't want those terrorists to be able to contest their detention, particularly since we know they are terrorists because they've been tried and convicted already . . . .

And there's another related scene from our soap opera. The United States, land of the free, home of the brave, bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, refuses to follow the Geneva Convention rules on treatment of terrorist detainees. John McCain has been fighting this sick attitude of the Bush Administration for quite a while now, and has led the Senate to approving a ban on cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment of any detainee in US custody.

At the same time, there are actually those in the Bush administration who want to change the Defense Department standards on the handling of detainees to bring it into line with the Geneva Convention. Others, though, like Cheney and his cronies, are vociferously against such a move. They also are moving to exempt CIA activities--such as at their non-acknowledged black site prisons--from McCain's bill.

Scene 3 in As The US Government Turns takes place at Gitmo. The UN Human Rights Monitors want to visit Gitmo, to ascertain that detainees are being treated humanely. And the US has agreed, after three years, to this request. But they will not allow the UN to meet privately with detainees, which is a deal-breaker for the UN. After all, what's the point in the visit if the Monitor can't reasonably expect to be able to monitor treatment?

Rumsfeld flatly refuses the private visits, saying that it's unnecessary, since the International Red Cross already has such access. Of course, the IRC doesn't publicly release any information about its visits, fearing that such release would endanger their ability to visit. Red Cross head Jakob Kellenberger did meet with Bush to discuss concerns early this year. But the IRC is hog-tied and truly unable to affect any change in the conditions of detainees. So Rumsfelds' excuse hardly holds water.

Our last little soap opera vignette opens in the US Senate just yesterday. Newly emboldened Democrats invoked Rule 21, attempting to get to the bottom of whether or not intelligence was manipulated to get US into the Iraq war. Here's the best line of this scene:
"The Senate has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership," the majority leader, Bill Frist, said. "Never have I been slapped in the face with such an affront to the leadership of this grand institution."

No. It's an affront to the soldiers of the US that they were sent into war with such a flimsy excuse. It's an affront to those who've died in this that they lost their lives based on a lie. It's an affront to our Constitution that we hold people for terrorist acts who have not been charged, tried, or even granted legal representation. It's an affront to the moral character of every American that the Bush Administration active seeks to avoid following the Geneva Convention rules on the treatment of detainees. And it's an affront to our supposed role as the leader of the Free World that the US military and intelligence groups routinely use methods of interrogation that are, by all accounts, torture.

Finally, it's an affront to my intelligence on so many levels when President Bush and those who defend him tell me it's all about protecting America. Protecting America at all costs. America is not worth protecting at all costs, if the cost is giving up the moral high ground and torturing people. From a practical standpoint, it makes us much more vulnerable to hatred from abroad. Ugly Americans to the nth degree. And it's short-sighted; it brings us information now, but costs us in lives from those who would martyr themselves against our tortuous ways.

May people with some intelligence, practicality and dignity take hold of our country and give us the leadership that we perhaps do not deserve, but desperately need.

Until tomorrow,


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