Tuesday, March 01, 2005

US Moral Authority Diminished

Millions of Americans, including me, long for the day when moral values and basic decency, when respect for human life, returns to the White House, rather than an anything goes, ends-justifies-the-means philosophy.
From American Progress Action....."Moral Authority on Human Rights Diminished"

The State Department's annual human rights report lists 70 countries around the world with "poor" records on safeguarding basic democratic rights and freedoms. Some were countries with chronic abuse records, such as North Korea, Syrian and Iran. Others, like Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are currently among of the White House's key allies. Unfortunately, the White House's lax record on this front undermines its moral authority to compel these nations to increase commitments to human rights standards.

The White House has failed to fully disavow torture as a means of legitimate interrogation. The State Department report criticizes countries for what it called "torture," including "sleep deprivation for detainees, confining prisoners in contorted positions, stripping and blindfolding them and threatening them with dogs."

These are all methods the Bush administration has approved and used on detainees in American custody. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signed off on stripping detainees at Guantanamo Bay and using dogs to terrorize them. Much of the legal framework for torture was set up in a series of memos approved by former White House counsel – and current Attorney General – Alberto Gonzales.

The administration continues to send prisoners to countries like Syria and Egypt for harsh, illegal treatment. The report failed to address the fact that, to circumvent torture rules, the White House has quietly been shipping suspects off to these countries known for torture. The administration, lacking enough evidence to detain Canadian citizen Maher Arar, shipped him off to Syria where he claims to have suffered 10 months of prolonged torture.

In another case, the U.S. shipped Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib to Egypt for "questioning." There he claims to have undergone six months of torture. When he finally arrived at Guantanamo Bay, he was missing most of his fingernails. Both men were eventually found to have no connection to terrorists and were released.

The White House continues to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses by key allies. Many other countries the U.S. counts among its friends were guilty of crimes against human rights in the State Department's report. The White House has long turned a blind eye to abuses in Saudi Arabia, including "a lack of legal rights, violence against women and children and discrimination against religious minorities" as well as "torture" including sleep deprivation and whippings. Libya, which recently enjoyed resumed diplomatic contact with the U.S., is charged with chaining prisoners to walls while threatening to attack them with dogs.

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