There is a debate going on in the U.S. Congress about proposed legislation to outlaw the use of torture to gain information. This legislation is vociferously opposed by the Bush administration, despite their equally vociferous protestations that no such methods are authorized in any front of their War on Terrorism. This comes on the heels of the outing by the Washington Post of secret prisons operated by arms of the U.S. government in Eastern Europe. Previously there had been complaints from detainees held at Guantanamo Bay of mistreatment (the most blatant being the authorities' desecration of the Quran) and the Abu Gharib prisoner abuse scandal. Taken separately these issues can be seen as unfortunate discrepancies in the United States’ support of democracy and freedom. Strung together as a working narrative, they illustrate something far more disturbing.
The current Bush administration appears to have little or no concern for basic human rights. They speak of spreading freedom and democracy to the oppressed nations of the world, but their actions undermine every higher aspiration. Yes, I realize that individuals impacted by my examples in the previous paragraph are criminals. They are individuals on the other side on the ideological and geographical battlefield who would do, and have done, the same or worse to citizens of our nation and our supporters in the War on Terrorism. But is that any excuse? Are we content, as a nation, to stoop to those levels? Shouldn’t we, in our Western ideology of human rights, democracy, freedom, and even to some extent Christianity; choose a higher path? Have we so lost our way, become so focused on revenge and retaliation for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and all that occurred after our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that we forget to implement the ideals for which we claim to be fighting? And if we forget them on foreign soil, how long will it be before we forget them on our own?
We already have the Patriot Act, which, among other things, allows for the monitoring of your library activity. Under John Ashcroft we were encouraged to watch our friends and neighbors for suspicious behavior and to report them if we found anything amiss. John Ashcroft's replacement has Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, authored memoranda arguing the pros of torture before being nominated for the position. Members of the Bush administration revealed the identity of a CIA operative in what appeared to be an act of retaliation against her husband’s politics. An individual’s – and her family’s – well-being was put in jeopardy because of the administration displeasure about someone’s opinion about its actions. What happened to the understood guarantee of a United States citizen’s freedom of expression? Perhaps you think I’m paranoid or a conspiracy theorist. I don’t think I am. What I am is worried about how far an administration more concerned with ultimate loyalty to its head (and by head I mean the unholy trinity of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld), its agenda, and its party will go. When did partisan loyalty (on both sides of the aisle) become more important than what is in the best interest for this nation and the individuals of which it is built?