June 9, 2009

Our Surrender

The Bush Hangover: Guantanamo Undercuts Our Protests of North Korea -- by Mitchell Bard
George W. Bush has been out of office for more than four months now, but I fear that the damage done during the Bush years has inflicted serious injury to the American psyche and reputation, and it will take years, if not decades, to recover.

I woke up this morning to the chilling news that two American journalists had been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor by a North Korean court for the "crimes" of illegally entering the country and committing "hostile acts."
[T]he international community has to stand against the heinous actions of the North Korean government. Clearly, the United States should be at the head of such international action.

But today, I also read about Lakhdar Boumediene, and the truly disturbing story of what happened to him after the 9/11 attacks. An Algerian man living with his wife and two children in Sarajevo, Bosnia, he was working for the Red Crescent in October 2001 when he was arrested and charged with conspiring to blow up the American and British embassies in the city. An investigation revealed no evidence of his involvement in any plot, so a Bosnian judge ordered him released, but the Bush administration intervened, and in January 2002 he was shackled and flown to Guantanamo Bay.
In the end, Boumediene was held for 7 1/2 years in Guantanamo, during which time, he says, he was tortured. He says he was kept up for 16 days straight, beaten, "stretched" (pulled up from under his arms while his feet were shackled to a chair) and forced to run while chained to guards, and if he could not keep up, he was dragged until he was bloody and bruised. After he began a hunger strike, he had food tubes put up his nose and, he claims, soldiers would purposely poke IV needles into the wrong parts of his arm, just to induce pain. But the one thing that was not done to him? Nobody asked if he was involved in a plot to blow up the U.S. and British embassies in Sarajevo. Rather, all he was repeatedly asked was about his connections to al-Qaeda and Osama bin-Laden (he insists he had no connection at all to the terrorist group).

But there was one thing in the article that not only amazed me but brilliantly illuminated why the U.S. should never torture, and why it is so important that we repudiate what happened during the Bush years and chart a clear and unequivocal new path forward, one that reflects the country's traditional values. Boumediene said:
"I thought America, the big country, they have CIA, FBI. Maybe one week, two weeks, they know I am innocent. I can go back to my home."

In other words, Boumediene had faith that a country like the United States could not possibly keep an innocent man prisoner with no way to contest his guilt. His view of America is one that many in the world shared before the Bush years . . . .
That is supposed to be the difference between a country like North Korea and a country like the United States.
Click here for the complete article.
This says it all. The US willingly surrendered what high ground we had had before.

Of course, even before Bush, our 'high ground' had been tenuous at best:
A country founded on genocide and slavery.
Jim Crow and, even now, capital punishment and imprisonment that allows strikingly different statistics depending on race.
The sham of The War On Drugs.
The only western country which does not offer reasonable health care to its citizens [unless they happen to hold high government office].
That has 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' as a very real law and denies marriage to 1.5% of its population.
Whose education is falling apart.
That tolerates children going to bed hungry every night.
That accepts the fact that some of its people still kill in the name of God.
Whose people are urged to take their guns to church——
All this doesn't leave us a lot of room to talk, does it?

Still, before Bush was appointed president, we had slightly more room than we do now.
And Cheney just goes on telling us how right he and his cronies were all that time—spouting the lie that 'torture saved lives' just as if that were the question [which it is not].

But, today, the real issue comes home. Two of our citizens are being illegally and immorally held by another country and we are powerless to even raise our voice in protest—all because we have done the same thing—and right recently.


libhom said...

Obama needs to stop acting so much like Bush.

two crows said...

agreed, libhom. he's got a long way to go. acourse, that's what the pundits were saying 2 years ago -- that the next pres would have only one term because he wouldn't be able to fix the mess in 4 years and would be booted out.

I was griping about him yesterday and a friend reminded me he's only been in office 4 months. that helped me put things in some perspective.

my biggest disappointment yet is the fact that he could correct DADT with the stroke of a pen and he hasn't done it.

still, during the Bush Years, whenever I would sign a petition, I would give a false address for fear of being arrested. at least those days are over.

Ramonas Voices said...

Spot on, as usual. we've absolutely hesitated to get involved with demanding answers from other countries who have engaged in rights abuses because, incredibly and unconstitutionally, we're guilty of the same things.

I can't tell you how disappointed I am that Obama, who advocated transparency so strongly, has fallen into that same mode now, where we have to cover up the bad stuff we've done. This is the time to lay it all out there. How do we prove we've changed if our own government engages in more cover-up?

Great post. Keep on fighting the good fight.


two crows said...

thanx, Ramona--
and yeah-- I wish he would pick a side.
as it is, he goes to Egypt and gets lambasted by the right for apologizing for our past policies.

then he comes home and get lambasted by the left for MAINTAINING those policies.

I swear, I'm getting whiplash.

libhom said...

two crows: I'm more frustrated by the things Obama has done than what he hasn't.

two crows said...

I hear you, libhom--
there are lots of things he's doing that don't bode well.

but I still wouldn't trade now for the last 8 years.

LeftLeaningLady said...

two crows, the REALLY horrible part about Dubya is the fact that the US was universally worshipped and adored after 9/11, well, as much as we ever will be and he blew all that good will.

I am doing some summer reading, trying to decide what my minor will be when I return to school in the fall and I have read a couple of non-fiction history books. The things you listed are not even the worse things we have done.

But I can't find any proof that the other nations are any different.

two crows said...

hi LeftLeaningLady and welcome to PP&D--

yeah, I know I left a lot of stuff out. but I didn't want to spend 3 weeks on the post.
Just last week, for instance, I bought the DVD, 'Mrs. Evers' Boys'. Talk about a horrible episode in our history.

And of course all countries have done these things. Some were further back in their histories than ours, one hopes.

And, yes, if we'd had an administration that had a brain, we would have allies today rather than a President who has to run all over the world apologizing in order to win back a few of them.