Sunday, September 9, 2007

We torture, that they may torture

Bridgethought of the Day: Action speaks louder than spin.

An important piece in Democracy Now!'s website entitled "UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour: The U.S. War on Terror is Constantly Being Used by Other Countries as Justification for Torture and Other Violations of International Human Rights Laws" shows another sinister consequence of our foreign policy of War Without Reason, War Without End:

"Torture, arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention in violation of right tocounsel, incommunicado detention, any country that wants to equip itselfeither through legislation or just through its practices with these kind oftools uses the example of the United States," Louise Arbour tells DemocracyNow! "If I try to call to account any government, privately or publicly, fortheir human rights records, the first response is: first go and talk to theAmericans about their human rights violations." ...

Louise Arbour is a former Supreme Court Justice in Canada, she is perhaps best known as the chief prosecutor of war crimes for the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
In 1999, she indicted Slobodan Milosevic for genocide and crimes against humanity when he was still the president of Yugoslavia. This marked the first time a sitting head of state was indicted by an international court. ...

Arbour states in an interview with Amy Goodman: "There are claims all over the world that the human rights agenda is a carrier of Western values." But "we see this very, very severe, profound attack on the very concept of universality of rights. " An attack coming, of course, from the United States, from the Bush-Cheney pro-torture camp.

She sees the root cause of instability and war worldwide, including terrorist attacks, as being the "severe inequalities in access to wealth or wealth distribution" within & between countries and regions. Now there's an assessment I can bank on! At least someone is telling the truth. And, she says, "at the end of the day we have a very unjust, very unfair world and very few institutions that permit a peaceful forum to address these issues."

Wtih our client states Saudi Arabia, a veritable mountain of human rights abuse, and Egypt, ditto, and of course, Israel - need I elaborate? is it not intuitively understood yet? - there should be no surprise that the marginalized and disenfranchised are attacking. But to view them as "fascist" is a complete cop-out, a conspiracy-theorist's wormhole. And a bold lie.

She adds that " I think the current US place in the world is perceived as so adversarial to many aspirations, particularly in the Arab world, that I think it jeopardizes the capacity of the United States to carry the message that I don't doubt the US is still very committed to." She notes the U.S.'s long-standing commitment to human rights, democracy, freedom, and, to a lesser extent, social justice. But she condemns "renditions", the policy of kidnapping and punishing terror suspects without due process of law as "completely" undermining the legal framework that protects are protected against illegal activities.

When Amy Goodman brought up "the US ambassador to the United Nations at the time, John Bolton, criticized your remark, saying, “I think it’s inappropriate and illegitimate for an international civil servant to second-guess the conduct that we’re engaged in in the war on terror with nothing more as evidence than what she reads in the newspapers,” Arbour responds that " I think, as the United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner, not only I have the right, it is actually my mandate to ensure the safeguard -- I’m the guardian of the Convention Against Torture." She states that her opinions are based on the "obvious" and openly known facts regarding torture and the principles against its use.

Well, first, let’s make very clear: the United States is not a signatory to a lot of important international human rights treaties and conventions. Now, in a lot of cases, the US would say, “Well, we don't need to ratify these treaties. Our domestic laws are even superior in terms of their level of protection.” But, again, the signal that it sends, I think, is very problematic, when the US is one of a handful -- I think maybe just two countries -- that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, for instance, CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women."

When asked about what effect U.S. policies have had on other countries, Arbour says it's used as a justification for others to do what we do: "the same thing: recourse to torture, arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention in violation of, you know, right to counsel -- incommunicado detention, essentially. Any country that wants to equip itself, either through legislation or just through its practices with these kinds of tools, uses the example of the United States.
The other consequence, of course, is, if I try to call to account any government, privately or publicly, for their human rights records, the first response is, “First go and talk to the Americans about their human rights violations. Then come and talk to us.” This is invariable, accusing me -- and generically me, my office -- of bias by being, quote, “soft on the US” and very hard on others who have less means and less ability to comply with their obligations. So that’s the cultural landscape in the advancement of human rights in the context of the war on terror."

Actions, in other words, speak louder than spin.

Pretty soon it looks like we'll be moving toward the direction of Egypt: you can dance all night, drink till you're smashed, eat till you explode, but please ... let the government do whatever it wants, torture, kidnap, assassinate, invade, pollute, violate, whatever ... power to the executive, entertainment to the People!

Unless some People stop spinning and start taking action. People who never torture. Ever.

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