Democrats & Liberals Archives

Faith, Trust and Human Rights

This will be my last post to WatchBlog. I’d like to thank those that set it up and run it, and all of you that have contributed. It’s an excellent way to encourage intelligent discussion between people with different views. Given the acrimony between both sides this fall, I think it’s great that this sort of interchange exists. As a goodbye I’d like to re-visit one final issue: human rights.

In previous postings, I've tried to clarify some issues that are often misunderstood. I've tried to put into simple terms Kerry's position on Iraq, and pointed out that Republicans accusations that he is inconsistent are misleading, as are Red Team interpretations of his "global test". I've pointed out that Kerry's support for a limited response to the situation in Iraq was correct, and Bush's decision for pre-emptive war was wrong---at least, according to the rationales that he put forth at the time. I've pointed out that even if you believe his decision to go to war was correct, the execution of the war was flawed, in that it allowed dangerous and potentially dangerous materials to fall into the hands of terrorists---the very thing that it was supposed to prevent. According to its stated motivations - protecting us from Iraqi WMD falling into the hands of al Qaeda - the war is a failure, anyway you look at it.

I've also pointed out many of the most persuasive arguments put forth (on either side) are based on emotion, not reality. This ties in to a recent post by AP titled Faith-Based Reality, and Bush's latest campaign push:

This campaign boils down to a matter of trust: Who has earned the trust of the American people? Who do they believe in?

And indeed - it does boil down to trust. It's not a question of what Bush has accomplished, or plans to accomplish: it's a question of whether you choose to accept his reasons for failure to accomplish. Bush's economic numbers are weak; but he asks us to trust him that they are the fault of the previous admininstration, and they would have been worse if not for his tax cuts. Bush's war is expensive, fatal to so far over 1000 servicemen, and was initiated for reasons that were false; but he asks us to trust him that it was a reasonable mistake, not panic, not deliberate manipulation. Bush failed to prevent 9/11, but asks us to trust him that he did all he could to stop terrorism, starting from the moment he assumed office.

And in a way it's not unreasonable. Nobody can always be right. But when I put your trust in someone, I do expect them to always do right - to make choices that I consider to be the right thing to do, given the information available at the time. Part of that is being smart, an insightful. Part of that is having a clear compass - having moral values that match mine.

I cannot trust Bush. If I had to pick one reason, one litmus test for his character, it would be his actions on human rights. Bush and his colleagues started down a slippery slope of weakening existing practises in early 2002, which led eventually to widespread abuse and the Abu Ghraib fiasco. But it's not over. Even after the Abu Ghraib scandal, a practise persists of having suspected terrorists "disappear". Rumours of this were finally confirmed after some leading Senators, including McCain, pursued the matter, and discovered that the CIA moved several prisoners out of Iraq in the past six months, to some undisclosed location, "without notification to the International Red Cross, congressional oversight committees, the Defense Department or CIA investigators". This not the action of a few rogue elements: we know that Rumsfeld approved one such "disappearance" - and this was widely publicized, and there was no public rebuke from above.

I find it upsetting that this sort of thing has continued, despite public scandal, and continued in secrecy, long after the administration publically stated that the "Geneva Convention applied to all prisoners held in Iraq".

I could talk about protecting American POWs in wartime, propaganda for terrorists, and so on. I could go into legal detail of whether the existing international law allows classifying prisoners as "illegal combatants" without an independent judicial mechanism. You could go on about military necessity (but if it's necessary, can't you find a judge to agree with that?) and how much worse things were under Saddam Hussein. But the bottom line is: I think it's just plain wrong.

When the US is in charge, as it is now in Iraq, there should be no cases of prisoners "disappearing", no shadowy "ghost detainees" that are hidden from the Red Cross, no covert prisons run away from prying eyes. If we're there for any legitimate reason, it's to spread democracy, and this is not what democracy is about. We cannot defend American values for terrorists by abandoning belief in the value of individual human life.

And I find it pretty hard to trust anyone that thinks otherwise.

Farewell all, Happy Halloween, and good luck on November 2. May the best man win! --- and that's John Kerry, by the way :-) Posted by William Cohen at October 29, 2004 3:34 PM