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Friday, June 24, 2005

Drawn into the war on terror

First do no harm.

I suppose that’s the very least we should expect from medical professionals whose reponsibility it is keep us well and safe. But I was greatly disturbed to read this latest in today’s New York Times describing the use of military mental health professionals exploiting fears in the hopes of making detainees at Guantanamo Bay more cooperative and willing to provide information during the interrogation process.

In one case, a military doctor said a prisoner’s fear of the dark could be used. Reports of such unethical behavior on the part of medical professionals was first reported in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine through interviews with military doctors.

It seems we’ve now forsaken medical ethics, or at the very least stretched the boundaries, in our fight against terrorism. The Pentagon, in its customary fashion of excusing every questionable practice at the behest of the Bush Administration separates medical doctors treating the ill and injured from those physicians who “may have other roles.”

While American Psychiatric Association is clear on its ethical guidelines, allowing for no such use, the American Psychological Association claims this is new territory. I don’t care how new the territory, the immediate response of the American Psychological Association should have been equally firm in its denouncing any exploitation of a person’s mental issues for military gain.

How can the United States ever hope to hold itself out as a standard-bearer for freedom if it continues to trample on the freedoms and the dignitary and respect for others? These are basic principles of a democratic society. I don't even recognize my country in light of these latest allegations.

While I was in Korea last year I had an interesting conversation with another Asian journalist who basically said the U.S. can no longer preach about human rights because it is a regular violator in the interest of the war on terror.

And now, according to the Times,

“A four-member team of United Nations human rights experts accused the United States on Thursday of stalling on requests over the past three years to visit detainees at Guantánamo and said it would begin its own investigation without American assistance.

"Such requests were based on information from reliable sources of serious allegations of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees, arbitrary detention, violations of their right to health and their due process rights," the four, all independent authorities who serve the United Nations as fact-finders on rights abuses, said in a statement.”

I say, "go for it." The Bush Administration’s ability to spin and weave, distort and lie, stall and divert has reached mythic proportions and I find it impossible to take anything it says as “truth.”

Are we in the “final throes” of insurgency as Vice President Dick Cheney says? Or are we still actively engaged in a battle to win this war? According to today’s Times:

Pressed repeatedly to choose between the two, General (George W.) Casey (top commander in Iraq) said: "There's a long way to go here. Things in Iraq are hard."

But General Casey insisted that the allied forces had significantly weakened the insurgency even though the number of attacks against American forces has remaining steady at about 60 a day for the last several weeks.

A weakened insurgency is 60 attacks a day!

We’d better watch what we say, though, because our esteemed Republican leaders fear that the loss of public support will surely mean withdrawal of troops and if that occurs too soon, it will spell defeat in Iraq.

As Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, told Mr. Rumsfeld at the Senate Committee hearing (yesterday): "We will lose this war if we leave too soon, and what is likely to make us leave too soon? The public going south. That is happening, and it worries me greatly."

The public didn’t get us here, Sen. Graham, George Bush & Co. did. But the public and the media have been complicit in turning a blind eye or the other cheek in the interest of defeating terrorism. But hopefully we're beginning to regain consciousness from the blow we sustained on Sept. 11, 2001.

According to Paul Krugman’s column today:

In a Gallup poll taken in early April - that is, before the release of the Downing Street Memo - 50 percent of those polled agreed with the proposition that the administration "deliberately misled the American public" about Iraq's W.M.D. In a new Rasmussen poll, 49 percent said that Mr. Bush was more responsible for the war than Saddam Hussein, versus 44 percent who blamed Saddam.

You hear that, Bush? The American public blames you, not Saddam, for this mess.

Amnesty International continues to push the U.S. on its human rights violations, specifically those foreign nationals being held in Guantanamo Bay. Nearly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Rasul v. Bush that federal courts do have jurisdiction to hear the appeals of foreign nationals held at Gitmo, none of the more than 500 detainees held there has had their detention judicially reviewed.

This administration continues to play dictator and has filed a brief with the Federal Court of Appeals fighting the same fight it lost in the Supreme Court case. It’s just another example of the supreme arrogance of this administration.

According to the May 13, 2005 report by Amnesty International, “the appeal brief shows an administration in unapologetic mood, in continuing pursuit of unfettered executive authority under the President’s war powers as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and maintaining a disregard for international law and standards.”

And further it is evidence of an administration whose:

Justice Department formulated the position, accepted by the White House Counsel, that the President – who apparently believes that there are people who are "not legally entitled" to humane treatment(8) – could override the national and international prohibition on torture;(9) and whose Secretary of Defense has authorized interrogation techniques that violate international law and standards.(10) This is an administration that has sought unchecked power throughout the "war on terror" and shown a chilling disregard for international law. The USA’s policies and practices have led to serious human rights violations and have set a dangerous precedent internationally.

We live in an international society and supposing ourselves exempt from being good citizens in that society opens us up to attack, militarily, politically, economically.

I hope the United Nations, Amnesty International, International Red Cross and others will investigate our human rights efforts. Because until we open ourselves up to the scrutiny with which we investigate other countries, we will continue to be perceived as the arrogant nation we’ve become.

And I firmly believe that arrogance lies at the heart of why we’re engaged in a war on terror. It seems as if the Bush Administration will stop at drawing no one into the fight, military, judiciary, public, media and now those on whom the first charge is to do no harm.

If this is something about which you feel strongly, consider how you can make your voice heard through Amnesty International.

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