this time: Herbert’s op-ed

Op-Ed Columnist
America, a Symbol of . . .
By BOB HERBERT
Published: May 30, 2005
This Memorial Day is not a good one for the country that was once the world’s
most brilliant beacon of freedom and justice.
State Department officials know better than anyone that the image of the United
States has deteriorated around the world. The U.S. is now widely viewed as a
brutal, bullying nation that countenances torture and operates hideous prison
camps at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in other parts of the world – camps where
inmates have been horribly abused, gruesomely humiliated and even killed.
The huge and bitter protests of Muslims against the United States last week were
touched off by reports that the Koran had been handled disrespectfully by
interrogators at Guantánamo. But the anger and rage among Muslims and others had
been building for a long time, fueled by indisputable evidence of the atrocious
treatment of detainees, terror suspects, wounded prisoners and completely
innocent civilians in America’s so-called war against terror.
Amnesty International noted last week in its annual report on human rights
around the world that more than 500 detainees continue to be held “without
charge or trial” at Guantánamo. Locking people up without explaining why, and
without giving them a chance to prove their innocence, seems a peculiar way to
advance the cause of freedom in the world.
It’s now known that many of the individuals swept up and confined at Guantánamo
and elsewhere were innocent. The administration says it has evidence it could
use to prove the guilt of detainees currently at Guantánamo, but much of the
evidence is secret and therefore cannot be revealed.
This is where the war on terror meets Never-Never Land.
President Bush’s close confidante, Karen Hughes, has been chosen to lead a
high-profile State Department effort to repair America’s image. The Bush crowd
apparently thinks this is a perception problem, as opposed to a potentially
catastrophic crisis that will not be eased without substantive policy changes.
This is much more than an image problem. The very idea of what it means to be
American is at stake. The United States is a country that as a matter of policy
(and in the name of freedom) “renders” people to regimes that specialize in the
art of torture.
“How,” asked Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, “can our State Department
denounce countries for engaging in torture while the C.I.A. secretly transfers
detainees to the very same countries for interrogation?”
Ms. Hughes said in March that she would do her best “to stand for what President
Bush called the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity.” Someone should tell her
that there’s not a lot of human dignity in the venues where torture is inflicted.
The U.S. would regain some of its own lost dignity if a truly independent
commission were established to thoroughly investigate the interrogation and
detention operations associated with the war on terror and the war in Iraq. A
real investigation would be traumatic because it would expose behavior most
Americans would never want associated with their country. But in the long run it
would be extremely beneficial.
William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in an
interview last week that it’s important to keep in mind how policies formulated
at the highest levels of government led inexorably to the abusive treatment of
prisoners.
“The critical point is the deliberateness of this policy,” he said. “The
president gave the green light. The secretary of defense issued the rules. The
Justice Department provided the rationale. And the C.I.A. tried to cover it up.”
In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, most of the world was ready
to stand with the U.S. in a legitimate fight against terrorists. But the Bush
administration, in its lust for war with Iraq and its willingness to jettison
every semblance of due process while employing scandalously inhumane practices
against detainees, blew that opportunity.
In much of the world, the image of the U.S. under Mr. Bush has morphed from an
idealized champion of liberty to a heavily armed thug in camouflage fatigues.
America is increasingly being seen as a dangerously arrogant military power that
is due for a comeuppance. It will take a lot more than Karen Hughes to turn that
around.
E-mail: bobherb@nytimes.comPlease see my “concerns” page:
http://artsci.wustl.edu/~canfrobt/Concerns
My blog: http://rcanfield.blogspot.com/

A courageous Pakistani editor

I see this editor as courageous because Pakistan is a place where it is risky to
challenge the powers that be — or so it has been in the past. And people are
bumped off by unknown assailants whose identity is never discovered. This is a
courageous challenge to the administration. Best, RLCThe Friday Times
Pakistan’s First Independent Weekly Paper
May 20-26, 2005 – Vol. XVII, No. 13 We are tiredNajam Sethi’s EditorialWe are tired of endless talk of “enlightened moderation”. There isn’t a single
member of General Pervez Musharraf’s cabal who is prepared to practice what the
Boss preaches. There is no attempt at serious madrassa reform, with the ministry
of religious affairs under Ejaz ul Haq at odds with the ministry of education
under Gen (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi. There is no reform of Hadood laws, with the
PML allying with the MMA to stifle protest not just from the PPP but also from
within the ruling party. There is no embarrassment at the demeaning of the
“marathon” by the leaders of the PMLQ despite the fact that no so long ago
General Musharraf was lauding the first international marathon (mixed) held in
Lahore as a symbol of Pakistan’s return to normalcy. The rights of the
minorities and women are under attack by the mullahs. And no one from the ruling
party or government has stood up to defend these groups.We are tired of the endless drone about the bright prospects of foreign
investment in Pakistan and how we have irrevocably embarked on the path to
nirvana. Pakistan is not even on the list of emerging markets published every
week by The Economist. Indeed, our Foreign Office and Ministry of Interior are
constantly urging foreign diplomats to keep a low public profile and restrict
travel within Pakistan because of security concerns, even as our finance and
commerce ministries are irked by the negative “travel advisories” recommended by
the same diplomats to their fellow citizens and businessmen.We are tired of hearing how the oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia and Iran
will start gushing prosperity in Pakistan before long. The theme of “Pakistan as
the gateway to Central Asia’s 300 million market” was unfurled by former PM
Nawaz Sharif when he embarked on the Lahore-Islamabad motorway project in 1992.
Three years later, after Pakistan’s obsessive meddling in Afghanistan had paved
the way for the wretched Taliban, the oil and gas projects were reduced to
classic pipedreams. Afghanistan is far from settled or stable and the
Turkmenistan-Pakistan gas project is nowhere on the horizon. Now we hear that
Gwadar is the shimmering gateway to Central Asia. But the Baloch, who should own
it, are up in arms and not even the existing gas pipelines at Sui are safe
anymore. Indeed, Chinese engineers have been killed or kidnapped, new
exploration for oil and gas has halted and some foreign companies are thinking
of pulling out from Balochistan.We are tired of pious lectures on democracy and constitutionalism. There is no
democracy in political parties and there is no constitutionalism in parliament.
Irrespective of who is in power and who in opposition, every government claims
to be democratic and every opposition condemns dictatorship. Every parliament
trumpets its sovereignty and supremacy and every parliament pays obeisance to
every elected autocrat and every coup-making dictator. The present system is
particularly tiresome: neither the prime minister nor the leader of the
opposition is from the party (PPP) that won the most votes in the last general
elections; the chief proponent of the 17th constitutional amendment (MMA) is not
prepared to sit in its chief institutional innovation (NSC); and the one-party
system is creaking under the weight of its contradictions, with the ruling party
squabbling over the spoils of the system on the eve of another round of
controlled elections.We are tired of self-righteous handouts from the NAB. We are tired of
allegations of corruption against anti-government politicians and proclamations
of virtue from pro-government ones. We are tired of VVIP movements. We are tired
of asking why housing societies are allowed to skin unsuspecting citizens; why
stock market scams continue to rock the markets; why car makers are able to
influence government policy and get away with exorbitant premiums; why we can
import cheap goods from far away China that hurt our local industry but not from
next door India; why we still need more tanks and missiles and jets and ships
when we have made the ultimate nuclear deterrent against war; why with 7-8%
growth rates, billions of dollars in debt rescheduling and foreign aid, and
unprecedented increases in tax revenues, we are still unable to dent the 30%
poverty line and the 70% illiteracy rate; why we have a system of apartheid in
education in which the vast majority has been denied access to English as a
second language in the name of Islamic ideology and Pakistani nationalism and is
rotting at the bottom of the social and economic heap while a small
English-educated, Westernized elite hogs all the space; why the green passport
is a sure shot recipe for suspicion and hostility abroad instead of being a
welcome calling card, and so on, ad nauseam.We are tired of self-serving reformers and faith healers. We are tired of
democrats who act like dictators and dictators who pretend to be democrats. We
are tired of tribal sardars, ethnic warlords, and feudals. And we at The Friday
Times are VERY tired of offering the solutions over and over again! Please see my “concerns” page:
http://artsci.wustl.edu/~canfrobt/Concerns
My blog: http://rcanfield.blogspo