The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking at America

December 31, 2007

NY Times Editorial

Looking at America

There are too many moments
these days when we cannot recognize our country. Sunday was one of
them, as we read the account in The Times of how men in some of the
most trusted posts in the nation plotted to cover up the torture of
prisoners by Central Intelligence Agency interrogators by destroying
videotapes of their sickening behavior. It was impossible to see the
founding principles of the greatest democracy in the contempt these men
and their bosses showed for the Constitution, the rule of law and human

It was not the first time in recent years we’ve felt this horror,
this sorrowful sense of estrangement, not nearly. This sort of lawless
behavior has become standard practice since Sept. 11, 2001.

The country and much of the world was rightly and profoundly
frightened by the single-minded hatred and ingenuity displayed by this
new enemy. But there is no excuse for how President Bush and his
advisers panicked — how they forgot that it is their responsibility to
protect American lives and American ideals, that there really is no
safety for Americans or their country when those ideals are sacrificed.

Out of panic and ideology, President Bush squandered America’s
position of moral and political leadership, swept aside international
institutions and treaties, sullied America’s global image, and trampled
on the constitutional pillars that have supported our democracy through
the most terrifying and challenging times. These policies have fed the
world’s anger and alienation and have not made any of us safer.

In the years since 9/11, we have seen American soldiers abuse,
sexually humiliate, torment and murder prisoners in Afghanistan and
Iraq. A few have been punished, but their leaders have never been
called to account. We have seen mercenaries gun down Iraqi civilians
with no fear of prosecution. We have seen the president, sworn to
defend the Constitution, turn his powers on his own citizens,
authorizing the intelligence agencies to spy on Americans, wiretapping
phones and intercepting international e-mail messages without a

We have read accounts of how the government’s top lawyers huddled
in secret after the attacks in New York and Washington and plotted ways
to circumvent the Geneva Conventions — and both American and
international law — to hold anyone the president chose indefinitely
without charges or judicial review.

Those same lawyers then twisted other laws beyond recognition to
allow Mr. Bush to turn intelligence agents into torturers, to force
doctors to abdicate their professional oaths and responsibilities to
prepare prisoners for abuse, and then to monitor the torment to make
sure it didn’t go just a bit too far and actually kill them.

The White House used the fear of terrorism and the sense of national
unity to ram laws through Congress that gave law-enforcement agencies
far more power than they truly needed to respond to the threat — and at
the same time fulfilled the imperial fantasies of Vice President Dick
Cheney and others determined to use the tragedy of 9/11 to arrogate as
much power as they could.

Hundreds of men, swept up on the battlefields of Afghanistan and
Iraq, were thrown into a prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, so that the
White House could claim they were beyond the reach of American laws.
Prisoners are held there with no hope of real justice, only the chance
to face a kangaroo court where evidence and the names of their accusers
are kept secret, and where they are not permitted to talk about the
abuse they have suffered at the hands of American jailers.

In other foreign lands, the C.I.A. set up secret jails where
“high-value detainees” were subjected to ever more barbaric acts,
including simulated drowning. These crimes were videotaped, so that
“experts” could watch them, and then the videotapes were destroyed,
after consultation with the White House, in the hope that Americans
would never know.

The C.I.A. contracted out its inhumanity to nations with no respect
for life or law, sending prisoners — some of them innocents kidnapped
on street corners and in airports — to be tortured into making false
confessions, or until it was clear they had nothing to say and so were
let go without any apology or hope of redress.

These are not the only shocking abuses of President Bush’s two
terms in office, made in the name of fighting terrorism. There is much
more — so much that the next president will have a full agenda simply
discovering all the wrongs that have been done and then righting them.

We can only hope that this time, unlike 2004, American voters will
have the wisdom to grant the awesome powers of the presidency to
someone who has the integrity, principle and decency to use them
honorably. Then when we look in the mirror as a nation, we will see,
once again, the reflection of the United States of America.

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