Thursday, June 16, 2005

Is this America?

Sanator Dick Durbin (D-IL), speaking on the Senate floor, had this to say about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo:

'When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here -- I almost hesitate to put them in the record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor."

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.'

  • It's worth noting that these actions were specifically authorized by the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfield.

  • It's worth noting that the policy permitting torture was deemed legal by the man who now occupies the post of Attorney General, Anthony Gonzalez.

  • It's worth noting that the Geneva Convention, to which we are a signatory, specifically prohibits torture.

  • It's worth noting that President Bush has attempted to justify the invasion of Iraq by noting that we put an end to the "torture rooms."

It seems absurd that anyone needs to stand up and say "Torture is bad. Period." It seems absurd that anyone has to stand up and say "Bad things done by bad people are just as bad when done by good people."

It seems absurd that the best defense of our policy is that we don't torture nearly as many people as those bad guys; we don't kill nearly as many prisoners as those bad guys; we don't have nearly as many prisoners -- whether innocent or guilty we'll never know, since they don't ever get a trial -- locked up "in perpetuity" as those bad guys.

I don't even know why we're having this argument. Over two hundred years ago, a group of brave Americans fought the British over some of these same issues. They felt so strongly about them that they refused to ratify the Constitution until certain principles -- what came to be known as the Bill of Rights -- were added to the Constitution. Things like due process; the right to confront your accuser; the prohibition of "cruel and unusual" punishment.

It seems absurd that in America, my America, people who stand up to say that they believe in the Constitution, that they believe in the Bill of Rights, or simply that they believe in basic human rights, should be castigated.

It seems absurd, but it's happening.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

We Like Lynching!

The Pro-Lynching Senators

The Senate, for many decades, killed each and every anti-lynching bill sent to it from the House. Yesterday, at long last, the Senate finally expressed its remorse at this shameful past. Well, most of the Senate. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana introduced Senate Resolution 39, a resolution apologizing to the victims of lynching and the descendants of those victims for the failure of the Senate to enact anti-lynching legislation. Most of her fellow Senators signed on as co-sponsors. But a select few Senators opposed the resolution and refused to allow the usual roll-call vote, which would have put them on record as having opposed it. Those pro-lynching Senators too cowarardly to admit their pro-lynching stance are:

    • Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
    • Robert Bennett (R-UT)
    • Thad Cochran (R-MS)
    • Kent Conrad (D-ND)
    • John Cornyn (R-TX)
    • Michael Crapo (R-ID)
    • Michael Enzi (R-WY)
    • Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
    • Judd Gregg (R-NH)
    • Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
    • Trent Lott (R-MS)
    • Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
    • Richard Shelby (R-AL)
    • John Sununu (R-NH)
    • Craig Thomas (R-WY)
    • George Voinovich (R-OH)

    It's funny how the folks behind some of the most dastardly deeds on the planet crave their anonymity. The members of the Ku Klux Klan wear robes and masks; the hostage-taking terrorists in Iraq and other places wear scarves. And Senators? Well, some of them just thrive on secrecy.

    Thanks to John Aravosis for assembling the list.