Yesterday’s Thoughts

June 14, 2005

Amnesty is Right

I keep reading Christopher Hitchens’ distortions of reality in Slate. I don’t know why. It just pisses me off.

Let’s start at the end and work our way forward:

“It surely expresses a covert sympathy with the aims and objectives of jihad and an overt, if witless and sinister, hatred of the United States.”

I love my country. I have no sympathy with any religion, and especially none with objectives of stone age monotheists who believe their ends justify their means. I believe that Guantanamo is “the Gulag of our time.” So, no, it does not surely express a covert sympathy or an overt hatred.

Actually what is being expressed is Mr. Hitchens’ loathing for anyone who disagrees with him and his lack of imagination and insight into the moral precepts that guide others. I believe that morally the actions of a free people in condoning and supporting the policies that led to Guantanamo are more offensive an the actions of the Soviet people in living under a system that forced the Gulags upon them. I believe that I bear more guilt for US involvement in Guantanamo than a Muscovite of 1955 bore for the Soviet Gulags.

“And now look. I think it is fairly safe to say that not one detainee in Guantanamo is there because of an expression of opinion.”

Another bold assertion without any evidence to back it up. If Mr. Hitchens has a list of all the detainees at Guantanamo and the reasons for detention, he damn well ought to produce it. Otherwise, he should acquaint himself with the facts.

One of the features of Guantanamo that makes it “the Gulag of our time” is that the is no such list. Perhaps Mr. Hitchens can justify this fact, or perhaps not. In any case he doesn’t bother, presuming the guilt of the detainees, based on absolutely no evidence.

Speaking of Amnesty’s history, “Though physical torture and capital punishment were opposed in all cases, no overt political position was to be taken. … By adhering to these rules, AI became a credible worldwide group to which even the most repressive governments sometimes had to pay attention.” (“no overt political position” is in italics in the original)

Exactly. Is there any evidence that this has changed? Mr. Hitchens produces none. His only argument seems to be that this is somehow a political position, as if Amnesty were the Democrats answer to the Swift Boat Veterans. Is there any evidence of that?

There seems to be some evidence that the Untied States government _is_ paying attention. Coverage of the issue has picked up, although perhaps that was the Administration’s doing on the Newsweek Koran reporting.

“Apparently, Guantanamo won’t do as a holding pen until we decide how to handle and classify these people. But meanwhile, neither will it do to ‘render’ any suspects to their countries of origin. How many alternatives does this leave?”

This is a strawman. There is no problem with Guantanamo as a “holding pen” per use. The problem is that Guantanamo was selected on the basis that the Administration would be able to make the argument that it was not in the Untied States and therefore our laws did not apply. If the Supreme Court had not consistently opposed this argument, it would have worked.

“Alberto Gonzales was excoriated even for asking, or being asked, about the applicability of Geneva rules.”

No, he was excoriated for expressing the opinion that the Geneva rules did not apply.

“The man whose story of rough interrogation has just been published in Time had planned to board a United Airlines flight and crash it into a skyscraper. I want to know who his friends and contacts were, and so do you, hypocrite lecteur.”

This is really why I hate to read Hitchens. He gives arrogance a bad name. He has no idea what I think and he has no compunction about telling me what it is, and how I am a hypocrite.

Since the he didn’t ask, here is my opinion anyway.

Yes, I want to know who his friends and contacts were. No I don’t want to torture him to find out. No I don’t want my government to torture him on my behalf. No I don’t want him to become a martyr to his cause. No I don’t want the country that I love to live on the dark side of our national and international laws.

“An axiom of the law states that justice is more offended by one innocent person punished than by any number of guilty persons unapprehended. I say frankly that I am not certain of the applicability of this in the present case.”

This is the nub. Hitchens is not certain that it is worse to punish the innocent than to let the guilty go free. He is not alone. We have become a nation that believes it acceptable to punish because we can. 9-11 was a blow and we need to seek vengeance.

This abandonment of moral principles is cowardice and a disgrace to our history and traditions. If President Bush’s statement that his favorite philosopher was Jesus Christ were true, perhaps he would have convinced the nation to turn the other cheek. Perhaps if the Christian right were actually Christian, they would have insisted.

But, no, law, custom, morality and tradition do not matter. It is a tribal matter. Their people attacked our people. We are justified in doing to them what ever we want. They do not merit the protections of a thousand years of western law and tradition. They do not merit the protections of the Untied States Constitution (the highest achievement of civilization in my opinion.) The do not merit the protections of the Geneva conventions. They do not merit the coverage of our most sacred principles.

By adopting this tribal thinking we have come to agree with the terrorists.

The terrorists have won. We have lost.

2 Comment(s)

  1. ZenTiger | Jun 27, 2005 | Reply

    Well argued. I disagree on several points, but well argued.

    Maybe you can detect the thrust of my position:

    Gulag of the Year Award

  2. ZenTiger | Jul 3, 2005 | Reply

    Gee, didn’t think you’d take this long to comment. You might have to change the blog name to “last weeks” thoughts :-)

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