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October, 2006
Vol. 5, Number 10
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This Month's Article

Legalized Torture —
Defending the Indefensible is the Worst Hypocrisy

Gonzales Cautions Judges on Interfering
The Associated Press in the Washington Post
Friday, September 29, 2006; 12:18 PM

WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is defending President Bush's anti-terrorism tactics in multiple court battles, said Friday that federal judges should not substitute their personal views for the president's judgments in wartime.

"Respectfully, when courts issue decisions that overturn long-standing traditions or policies without proper support in text or precedent, they cannot — and should not — be shielded from criticism," Gonzales said. "A proper sense of judicial humility requires judges to keep in mind the institutional limitations of the judiciary and the duties expressly assigned by the Constitution to the more politically accountable branches." (Read full article.)


09/28/2006 — John Kerry's Senate Speech Opposing the Torture Compromise Bill

So, what are we voting for with this bill? We’re voting to give the President the power to interpret the Geneva Conventions. We’re voting to allow pain and suffering incident to some un-defined lawful sanctions. The only guarantee we have that these provisions really will prohibit torture is the word of the President.

But the word of the President today is questioned. This Administration said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda, that they would exhaust diplomacy before we went to war, that the insurgency was in its last throes. None of these statements were true… It is no wonder then that we are hesitant to blindly accept the word of the President on this question today. (Read text of full speech.)


On September 28th the Senate passed a “Torture Compromise Bill” that in practice will eliminate restrictions on torture and the cruel treatment of prisoners. This is a defining moment for our nation. 

This bill ignores international agreements that we have signed and it ignores our own long-standing judicial precedents such as habeas corpus, which prevents the practice of arbitrary imprisonments. It is incomprehensible how the majority of our representatives were willing to throw away American and international conventions on human rights while creating a law that is typical of tyrannical governments.

Human rights are safeguarded in America by a justice system of “innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” Now, fear has created an America where people are often pre-judged based on race, ethnicity, religion, gossip and falsehood. This is a step backward for America.

Our justice system further prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment.” Cruelty takes many forms, but the consequences are always the same: it brutalizes the society that perpetrates it. When our leaders use fear and doubt to justify acts of cruelty, they are eroding the moral foundation of our civilization.

Further safeguards of our rights are the checks and balances provided for in our constitution to prevent each branch of government from acting without accountability. So how can Attorney General Gonzales justify silencing the Judiciary while giving the President “carte blanche” to do as he wishes?

Gonzales states "… when courts issue decisions that overturn long-standing traditions or policies without proper support in text or precedent, they cannot — and should not — be shielded from criticism…” Yet he would shield Bush from criticism for overturning provisions of the International Declaration of Human Rights,

Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations
December 1948

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

(Read full text of Declaration)

Article 3 of the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War,

Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
Adopted on 12 August 1949

Article 3

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

(Read full text of Geneva Convention)

and provisions of the United States Constitution!

Congress may give the president the power to lock up almost anyone he thinks is a terror threat.

By Bruce Ackerman, BRUCE ACKERMAN is a professor of law and political science at Yale and author of "Before the Next Attack: Preserving Civil Liberties in an Age of Terrorism."
The Los Angeles Times September 28, 2006.

BURIED IN THE complex Senate compromise on detainee treatment is a real shocker, reaching far beyond the legal struggles about foreign terrorist suspects in the Guantanamo Bay fortress. The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.

(Read full article)

Gonzales argues “federal judges should not substitute their personal views for the president's judgments in wartime.” This is insane and worse than hypocritical! Was it not the personal views of the Supreme Court justices that made Bush president in the first place?  Now he says they have no right to pass judgment on the constitutionality of his policies! War is no excuse for abandoning the Constitution, especially if the President’s judgment has proven to be flawed many times.

What can American citizens do about the destruction of our moral image? How can the United States recover its status as an advocate for human rights? This is a critical time that will impact our identity and our security for the future. The only possible way to reverse the direction in which the Bush administration is forcing us, is to empower the opposition in congress so that the constitutional check on domination by one branch of government is renewed.

It is said that in a democracy, citizens get the leaders they deserve. Only a change in awareness by the electorate can restore our national integrity. If we in fact deserve leaders who are better than those we have, then we either do not live in a democracy or we have let the minority suppress the conscience and will of the majority. The Democratic Party’s slogan, “Take Back America” must now be considered in its literal rather than in its partisan sense. A democracy that has no debate, and no checks on absolute and arbitrary power, is no democracy.

The America I believe in doesen't torture people.
The America I believe in doesen't run secret prisons.
The America I believe in leads the world on human rights.

Amnesty International
Stand up for the America you believe in: Sign the Pledge

© 2006 Richard Sidy


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Articles about Consciousness and the Future:

Hope for the Future
Series on Leadership
Series on Global Consciousness
World Peace in Less Than a Month?
Can Idealism Solve Problems?

I Know I'm Not Alone — the wisdom of Michael Franti

Related Poems:

Making Friends
Take Heart


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Archives 2005
Volumn 4
January: "Standing up for Humanity"
February: "The Wake of Disaster" – a poem
March: "Unity in Diversity
April: "Life is Calling"
May: "Entertainment" – a poem
June: "Thought and Imagination" part 1
July: "Thought and Imagination" part 2
August: "Imagination and Healing"
September: "Malice or Neglect? – Lessons of Katrina"
October: "Protecting Children"
November: "Intelligent Design or Evolution?"
December: "Building with one hand, destroying with the other"
Archives 2006
Volumn 5

January: "Conflict, Harmony, and Integrity"
February: "Satyagraha or Soul-force and Political Change"
March: "I Know I'm Not Alone - Wisdom of Michael Franti"
April: "Human Programming and Conflict Part I"
May: "Human Programming and Conflict Part II"
June: "Soccer Diplomacy"
July: "Sustainable Development is Nature's Way
August: "Parallel Universes"
September: "The News is not New"
October: "Legalizing Torture"
November: "Living Without an Enemy"
December: "Fast Food is really Slow Food"

Archives 2007
Volumn 6

January: "State of Fear"
February: Criminal Justice - "The Powerful Over the Weak"
March: "Culture Shock: The Good Life and Survival"
April: "March Madness"
May: "No Child Left Behind" Leaves Many Teachers Behind
June: "Personal Ecology"
July: Criminal Justice - "The Ethic of Custodianship"
August: "Exploring the Mind - part 1"
September: "Exploring the Mind - part 2: The Poetic Mind
October: "How Much Pain Can We Stand?"
November: "When Languages Disappear"
December: "Is it Enough to be Tolerant?"

Archives 2008
Volumn 7

January: "Beyond Ideology: Politics of the Future "
February: "Beyond the Bush Years"
March: "The Imaginary Economy - Part I
April: "The Imaginary Economy - Part II
May: Questions from Prison
June: "iGods and Connectivity"
July: "Energy Independence"
August: "Tribalism and the 2008 Elections
September: "Guilt, Shame and U.S. Justice"
October: "Have We Been Willing Slaves?"
November: "Are We Ready for the Future?"
December: "Are we done learning from pain?"

Archives 2009
Volumn 8

January: "Awakening"
February: "When Sacrifice is no Sacrifice"
March: "The Good New Days"
April: "The Power of Metaphor"
May: "The Conflict of Mythologies"
June: "The Time is Right"
July: "The New Anarchy"
August: "The Art of Living"
September: "Outrage"
October: "Are Women Becoming More Unhappy?

November: "Effect of the manufacturing culture on the American Psyche"
December: Who are the Real Game Changers?

Archives 2010
Volumn 9

January: The Music of Place
February: Earthquakes and Other Awakenings
March: Sense of Place, Sense of Self, Sense of Humanity
April: Why Do People Serve?
May: Decentralizing Food and Energy
June: Beyond Reading and Writing — Ecological literacy
July: Organization or Organism?
August: Fear and Cynicism = “Inter-fear-ance”
September: Are we afraid of our "Better Angels?"
October: Choosing Our Battles
November: Meeting the Need
December: A Living Canvas

Archives 2002: Vol. 1, Numbers 1-12
Read past articles including:
Hope for the Future
Six Part Series on Science and Religion
First Three Parts of the Series on Leadership
Archives 2003: Vol. 2, Numbers 1-12
Read past articles including:
Series on Leadership continued
Avoiding Dictatorship in a Free Society

Art and Politics
Living the Good Life

Teaching Teens
World Peace in Less Than a Month?
Archives 2004: Vol. 3, Numbers 1-12
Read past articles including:
Seven Part Series on Global Consciousness
Is "Liberal" a Dirty Word?
Can Idealism Solve Problems?
Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All
Poetry Diplomacy Science and Religion  Teen Help
Archives 2002 Archives 2003 Archives 2004
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