Friday, June 24, 2005

America fails true test of Democracy June 24, 2005

America sullies its image with hypocrisy
Creators Syndicate June 24, 2005
By Ray Hanania

Most of this week, the news channels featured two American Marines jail guards assigned to Saddam Hussein, part of a publicity stunt organized by GQ Magazine.

We’ve learned from the GQ road show that Saddam Hussein still believes he is president of Iraq, is obsessed with cleanliness, makes bad coffee and loves Doritos sprinkled with water.

He also, apparently, offered the male guards advice on marriage saying he was in love only twice, both to his former and current wife.

Yet no matter the puerile nature of the banal details that they shared, one has to express some concerns. Not about Saddam Hussein but about the role the United States continues to play in undermining its already rocky image abroad.

While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is trying to sell the serious message of bringing Democracy to the Arab and Muslim World, the supposed symbol of American Democracy, the American news media, is filled with hypocrisy.

It is disrespectful to expose any prisoner to the circus-like glow of news media coverage. It’s disrespectful not to Saddam Hussein but to the United States as the so-called pillar of Democracy.

No prisoner in any truly Democratic nation would be subjected to that kind of public ridicule or scorn.

This isn’t the only incident. Recently, guards smuggled out photographs that depicted moments of personal privacy for Saddam Hussein wearing his underwear and in other compromising positions.

It makes a mockery of America’s claim to be the champions of Democracy.

Detailing Saddam’s Hussein’s life in a circus-like atmosphere doesn’t constitute war crimes, but it does reinforce the more troubling conduct of Americans at our prisons.

America is already notorious for abusing prisoners in its domestic penal system. The abuses and criminal acts by guards against prisoners who were convicted and sentenced to the American prisons system are endless. Many constitute felony crimes.

But now the United States is also guilty of violating the basic protections that must be accorded prisoners in jails set up to hold captives in our so-called "War on Terrorism."

Those abuses are also well documented and range from murdering prisoners either while in jail or in captivity, to violating the civil rights of individuals who in many cases have not been charged with any crimes and who continue to remain outside of the international legal system not on the basis of the power of law, but on the whim of the U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The abuses involving death, torture, sexual and physical abuses, some of which were revealed in private photographic collections of U.S. Marine guards assigned to the prisoners is well documented.

All of it has been broadcast by the media, despite opposition from neocons and talk show demagogues who believe that when others commit crimes, they should be publicly flogged, but when America commits crimes they should be hidden.

The recent disclosures concerning Saddam Hussein only enhance the belief that the United States is less of a Democracy these days and more of a hypocrite who defines one set of laws for itself and another for everyone else.

The troubling conduct has had some repercussions with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin expressing disgust at images and photographs he has seen of all this misconduct.

Last week, Durbin read an email he received from an FBI agent who described the terrible conduct of American forces, and then told the U.S. Senate, "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 is the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."

Durbin deserves praise for his courage to tell the truth rather than be attacked as he has for his honesty. Ironically, his critics assert his words undermine America’s efforts both in the war on terrorism and in promoting Democracy.

Rather than blame those responsible for misconduct, many Americans find it more convenient to attack those like Durbin who expose it. Durbin is not the problem. Nor are the millions of Americans who question the war on terrorism and our misconduct in Iraq.

The real problem is in the failure of this nation to live by the principles we seek to impose on others all the while giving ourselves a pass.

In a true test of Democracy, the United States would fall short.


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