Daily Archives: November 19, 2003

Bush in England

This is one of those rare occasions I once spoke of when it seems to me worthwhile to reproduce a short piece in its entirety. In this case, an editorial from The Independent reprinted in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer concerning Bush’s visit to England:

Wednesday, November 19, 2003Guantanamo hangs over Bush visit


The state visit of President Bush has come to signify all that has gone wrong with transatlantic relations. The royal pageantry that should be a public demonstration of amity is being hidden behind the walls of the Buckingham Palace. The crowds that would, under other circumstances, be cheering this country’s most stalwart ally, will be marching in protest. The president will move only in a sealed bubble of security. It will be a tense and contentious three days.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, for all his assertions that this is the right visit at the right time, has been let down by Bush over the postwar strategy for Iraq, over the Middle East and, most urgently, over the disgrace that is Guantanamo Bay. Common values — that mantra of the U.S.-British relationship — repeatedly were invoked by both sides on the eve of this visit. There have been times in the past when this concept may have seemed a little too elastic for the tastes of one side or the other; rarely has it been so thoroughly betrayed.

There is much that we do not know about the prison regime at Guantanamo Bay, for the simple reason that the U.S. authorities — traditionally a beacon of openness compared with their counterparts in Europe — have kept international observers out. The administration, therefore, has only itself to blame if we draw the most negative of conclusions based on the few crumbs of information that have escaped from behind the barbed wire.

We do know, for example, that the United States has refused to recognize its captives as prisoners of war and that it is flouting the terms of the Geneva Conventions. We know that most of the prisoners have no contact with their families for months on end, if at all, and no access to lawyers. We know that they have been held in this U.S.-leased corner of Cuba for the best part of two years now, without charge, without trial and without any idea of when, if ever, they will be released. We know there have been suicides, attempted suicides and depression. We know, most disgracefully, that some captives have been subjected to torture.

We also know that, of the 400 or so prisoners remaining at Guantanamo, not one is an American citizen. Any Americans were whisked away many months ago to face their own justice — a relatively merciful brand, as it turned out, in most cases, thanks to plea-bargaining and the information they were deemed likely to impart.

The prison camp at Guantanamo Bay is an absolute negation of everything the United States professes to stand for. There is no openness. There is no accountability. There is no justice. There is only the assumption that because these individuals were captured in and around Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s fall, they are, in Bush’s own words, “bad guys.”

What chance can there be of fair treatment when such a tone is set from the top?

The one glimmer of hope came two weeks ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the pleas of lawyers who are challenging the prisoners’ lack of access to the law. All lower courts had upheld the rights-deprived limbo in which the prisoners find themselves: held on U.S.-administered territory, which is nonetheless judged to be outside U.S. jurisdiction. The case will not be heard until next year.

Blair and his ministers have tried to secure guarantees that the British citizens at Guantanamo will — at very worst — receive a fair trial in the United States, and — at best — be repatriated to this country. In interviews before he left Washington, D.C., Bush said he envisaged a solution to the Guantanamo conundrum that Blair would be “comfortable” with.

That does not inspire confidence. No solution to the shame of Guantanamo should be about comfort or compromise. It is about human rights, state obligations and the sanctity of the law in a democracy held up as an ideal for the rest of the world. Anything less is as much a travesty of our common values as Bush’s three-day stay in Britain is a travesty of a state visit.

The Independent is published in Great Britain.

Now contrast the solemn anger and serious charges of that editorial with the carefully-crafted happytalk of Richard Stevenson’s coverage in the NY Times here and here.

In neither of these pieces does Mr Stevenson so much as mention Gitmo or Junior’s refusal to address the British Parliament or his insistence that he wouldn’t meet with the families of slain British soldiers unless the members of those families agreed with his policies or any of the international issues that have sparked huge protests in London (in fact, he barely mentions the protests at all). The closest he comes to dealing with Bush’s cowardice in refusing to face the British public, instead choosing to hide out in Buckingham Palace “for security reasons”, is this:

Mr. Bush never ventured more than a mile or two from Buckingham Palace as concerns about the protesters and terrorist attacks restricted his schedule. The White House canceled a plan for Mr. Bush to lay a wreath across from the United States Embassy because of security concerns.

Mr Stevenson doesn’t even attempt to summarize the protestors’ reasons for taking issue with Bush. After a scant mention of pretty large numbers on which he dcoesn’t bother to remark, he allows only one view of one protestor–for comic relief:

Mr. Bush got his first taste of the protests during the welcoming ceremony at Buckingham Palace. As the president moved down a receiving line with the Queen in the palace’s forecourt, a British protester with a bullhorn started singing, to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” a ditty mocking what Mr. Blair’s critics say is his subservience to Mr. Bush: “If you think Blair is a poodle, shout woof woof.”

Very substantive, Richard. Certainly this fawning copy that completely ignores British opinion and the British people, and that buries Bush’s arrogance and cowardice in a couple of sentences in the middle of the article is in the finest tradition of American journalism: kissing the ring of power

To be blunt, Mr Stevenson has no business working for America’s only national daily newspaper if he’s going to write this kind of tripe. If this is his idea of reporting, let him go back to the small-town newspaper where he started because he’s not ready for the Big Time.

Who hired this feeb?

The GOP Has Lost Its Way

In today’s AJC, Martha Ezzard says something I’ve been wanting to say for some time but never got around to: it isn’t Democrats who’ve lost their way, it’s the GOP:

If the Democratic Party is the captive of the “loony left,” as [Zell] Miller claims, the Republican Party has sold its soul to the radical right and divorced itself from the First Amendment to marry church and state. Institutionalizing such extremism, the Texas GOP even has a plank in its platform pledging to dispel “the myth” of church and state separation.*****************

With the election of Ronald Reagan, the GOP turned its back on a long history of defending individual liberties and environmental preservation. Oil rigs now replace antelope. Party members pledge anti-abortion allegiance. Affirmative action must end.

I’m so old that I can remember when a moderate could be Minority Leader, when Republicans were against deficits and for less government interference in people’s ordinary lives. Now moderates are driven out of the party for insufficient intolerance and zealotry, Republicans have created the biggest deficits in our history in their effort to starve govt to death, and the right-wing radicals who now control the GOP have insisted that (their) govt have the right to control people’s private lives to a degree undreamed of when I was a kid, from which books we’re allowed to read or not to read to who we can sleep with and which positions and activities are acceptable if we do. As Ezzard points out from personal experience, it’s a long, painful way from the GOP of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt to the GOP of George Bush and Tom DeLay:

When my husband’s career took us to Colorado, I took a position as press aide to one of the nation’s last liberal Republican governors, the late John Love. Later I was elected as a Republican to the state Legislature, just in time to bump up against the Coors’ funded Reagan revolution in the West.”Isn’t this the party of Abraham Lincoln?” I’d ask my GOP colleagues as I marched with Democratic women for equal rights and abortion rights. No, came the answer, this is the party of Phyllis Schlafly and the cookie-baking Eagle Forum.

“Isn’t this the party of Teddy Roosevelt?” I’d ask, as I watched my environmental initiatives shot down by my own party. No, came the answer, this is the party of James Watt, the GOP interior secretary who was finally forced from office after opening wilderness areas to energy exploitation.

“Isn’t this the party of Dwight Eisenhower?” I asked as Republicans spent billions on a flawed Star Wars defense system that only kept safe the pocketbooks of the military-industrial complex.

In each case, Ms Ezzard, the answser is, “No.”