Friday, November 12, 2004


The signal we're sending

George W. Bush has nominated White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales to replace the departing John Ashcroft as Attorney-General of the United States. Most observers feel it is only a matter of time before Bush nominates Gonzales for the Supreme Court.

Gonzales, as White House Counsel, is infamous for his memo calling the Geneva Conventions "quaint."

In a front-page article in today's New York Times, Elisabeth Bumiller and Neil A. Lewis write,
For Mr. Gonzales, tenure as attorney general would allow him to demonstrate his reliability to conservative leaders, many of whom say they are unsure of his views on issues like abortion and affirmative action, Republicans said. One Republican said Mr. Gonzales's nomination hearings in Congress would also "get out of the way'' the debate over legal memorandums that Mr. Gonzales supervised as White House counsel. Civil rights groups say memorandums about the treatment of captured terrorism suspects appeared to endorse the torture of some prisoners and opened the door to abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
That may be true, but I wonder what signal we are sending to the rest of the world by naming Gonzales in the first place. How Abu Ghraib is seen elsewhere is very different from how it is seen here. A lot of Americans, reluctant to imagine that "our boys" could be torturers, are in serious denial about what happened there. (Not all Americans, of course; just as not all American soldiers participated in the atrocities at Abu Ghraib.)

For much of the rest of the world, particularly its Arab component, Abu Ghraib is seen as a prime example of American power run amok, unrestrained, dangerous, unrepentant, uncontrollable, corrupted by the fact that no one can face up to us. Not, in fact, all that dissimilar to Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

Note: I am not calling the US operation of Abu Ghraib anything remotely like Saddam's prisons. For one thing, we are capable of being shamed by what happened at Abu Ghraib, which was clearly beyond Saddam. We are investigating and punishing those responsible, even if the people at the top who either knew or should have known have so far escaped being held accountable.

But is the argument, "Well, at least we're not as bad as Saddam" really what we want to be presenting to the rest of the world? Aren't we supposed to be much much better than Saddam Hussein? Talk about the "bigotry of low expectations"!

In any case, for much of the world, our response to date to Abu Ghraib has been, at best, inadequate. They would like to see us show genuine remorse and do something to indicate that we understand how awful it was. They would like to see the people responsible for allowing it to happen, along with those who actually administered the torture, pay some price. So, when George W. Bush appoints Alberto R. Gonzales, a man whose legal memorandums provided the Pentagon with threadbare cover before being exposed, as his Attorney-General, the man in charge of directing law enforcement in the entire United States, regardless of how it plays out politically at home, it sends a terrible signal to the rest of the world.

Bush may succeed, if you define success only in the narrowest possible terms. Gonzales will probably be confirmed by the Senate as AG. He may get his answers about his torture-justifying memorandums "out of the way" now so he doesn't have to answer the same questions at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. But our reputation in the rest of the world is already pretty low. This is not going to help.

I know voters in the "red states" don't give a shit what the rest of the world thinks about us. And I'm willing to do things that are unpopular - when they are truly necessary. Abu Ghraib was never truly necessary, violating the Geneva Conventions is almost never truly necessary, the entire war in Iraq was anything but necessary, and appointing Alberto R. Gonzales to any position requiring confirmation by the Senate is a totally unnecessary slap in the face of a world that already has lost much of its respect for us.

A president cannot be a redneck on talk radio; a president must care about more than just satisfying his red-meat supporters. This appointment, whatever its political justifications at home, sends all the wrong signals abroad.

I was surfing around and found another George Bush site.George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People This place has a ton of funny videos and mp3s.
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I was surfing around and found another George Bush site.George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People This place has a ton of funny videos and mp3s.
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