In this age of political battles and constant squabbling, it is simple to declare that one side or the other has lost a sense of moral direction. However, the one event that most indicates our government's lack of a moral compass as a whole is the appointment of Alberto R. Gonzales to the position of attorney general, head of the Department of Justice.
Both Republicans and Democrats, must sweep aside the cobwebs of political division in order to see what is painfully evident; Gonzales, a man who raised no objection to the torture of fellow human beings, is about to become the nation's most powerful law-enforcement official.
Ignoring human rights
Thomas Jefferson once said, "The fact that all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, has been torturing one another for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and all others, is absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind.”
Gonzales's repeated attempts to make torture a legal, logical tool of intimidation, a tool which our founding father knew 200 years ago knew to be wrong, are beyond comprehension of the human mind as well.
As the war in Iraq got underway, Gonzales let his objections to the Geneva Conventions, a series of treaties protecting prisoners of war from abuse and torture, become known. He clearly stated in a memorandum to the president, dated Jan. 25, 2002 that he believes "the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War does not apply to the conflict with al Qaeda.”
In another memo, dated Aug. 1, 2002, he implied that the uses of extreme tactics of intimidation that do not actually elicit any physical harm are justifiable and legal under the Geneva Convention. "We conclude that certain acts may be cruel, inhuman or degrading, but still not produce pain and suffering of the requisite intensity to fall within [the Geneva Convention's] proscription against torture,” he wrote.
These were the circumstances under which, two years later, soldiers in the Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad forced detainees into sexually perverse, derogatory and disgusting situations. Word of the atrocities reverberated throughout the Muslim world, creating more hatred for America and marking another loss in the battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis and other Arabs.
Torture has a special place among all the atrocities committed during war. It is so unusually gruesome, so repulsive, that the torture of one man strikes fear, anger, and hatred into the hearts of many. The pictures of one man's torture, because of their raw, intrinsically anti-human quality, are often seen as the subjugation of an entire race.
Still, the worst fact that has emerged from the torture scandal is that Gonzales, who turned a blind eye to and in cases approved of the torture of fellow humans, is perched to become one of the most powerful men in America. When the potential head of the Justice Department has no sense of the sanctity of human life, oppression and inhumanity are bound to happen.
"Undermining international law”
When Gonzales took the stand to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 6, he reiterated his beliefs in the failed torture policy that is both morally bankrupt.
According to a Jan. 7 article in The Washington Post, Gonzales "declined repeated invitations to repudiate a past administration assertions that the president has the authority to ignore anti-torture statues on national security grounds.”
Gonzales added that, due to the changing threat of terrorism, the "it is appropriate to revisit” the Geneva Conventions, according to the same Post article.
Not only is Gonzales's assessment of torture morally atrocious, but tactically senseless as well. Even if the administration does not agree that al Qaeda suspects merit the same protection from torture as other prisoners of war, the fact remains that the policy of torture has nothing but negative tactical consequences.
Take a hypothetical situation. An Iraqi man walks into his home, and turns on al-Jazeera television. The first pictures he sees are of fellow Iraqis hooded, naked, and standing with wires attached to various parts of his body. Is the man watching these pictures more or less likely to take up arms against U.S. forces? The answer is obvious.
Gonzales's foolish policy of extracting information through intimidation only promotes the anti-American sentiment that dominates Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries. According to a Jan. 13 BBC News article, international human rights groups have started to challenge the Gonzales's questionable subversion of the Geneva Conventions. The article cites a report by the rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch which claims that "violations of human rights by the U.S. are undermining international law and eroding its role on the world stage.”
What Gonzales does not realize is that intimidation tactics can only work for so long. At some point, every population becomes restless with the brutal repression of its people, whether those being repressed are hardened criminals or otherwise. Often, a caged, cornered animal is the one that fights back the hardest, and the results of Gonzales's caging, cornering policies are causing visible backlash across the Arab world.
Some argue that Gonzales's rags to riches story and intellectual abilities qualify him to be attorney general. After all, he would be the highest-ranking Hispanic government official in the nation's history if confirmed, and President Bush ought to be applauded for his conspicuous efforts to place minorities in high cabinet positions. Bush made the correct choice in choosing a Latino candidate, but the wrong one in choosing a man who approved one of the most tactically damaging and ethically appalling policies of the president's first term.
In the end, the U.S. must consider the situation it is in globally. In the war on terrorism, America has accomplished nothing but the creation of a festering sense of hatred for the U.S. in the Muslim world. By appointing Gonzales, the government will perpetuate the notion that the U.S. is inhumane, insensitive and uninterested in the plight of Muslims worldwide.
Kiran Bhat. Kiran Bhat is a senior who loves the Washington Redskins, 24, Coldplay, Kanye West, Damien Rice, Outkast and Common (Sense). He aspires to be the next Sanjay Gupta. He will miraculously grow a Guptaesque telegenic face and sculpted body by the age of 30. In ... More »