Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Help us build a democratic society

Bush, in his condescending, white-man’s-burden mode: “There will be an opening for peace when leadership of the Palestinian people steps forward and says, ‘Help us build a democratic society.’” For a man who keeps saying that freedom is a gift from God, he sure acts like he thinks it’s a gift the United States can give.

I could almost have believed that troops really found a “hostage slaughterhouse” in Fallujah (and didn’t the term slaughterhouse spread rapidly through the media?), but my credulity was strained by the CDs of beheadings and the uniforms, and then they claimed also to have found records with the names of foreign fighters, and, according to an Iraqi general, “huge amounts of weapons and records detailing which country had offered it as a gift,” and I found my intelligence being insulted in a major way.

Remember Afghanistan, that country we brought freedom to? Its supreme court just banned cable tv, because of criticism of Bollywood films and Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments (ok, that one I can understand). A supreme court spokesman specifically cited a criticism from the ulema (clerics) council as reason for the ban. Something I missed: the supreme court tried to ban one of the presidential candidates for questioning whether polygamy was Islamic.

In France, where 22% of male prisoners were convicted of sex crimes, the government will introduce voluntary chemical castration. Insert your own obvious but somehow satisfying joke here.

NYT story on members of Colombia’s congress who support the death squads.

Bush nominates Elian Gonzales, the little Cuban boy with the magic dolphins who won our hearts, to be attorney general. Oh, all right, Alberto Gonzales with his own connection to Cuba, or at least Guantanamo Bay. Here’s a longer version of the “quaint” quote from his memo to Bush (long pdf here) which you will be hearing a lot: “As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war. In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions”. It’s the dismissiveness of the word quaint that makes this quote so obnoxious. After an election that Karl Rove tells us was won by R’s because they support eternal moral values, Gonzales’s view of civil and human rights, as well as international law, is that they are situational and revocable at the will of the executive.

Gonzales has worked with Bush for a long time, so there’s quite a record. One part of it was examined by the Atlantic Monthly in the July-August 2003 issue, the written summaries of 57 death penalty cases prepared by Gonzales for Governor Bush, on which Shrub, made the decision to execute or to...well, okay, he only decided to execute. The memos were cursory, assumed no mistake could ever be made by the legal system, and left out any mitigating evidence, information about ineffective counsel, witnesses with conflicts of interest, mental retardation, evidence of actual innocence, etc. They never included the defense’s clemency petitions, so Bush effectively only heard from one side. Now, Bush always claimed that his philosophy was that the governor shouldn’t second-guess the courts, so the information Gonzales failed to provide him was, arguably, information Bush had no interest in acting on. But does that “philosophy” sound like Bush? Does he seem overly scrupulous about checks and balances?

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