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June 02, 2005

Hitting a Nerve...

John McGowan writes at Michael Berube Online:

John McGowan: A hit, a palpable hit. The President, Vice-President, Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all responded this week to Amnesty International’s latest Human Rights Report. Bush called Amnesty’s concerns “absurd” and Rumsfeld, while acknowledging that “some abuses” had occurred, objected most strongly to the terms “gulag” and “concentration camps”.... The gents protest too much.... Our government officials keep trying, with their talk of a few bad apples in the lower ranks or of outrage... to obscure from view that the US is forcibly detaining people against their will outside of any legal process. To “admit” and “punish” abuses in this schema actually serves the larger policy because once you agree to use the word “abuses” about some of the behavior, you are granting the legitimacy of the day-to-day operations.

Recall that the Supreme Court has ruled that the detainees at Guantanamo must have hearings. How many have gotten their Court-mandated hearings so far? I’m having a Brad DeLong—“why can’t we have a better media?”—moment on that question. An hour reading the news stories on Guantanamo failed to yield an answer. The Court ruling came on January 31, but I can’t find any updates on what has been done in way of compliance. And nobody raises the question—no less answers it—in the current spate of stories about the Amnesty Report. Except, of course, it is right there in the Amnesty Report. Will the answer shock you? None. Nada.

Rule that the Geneva Conventions are quaint. Ignore a ruling from the US Supreme Court. But jump all over the “excessive” language of “gulag” and “concentration camp.” How many times can these guys—and Condi—pull off this trick?

Hannah Arendt was very clear that evils done to humans in the modern world—which is organized politically around the form of the nation-state—begin by rendering people “stateless,” by moving them outside of any legal structure in which they are recognized as citizens with certain rights or have access to a legal system in which to contest their treatment. The US has headed down that path, not on the scale of 20th century evils, but making use of the same forms. (Of course, I didn’t have to look long to find a conservative blog that is full of scorn for legal protections for obviously wicked people.) In that respect, Amnesty’s terms are apt—and, if sensationalist, reflect a desperate attempt to get somebody’s, anybody’s, attention.

Keep the pressure on. We’ve got this brief swinging of the media’s attention to our detention centers once again. We have an administration placed once again on the defensive—and reacting by swinging out wildly at its accusers. Maybe even someone in the mainstream media will read the Amnesty report and remember the Supreme Court decision.

Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach Richard Cheney. Do it now.

Posted by DeLong at June 2, 2005 11:50 AM