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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

George. W. Bush at the UNSixty years ago, representatives from 16 nations gathered to begin deliberations on a new international bill of rights. The document they produced is called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- and it stands as a landmark achievement in the history of human liberty. It opens by recognizing "the inherent dignity" and the "equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family" as "the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world." And as we gather for this 62nd General Assembly, the standards of the Declaration must guide our work in this world.
-- George W. Bush, address to United Nations General Assembly, 2007

When President Bush addressed the UN General Assembly yesterday, he used the occasion to remind that body of its dedication to human rights. He cited human rights abuses in Myanmar -- which he refered to as "Burma," Myanmar being beyond his modest pronunciation skills -- in Cuba, in "Belarus, North Korea, Syria, and Iran."

Bush called on the UN to reform. "To be credible on human rights in the world," he said, "The United Nations must reform its own Human Rights Council." Clearly, this man's call for human rights stirred the assembly. Many must've been busy picking their jaws up off the ground and saying to each other, "Geez, this idiot's got a lot of balls!"

See, as long as we're talking about credibility on human rights, we have to consider Bush's. He doesn't have any. The cuban delegation walked out on Bush -- they're not happy with Guantanamo Bay.

Seeing how Bush brought up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let's take a look at the parts of it that he didn't mention -- mostly because he didn't dare.

You don't have to read far into it to get to Bush's first violation. Article 5 reads, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." It just goes downhill from there.

Art. 6 tells us, "Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law." He flunks Art. 7, which reads, "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination." He violates Art. 8 -- "Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law."

So far, so bad. Art. 9 ("No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile"), Art. 10 ("Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him"), and Art. 11 ("Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence") all fall by the wayside.

We're still not done. Bush's wiretapping violates Art. 12 -- "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."

He's got a lot of guts lecturing anyone on abuses of human rights. The man responsible for kidnappings overseas and at home, of torture, of detention without trial, doesn't get to do that. The man responsible for the following doesn't get to do that:

The Guardian:

The story that [Khalid] el-Masri tells [police] by way of explanation, on this evening in late May 2004, is extraordinary: a story of how an unemployed German car salesman from the town of Ulm went on a New Year's holiday to Macedonia, was seized by Macedonian police at the border, held incommunicado for weeks without charge, then beaten, stripped, shackled and blindfolded and flown to a jail in Afghanistan, run by Afghans but controlled by Americans. Five months after first being seized, he says, still with no explanation or charge, he was flown back to Europe and dumped in an unknown country which turned out to be Albania.

El-Masri, completely innocent of any wrongdoing, was -- according to Amnesty International -- "arrested and unlawfully detained... He was handed over to US agents and secretly flown to Afghanistan as part of the US programme of secret detentions and renditions -- the illegal transfer of people between states outside of any judicial process." He hasn't even gotten so much as an apology.

The leader of the country that does that gets to shut the hell up about human rights. The country responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib has no moral authority to speak on human rights. The man who thinks the legal principle of habeas corpus, which allows people to challenge their imprisonment, is an impediment to justice and not an instrument of it doesn't get to lecture anyone on human rights.

Bush's address to the United Nations General Assembly was obviously meant for home consumption. No one sitting in that hall could possibly have taken him seriously.

That's what George W. Bush has done to the US. A nation that could once legitimately call itself a leader in the cause of freedom and justice in the world has now become a joke on those issues. For Bush to stand in front of those diplomats and scold many of them on their countries' human rights records is freakin' ridiculous and his message, which otherwise might've been helpful, held as much weight as the staple holding the pages of his speech together.

Bush himself has rendered his message entirely meaningless.


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