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Monday, March 10, 2008

Proving Hypocrisy isn't Poisonous

I'm not one of those "everything happens for a reason" types, but if you need some sort of justification for George W. Bush's existence, you could point to the fact that he's living proof that hypocrisy is non-toxic. President Bush may be one of the healthiest executives ever to sit behind the big desk in the Oval Office. Yet, he indulges in hypocrisy as often as is humanly possible -- without any obvious symptoms of some sort of poisoning. Hypocrisy is harmless to the hypocrite, apparently.

For an example, we go to the Roosevelt Room in the White House. That'd be the Republican Teddy Roosevelt, not the Democrat Franklin. Teddy was a progressive Republican, but so what? History doesn't matter much to this president. The entire purpose of the location is that Bush stand beneath a portrait of Teddy in his "Rough Rider" uniform from the Spanish-American War. A war fought in Cuba.

Standing beneath that portrait (one that unfortunately reminds us of another pointless war of choice), President Bush scolded the world on its treatment of Cuba. In all seriousness, Bush spoke of Cubans "trapped in the tropical gulag," where they're "subjected to beatings, inadequate medical care, and long separations from their family."

If your mind immediately jumps to Guantanamo Bay -- a tropical gulag coincidentally within Cuba -- you're not alone. In what may be a record setting display of hypocrisy, President Bush was complaining about human rights abuses in Cuba -- while committing human rights abuses in Cuba. Brilliant.

He called out the international community. "Unfortunately, the list of countries supporting the Cuban people is far too short -- and the democracies absent from that list are far too notable," he said. "When a new day finally dawns for Cubans, they will remember the few brave nations that stood with them, and the many that did not." The world community would be right to greet Bush's wagging finger with a laugh. Hypocrisy aside, the US policy of embargo has been a failure of historic proportions. Are we supposed to believe that the majority of Cubans support it? And since when is cutting off an entire nation standing by that nation's people? As is all too common, Bush isn't making a damned bit of sense here. "Come join us in our decades old failure that only hurts the Cuban people," Bush is saying. It's not a compelling argument.

But we're getting a little far afield of the subject here, which is Bush's hypocrisy. I ran a search for the word "torture" in Bush's address. It's not there. He does complain that "last weekend, Cubans were pushed and shoved and beaten as they distributed copies of the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights," but it's hard to see how Bush really thinks this is such a bad thing -- torture is banned under the declaration. Article 5 reads, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Article 7 can't be real popular within the White House either, since that one 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." It's hard to see how that would allow imprisonment without charge or trial.

But, in case that's not clear enough, Article 8 tells us, "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," and Article 9 reads, "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile." Bush also violates Article 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." Article 11 is more of the same. "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," we're told.

And not all of Bush's violations of the Declaration are Gitmo-centric. "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation," reads the warrantless wiretap-unfriendly Article 12. "Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."

To return to the idea that hypocrisy is non-toxic, Bush managed to criticize another nation over illegal Cuban prisons and violations of the UN Declaration on Human Rights without keeling over. A massive hypocrite suffers no ill effects from his hypocrisy. Kind of sad, really. You kind of wish this sort of thing was self-correcting and self-punishing.

And, almost as if he wanted to prove the point, Bush turned around and vetoed a torture ban the very next day.

Washington Post:

Democrats and human rights advocates criticized President Bush's veto Saturday of a bill that would have banned the CIA from using simulated drowning and other coercive interrogation methods to gain information from suspected terrorists.

Bush said such tactics have helped foil terrorist plots. His critics likened some methods to torture and said they sullied America's reputation around the world.

"This president had the chance to end the torture debate for good, yet he chose instead to leave the door open to use torture in the future," said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

She said Bush ignored the advice of 43 retired generals and admirals and 18 national security experts, including former secretaries of state and national security advisers, who supported the bill.

Again, he managed the veto without even a cough or a chill. Healthy as a horse (and half as smart), Bush sent the bill back unsigned. No ill effects at all.

Proof positive that you can be the biggest hypocrite on the planet and not even break a sweat. Not only does this prove that hypocrisy is non-toxic, but that you can survive without a conscience, as well.


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