Wednesday, May 12, 2004
MarkBernstein.org
 
choose your style: neoclassical | blue | modern | nouveau

Sumner

I've been writing too much about politics lately. But yesterday's senate hearing remarks by James Inhofe need to be remembered because they remind Americans exactly what's at stake. He's the guy who complained about do-gooders:

These prisoners, you know they're not there for traffic violations. If they're in cellblock 1-A or 1-B, these prisoners, they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands and here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals.

These prisoners, of course, have neither been charged, nor tried, nor convicted. Inhofe said this while sitting at the same table as John McCain, who for several years was a prisoner of war. McCain's captors knew that he was an insurgent, fighting an undeclared war against their homeland. They knew McCain had Vietnamese blood on his hands. To make such a statement to McCain's face, well, it's got to recall the beating that Congressman Preston Brooks administered to Charles Sumner on the senate floor in 1856.

Joshua Micah Marshall: I don't think I can remember a more shameful spectacle in the United States Congress, in my living memory, than the comments today of James Inhofe, the junior senator from Oklahoma.

To sanction beatings and killings of people -- soldiers or civilians -- who have fought your army and whom you have captured, is despicable. We hold ceremonies today to honor civilian insurgents who murdered Nazi soldiers and whom the Nazi's interrogated, tortured, and executed.

What are these Republicans thinking? Our declaration of independence is clear: we hold these truths to be self-evident. The Geneva convention is clear -- and is our sworn word:

Washington Post: The Third Geneva Convention, which applies to prisoners of war and captured insurgents, says that they may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind as a way to make them answer questions. The Fourth Geneva Convention, which covers people under foreign occupation, says no physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against them, in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties.

Bottom line. I think we'll repudiate these fools and criminals in a few months. We'll start writing the books that will explain to future generations how the United States of America, briefly, was provoked to madness and defiled its ideals. We'll set about apologizing to our friends abroad, we'll free the prisoners held without trial, we'll end the lies.

Or we won't. In which case, I think it might be time to think seriously about whether there's a place -- perhaps in a northern fjord or a vacant part of Australia, where Americans of intelligence and liberality, Americans who believe in freedom, can go.

Some corner of the world where we might tell the tale, and keep alive the memory, of the last, best hope of mankind.