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Wednesday, January 18, 2006
US torture is policy. International human rights watchdog Human Rights Watch today issued its World Report 2006, a 532-page report in which it charges not only that the "US government's embrace of torture and inhumane treatment began at the top" but also that "torture and mistreatment have been a deliberate part of the Bush administration's counterterrorism strategy, undermining the global defense of human rights." Says the Report:
The US government's use and defense of torture and inhumane treatment played the largest role in undermining Washington's ability to promote human rights. In the course of 2005, it became indisputable that US mistreatment of detainees reflected not a failure of training, discipline, or oversight, but a deliberate policy choice. The problem could not be reduced to a few bad apples at the bottom of the barrel. As evidenced by President George W. Bush's threat to veto a bill opposing "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment," Vice President Dick Cheney's lobbying to exempt the Central Intelligence Agency ("CIA") from the bill, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's extraordinary claim that the United States is entitled to subject detainees to such treatment so long as the victim is a non-American held overseas, and CIA Director Porter Goss's defense of a notorious form of torture known as water-boarding as a "professional interrogation technique," the US government's embrace of torture and inhumane treatment began at the top.1
The US isn't the only nation facing grave charges such as these, but what's most significant is that now the US is among the worst human rights abusers on earth, also leaving us with a "global leadership void" in efforts to protect human rights around the world.
1. The World Report 2006, [available as PDF] contains survey information on human rights developments in more than 70 countries in 2005, and includes two essays: "Private Companies and the Public Interest: Why Corporations Should Welcome Global Human Rights Rules" and "Preventing the Further Spread of HIV/AIDS: The Essential Role of Human Rights."
Monday, January 16, 2006
The shepherds are being led by the sheep. Before leaving the issue of Martin Luther King Day, there is this story in today's Newsday concerning the miserable silence of American pastors on the Iraq war. In sum, perhaps: "My sense is a lot of clergy are uneasy about the war but are afraid of the disapproval or even the reprisal of their congregations" and "The preachers who get the most attention and are the most vocal are those who support the war."
1. Certainly I'm not a Methodist, but this quote from John Wesley is genuinely appropriate for today: "Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth." From the Letters of John Wesley, edited by John Telford (London: Epworth Press, 1931), quoted in Kenneth Collins' "John Wesley's Concept of the Ministerial Office," Wesley Center Online.posted by Merle Harton Jr. | 4:30 PM |
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Walking pastward. The concern I have about the commemorative Martin Luther King, Jr. day is not that it honors a pivotal figure in the ongoing movement toward racial equality in the US, but that its very position as another party day stymies efforts to look beyond the man to the goals he worked hard to achieve. More than this, it takes one's man's vision, his dream, and turns it in upon itself, until we can't see anything but people looking at each other and feeling good about themselves in speeches and passing by in parades. Happy MLK Day!
"Segregation is wrong because it is a system of adultery perpetuated by an illicit intercourse between injustice and immorality"1
It's naughty and explicitbut certainly less so than its subject matter. When people quote it, they often pair it with his comment about "the Vaseline of gradualism,"2 but that only makes it prurient, especially in a way he never intended. And yet this speaks to my concern. We are so captured by the man that we end up in a worship circle around his memory.3 The parades, celebrations, speeches, and sound-bites all make it seem like something is really happening, changes are being made, we are closer to his dream and not merely watching mourners from the corner of yet another Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Here we don't necessarily walk backward, but we don't walk forward, either: instead we walk "pastward," if I'm permitted to make up a word for it.
"For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one bodywhether Jews or Greeks, slave or freeand we were all given the one Spirit to drink." [1 Corinthians 12:13]
"Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all." [Colossians 3:11]
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." [Galatians 3:28]
Jesus devoted a whole parable to explain the meaning of "neighbor," making it clear that our neighbors are also black and also Arabic. While American Christians walk pastward on the path of greater defense spending, allowing Congress and the Bush administration to take from even the poorest in the US to pay for the slaughter of Arabic people in the Middle East, the citizens of this world will nevertheless continue to yearn for a peace which transcends all understanding. And they want this more than they want a war on poverty, a war on drugs, a war on terrorism, and a war on this or that.
1. From his Speech at the Great March on Detroit, June 23, 1963.