Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Does He Have Any Idea What He's Saying?

In his address to the United Nations on the 19th September 2006, George Bush, President of the United States of America, framed his speech in the context of the 1949 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and declared that, "The words of the Universal Declaration are as true to day as they were when they were written".

After I had finished choking on my toast, I thought I'd better look up the Declaration just in case I had mis-understood it.

Among the 30 rights proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are these:

  • “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
  • “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
  • “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.”
  • “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “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.”
  • “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
  • “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”

Though Bush is arguably in violation of many if not all the above-cited human rights tenets, he unblushingly cites the Universal Declaration as the foundation for his international policies, from the invasion of Iraq to his handling of the “war on terror.”

Even as Bush criticizes the U.S. Supreme Court for stopping his planned kangaroo courts for terror suspects and as he battles members of Congress over his desire for harsh interrogation of detainees, he invokes principles that bar exactly what he seeks to do.

How does subjecting detainees to simulated drowning by “waterboarding” not violate the prohibition on torture? How does stripping suspects naked and soaking them with cold water in frigid rooms not go against the ban on “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment?”

How does imprisoning people without trial or even charges – and arranging “extraordinary renditions” of others to countries that torture – fit with the U.N. principle barring “arbitrary arrest, detention or exile?”

What about the U.N. mandate that a suspect must get a public trial before an independent tribunal and receive “all the guarantees necessary for his defence?” Instead, Bush wants U.S.-run military tribunals to convict and even execute defendants based on secret evidence that can be withheld from both the public and the defendants.

Bush also insists that his “plenary” – or unlimited – powers as Commander in Chief allow him to tap telephones and spy on Americans and non-Americans without obtaining any form of court warrant. Yet, the Universal Declaration objects to “arbitrary interference with [a person’s] privacy, family, home or correspondence.”

Bush’s hostility toward dissent – even declaring some thinking “unacceptable,” as he did at a press conference on Sept. 15 – and the eagerness of his supporters to smear anyone who opposes the President also don’t match with the principle that human rights include the “freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information.”

So, why would Bush invoke the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when he is flouting many of its core principles?

There would seem to be two possible explanations for Bush’s chutzpah: either he’s just reading a script without regard to the words or he’s confident that he can speak the opposite of the truth knowing that few people of consequence will call him on it.

Either way, Bush’s cavalier attitude in hailing human rights while simultaneously trashing human rights represents another classic case of Bush’s hubris, which is becoming the defining characteristic of his presidency.


sandegaye said...

The man should be in a strait-jacket. Utterly clueless, & being operated thru his anus by Cheney.

jay said...

Amazing...coming from the man who is the formost violator of human rights on the planet at this time.

God help us.