Saturday, May 14, 2005

Freedom On The March

Gracious ally in the War On Some Terror© Uzbekistan has put Himself's notions of God's gifts of Freedom™ and Liberty® in what Texans call "a bit of a bind". Seems that Uzbek dictator/scumbag/boiler-of-dissidents Islam Karimov had his minions fire into a crowd of political protesters, killing nine according to the Uzbek government, which probably means a real toll of dozens.

One after another, men and women took the makeshift podium and shared their anger about unemployment and living in poverty. Many of the thousands of demonstrators crowding the city square cried – it was their first public forum in many years in this tightly controlled former Soviet republic.

Suddenly, an armored personnel carrier sped by. Immediately afterward came a truck of soldiers wearing bulletproof vests and helmets, Kalashnikov rifles across their chests. When a second truck with troops drove through, protesters hurled stones – and the troops opened fire into the crowd.

Every time some moron talking head wants to heap praise on Dear Leader for "progress" in Lebanon or Egypt, I can't help but think of places like Uzbekistan or Russia, about whom nothing gets said, and even less done. And don't talk to me about Ukraine; if Americans had taken a tip from the Ukrainians, we never would have put up with the shenanigans in Ohio -- voting machines giving Bush more votes than exist in the entire precinct; cold-calling voters the night before the election and telling them the voting place had been moved; the Secretary of State just happening to be the Bush campaign chairman for the state (which, oddly, was also the case in 2000 in Florida. Coincidences abound, do they not?).

Anyway, regarding Uzbekistan, the Fightin' For Freedom Keyboard Posse has to make some real decisions about this animal Karimov. Either we're okay with aligning ourselves with a man who literally boils people alive, or we're not. Either we believe in rendering people who have not even been charged with a crime or allowed access to any form of due process to a vicious regime that rips out finger- and toe-nails as part of its regular interrogation processes, or we don't believe in such stuff.

We keep hearing the usual whinges that the UN has rendered itself meaningless by allowing beastly regimes like Syria, Sudan, and Libya to be on its Human Rights Committee. I agree.

But if we're going to complain about such places, then we have to step up and pro-actively demonstrate why we're better. And if we're condemning innocent (or for that matter, guilty) men to faraway torture chambers, thinking that "out of sight, out of mind" somehow absolves us from these evil acts, then how much better are we really?

I am as pro-capital punishment as it gets; I even find a certain grace in China's practice of taking convicted criminals out back, shooting them in the head, and sending a bill for the bullet to the family. Provided these are people found guilty by due diligence and investigatory process, I have no problem with it.

But we've stuck people in the Gitmo gulag for years now, with no charge, no lawyer, no basic human rights, no nothin'. And if they haven't cracked after a couple of years of constant abuse (which might be, um, a sign that they're actually innocent), then we pack 'em off to Syria or Jordan or Uzbekistan to be taken apart at the joints, thinking that the practice of extraordinary rendition somehow gets some of the blood off our hands.

It does not. Either we have a moral responsibility, or we do not. Either we choose the path of justice and rightness, or we take the easy path of loose methods and despicable practices.

Think about it for a second -- we have paid the people who purport to speak for us as a nation to the world at large, to shake hands and break bread with a man who is known to have human beings literally boiled alive. We have treated this monster as a friend, because he currently suits our geopolitical purposes. This is unconscionable, as unconscionable as allowing Pakistan to stab us in the back all these years for the sake of convenience.

It's one or the other, folks; there's no middle ground on torturing captives. Have we gained enough ground in this War to justify losing our souls and our remaining prestige?

More from Billmon.

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