Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Our newest ambassador

By Capt. Fogg

One of the weaknesses of our normally peaceful presidential change of watch is that someone like Bush, leaving office peacefully, with ceremony and not in handcuffs, isn't an event that shows the world we have attempted to cleanse ourselves of his administration and its arrogance. Regardless of who his replacement will be, it will be hard to convince the world that our government has any respect for basic human rights, justice or the rule of law.

Newly released Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al Hajj returned to his native Sudan Monday to begin his new mission of United States bad will ambassador to the world. He was held in our Guantanamo prison camp without charge for seven years, apparently because he contributed money to a charity suspected of supporting terrorists, once interviewed Osama bin Laden and worked for a beverage company whose director supported Muslim forces in Bosnia and Chechnya. After seven years -- or as he put it in a televised speech, "after 2,340 days spent in the most heinous prison mankind has ever known" -- he was released. Was this vengeance for his having reported human rights violations in Afghanistan? Maybe, but if this kind of evidence can justify seven years of enhanced interrogation, nobody the US targets for reprisals is safe and of course the world knows it, hates us for it and hates us the more for our not caring, for nattering endlessly about flag pins, what brand of whiskey is preferred and other insanely meaningless crap.

It will take a long time for the image of the US as a dangerous country run by paranoid megalomaniacs and peopled by cowardly, greedy entertainment junkies who have no clue or care, to fade. Who knows if it ever will? Who knows if we ever will be able to get clean of the addiction to diseased patriotism, ignorance, and delusions of grandeur, but if we won't punish Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and the entire cabal, perhaps the election of Barack Obama will to some degree signal that a change has occurred in America. Without that perception, ambassadors like Sami al Hajj will unite the world against us and ignite the passions of ten thousand terrorists. We can chose to become an isolated nation dependent upon the fear of our nuclear weapons for protection, or we can begin to reverse course, to live again as free and courageous people who deal with the world honestly.

Our choices are very limited and there is no perfect candidate, but, for my part, I think Barack Obama, whatever his faults and weaknesses may be, is the best choice we have.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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