Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Roxana Saberi and the Contradictions of American Political Dialogue

Roxana Saberi, the Iranian-American journalist who was briefly detained in Iran earlier this year, harshly criticized the Iranian government for their draconian response to the recently disputed presidential election and the protests that followed.  Speaking of the plight of political prisoners in Iran, Saberi said:

They are detained without due process of law, and the whereabouts of most of them are unknown.  They have little or no contact with the outside world.  They are likely under severe psychological and, in some cases, physical pressures.  Many may be forced to make false confessions, and they have no access to lawyers.  This is very similar to the treatment I received.  

Since the protests began following the disputed presidential election a few weeks ago, political pundits and politicians of all stripes have condemned the Iranian government for their extreme and violent response to protesters, their dismissal of the rule of law, and their censorship of the media.  Many have also criticized President Obama's response to the upheaval in Iran as not going far enough in its' rebuke of the Iranian regime.  The funny thing is, Saberi's quote above could perfectly describe what our government has been doing for years with people we have detained prosecuting the War of Terror.  A list of examples include: the Bush administration ordering the torture of detainees to "get highly valuable information that saves American lives", the refusal to allow detainees access to lawyers and adequate defense, the dismissal of lawsuits brought by plaintiffs seeking justice and compensation for their illegal treatment by the US government on the basis of  the "State Secrets" priviledge, so-called "expert" legal opinions offered by the Office of Legal Counsel that give shield to the executive branch to get away with these abuses.  So, even though we have shredded our Constitution fighting the War on Terror, our elite political and media class cannot bring themselves to critically analyze what our own government has been doing with regard to basic civil liberties, the rule of law, and ensuring due process.  Many media outlets still will not call what took place at Guantanamo, Bagram Air Base and other CIA "black sites" torture, even though the evidence overwhelmingly shows that detainees were brutally tortured, often to the point of death.  Before we even contemplate criticizing other countries for civil rights and human rights abuses, we need to reflect on our own record on these issues.  The hypocrisy coming from the establishment media and Washington is astounding.  

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