Editorial Analysis

First, we have the editorial:

Amnesty’s Idiocy

Richmond Times-Dispatch May 29, 2004

Serious people can – and do – disagree about detaining illegal combatants indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay. (This newspaper believes all those detained deserve at least a hearing.)

Serious people cannot view the abuses at Abu Ghraib as anything but beneath the standards of human decency and proper American military comportment.

Serious people ought to pay careful attention to how government agencies take advantage of the Patriot Act to conduct domestic surveillance.

And serious people can debate whether the Bush administration, in the wake of 9/11, should have waited to connect more dots before deciding to go to war against Saddam Hussein.

But serious people cannot seriously contend that “as a strategy, the war on terror is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle.” Yet so says Amnesty International and its secretary-general, Irene Khan. Note that her statement does not take issue with particular tactics in the war on terror. It condemns the entire enterprise, all but advocating – implicitly – surrender. This is rank idiocy.

From a purely utilitarian perspective, the war on terror has produced a net gain in human rights. As White House spokesman Scott McClellan noted, tens of millions of individuals in Afghanistan and Iraq have been liberated from tyranny. Has there been backsliding in parts of each country? No doubt. But even where radical Islam has reasserted itself the abuses cannot begin to compare to the atrocities previously inflicted on innocents. Have certain governments used the fight against terror as a cover to hammer political opponents? Yes – but the excuse for the misdeeds is not the cause of those misdeeds. Has the war on terror caused the deaths of innocents? Sadly, yes. But those deaths were unintentional – indeed, the U.S. has been scrupulous about trying to avoid harming innocents – in contrast to the deliberate killings committed by Saddam and al-Qaeda. And, in fact, the U.S. government and charitable Americans have labored to undo some of the damage inflicted by sadists and madmen.

From a more deontological perspective, Amnesty’s statement is, again, rank idiocy. The President laid out the vision and principles of the war on terror in his first State of the Union address: “We have no intention of imposing our culture,” he said, but at the same time, “America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious tolerance . . . .Together with friends and allies . . . we will demonstrate that the forces of terror cannot stop the momentum of freedom.”

Which of those words does Amnesty not understand?

Next we have a reader’s response:

Editorial Rates As ‘Sheer Idiocy’

Editor, Times-Dispatch: With “Amnesty’s Idiocy,” The Editorial Page of the Times-Disgrace has reached a new low. Amnesty International quite correctly holds the Bush administration accountable for violating, in the most cynical manner imaginable, the lofty American principles the President and his cronies are so fond of espousing.

The right of habeas corpus is one of the most fundamental limits on the power of the state, yet the administration sees no problem in simply disappearing thousands, including women, in hell holes such as Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and prisons so secret they are not availble for public scrutiny. We have seized private assets and denied equal justice on the apparent basis that the rule of law can be ignored if there is a perceived threat to the state. There are many historical precedents for this – in totalitarian states.

After shooting your own thesis in the foot, you then go on to abuse the language. “Deontological” means ethical. Intelligence has naught to do with ethics. There are plenty of ethical folks of limited intellect, and no shortage of bright people who appear to have little or no ethical sense. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld come to mind. If you are going to show off with big words that send your readers to the dictionary, and that our President could not pronounce, you could at least use them correctly. Tom Craggs. richmond.

First of all, I agree that Gauntanamo prisoners deserve at least a hearing. No government should have total power over any individual, including on the basis of self defense. If it is overthrown by a single individual then it deserve to be conquered.

Second, I question the term ‘serious individual’. This is a rhetorical term that is meaningless. There are situations and mannerisms that are serious or humorous. People are simply that.

Third, what I have seen and heard of happening in Abu Ghraib, while it has seriously undermined our credibility, is not as bad as what could’ve been happening or quite as bad as the things that have probably happened elsewhere that we don’t even know about. Perhaps the Pentagon leaked these ‘atrocities’ to hide worse things. Who knows? Just a thought.

Fourth, there is no fourth.

Fifth, do I qualify as a ‘serious person’? Can I apply?

Sixth, I really like Mr. Craggs reply, especially his taking the RTD editorial staff to task regarding their diction. Frequently, these clowns like to use all kinds of ten dollar words that make them seem superior to your average person. But, their attempt to make their readers feel inferior was thwarted by that greatest book of all – the Dictionary. Yes, elitists everywhere beware. We have access to this device. And we will use it. Way to go Tom Craggs!



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