Amnesty International is asking people to participate in an e-mail campaign to urge investigation of the tortures and human rights violations we have witnessed as part of the war on terror. Never one to merely cut and paste, I added my own introductory paragraphs to this e-mail, which I just sent to George W. Bush.
Dear Mr. President:
The reports of torture, abuse, religious desecration, assaults on civilians and prisoners, and other such human-rights violations that have steadily issued from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo are depressing, disturbing, and seem to me to be evidence that the world is slipping into a sort of barbarism where human rights and human life are valued at a very cheap price indeed, particularly by your government. It is not acceptable for the “leaders of the free world” to act in this manner; just as police officers need to be held to a higher standard than ordinary citizens, the United States needs to wield its power with restraint and concern for the lives of those it affects; Iraqi, Afghani, and Muslim rights and freedoms are not worth less than the rights and freedoms of the people of the US, and for your government to act with such unconcern for them as to employ such means as witnessed in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib is for it to serve as a recruiter for America’s enemies; such actions are an argument against the righteousness of the American people and against your government. The War on Terror, as it is being practiced, is making the world a far more dangerous place than it was prior to your election; yet it is in your means to take action to do something about this.
Perhaps, like much of the rest of the world, you feel powerless – the pawn of forces larger than yourself, who have given you the trappings of power and the luxuries it affords you, which you seem to enjoy; yet you have it in your means, Mr. President, to exercise true power and bring to justice the war criminals in your own government, and to make amends for the grotesque wrongs wrought by your country during your last two terms. I am certain, unless you truly are a sociopath (as some on the left would have it), that the images of torture which we have all seen disturb you and prey on your conscience. Perhaps you do not feel personally responsible for them, but the world does not view matters in this way, and expects and hopes you will, as the President of your country, assume responsibility for righting the wrongs seen here:
These things have happened on your watch, Mr. President. If you take insufficient action to put the situation right, you are as guilty of the crimes depicted in these photos as any soldier called on by his leaders to beat and abuse prisoners. If you have not dwelt on the matter much, please, Mr. President, ask yourself as you look on these images what sort of legacy this is, if these photos are how you wish to be remembered in the history books; if you want your grandchildren to deny any relationship with you, so ashamed are they of the blood on your hands. To atone for such crimes, it is not sufficient to simply punish the soldiers whose hand you guided. More must be done. The United States is not Syria, not Uzbekistan; it must lead by example and show the world that torture is unacceptable and abhorrent and NOT a matter of policy. As a citizen of a country that is also included on Al Qaida’s “hit list,” Canada, due to our support of your country’s actions, I pray that you will take actions fitting of a leader who is concerned with preserving world peace and safety, and make it your utmost priority to make amends for what your country has done, and the damage your presidency has done to the image of America.
Mr. President, it is still within your means to become a hero to all people in the world, rather than a hated enemy; you need only follow your conscience, and wield your power as a statesman and as a man with a moral conscience to bring justice for these crimes.
The remainder of this note is cut-and-pasted from the website of Amnesty International. I am hoping enough of these e-mails have reached you that you are familiar with its contents; I thought a fresh beginning might hold your attention awhile.
Mr. President, I urge you to support the establishment by the US Congress of an independent commission of inquiry with subpoena powers to investigate all aspects of the USA’s “war on terror” detention and interrogation policies and practices with a view to ensuring full accountability for any violations of international law including acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment that have occurred. I also urge you to request the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel to conduct a criminal investigation into any involvement of administration officials in such violations.
I urge you to ensure that all US-run places of detention, without exception, are opened to regular, independent, unannounced and unrestricted visits of inspection by expert UN human rights mechanisms. I urge you to adopt their recommendations for safeguards to prevent further torture and ill-treatment, and to ensure full implementation by the USA of the safeguards set out in Amnesty International’s 12-Point Programme for the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment by Agents of the State.
Those who perpetrate crimes of torture and other ill-treatment and those up the chain of military and civilian command responsible for ordering, facilitating or acquiescing to such crimes should be prosecuted.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.