America Must Respect Law at Home, Abroad
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America Must Respect Law at Home, Abroad
by Haroon Siddiqui
George W. Bush. John Kerry.
Yaser Hamdi. Yusuf Islam, a.k.a. Cat Stevens.
The last two may affect the political fortunes of the first two.
The British singer was turned back from the United States because "his activities could be potentially linked to terrorism."
So vague was the charge against the peace activist who condemned 9/11 that the British foreign secretary filed a complaint with Colin Powell.
In 2000, Islam was barred from Israel for a 1988 donation to a clinic run by Hamas, since declared a terrorist group. By that measure, Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin et al can be refused entry to America because they once permitted such funding.
Islam has been a frequent visitor to America, the last time in spring. Welcomed in May, deemed dangerous in September!
If his saga illustrates the Orwellian nature of George W. Bush's America, Hamdi's shows how autocratic it has become.
Born in America to Saudi parents, Hamdi was caught in Afghanistan, declared an "enemy combatant" and held incommunicado in America for two years.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that he and others had a right to a hearing. Instead, the administration struck a deal to let him go off to Saudi Arabia.
One moment, he's so dangerous his lawyer can't be told his crimes. The next, he's benign enough to be freed.
The Hamdi-Islam stories were overshadowed in a week that saw Kerry's definitive critiquing of Iraq; Bush going before the United Nations; the Iraqi prime minister popping up as his campaign prop; and Paul Martin and other world leaders at the UN. General Assembly session urging urgent action on Darfur.
Our PM said what needed to be, and what Bush, to his credit, has often: that 50,000 people are dead and 1 million displaced, yet the world has been arguing over whether or not the tragedy constitutes genocide.
Martin reiterated the Canadian idea , that, in a humanitarian crisis, international intervention trumps state sovereignty.
Yet the proposal fell flat, for two disparate reasons.
Bush was invoking his right of intervention, in Iraq, in the name of "security."
The case against Sudan, taken up mostly by the West, suffers from selectivity, given the deafening silence on the Russian massacre of twice or thrice that many Chechens.
Yet, in his talk to the U.N, Bush offered succour to Russian President Vladimir Putin's threatened pre-emptive wars, which, like his own, can only make matters worse.
On Iraq, the president confirmed Kerry's diagnosis that he is dangerously in denial.
Bush trotted out his Iraqi puppet, Iyad Allawi, to echo his macho talk that all is well, even while Iraq is burning.
Americans and, more so, Iraqis are dying in record numbers. Foreigners are being kidnapped and beheaded. Oil pipelines are being blown up. The American plan to regain control of one-third of Iraq after the Nov. 2 election can only stoke more terrorism in the interim.
Notwithstanding the Bush-Allawi duet, the world is demonstrably not safer without Saddam Hussein. Iraqi insurgent attacks are not linked to the January elections, because terrorists don't care.
Allawi, a bully and a CIA agent ruling Iraq from an American bunker in Baghdad, is not a harbinger of democracy.
It seems Kerry has, at last, grasped the extent of this tragedy. But he does not yet have an exit strategy from this Vietnam.
Allies may give money and troops if he were president. But their problems with America run deeper than Sheriff Bush.
The illegal occupation must end sooner than Kerry's four-year timetable. America must be a more neutral player in the Arab-Israeli conflict. It must get out of the business of maintaining client states in oil lands.
American soldiers in Iraq cannot be safe so long as America is hated. Americans at home will not feel safe in a Fortress America where the rule of law is ignored.
Which takes us back to Hamdi, Yusuf and others.
Earlier, a Geneva-based Islamic scholar, Tariq Ramadan, had his U.S. visa revoked. No explanation was offered as to why he couldn't teach at the University of Notre Dame.
There were innuendos about his "terrorist" thinking but little light on his challenge to Muslims to come to peaceful terms with modernity and the West.
Barring him . was "a major step backward in intellectual exchange between the Islamic world and the West," wrote John Esposito, professor of religion and world affairs at Georgetown University.
"Worse, it is contrary to America's national interest. It is a significant defeat for America in the war on terrorism."
Meanwhile, Hamdi's is not the only terrorism-related case to have fallen apart or into legal disrepute. The trend in case after case is the same: grandstanding by Attorney-General John Ashcroft based on flimsy evidence, which does not stand up in court — if it ever gets there.
As for the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, more are being quietly let go in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling. So, why were they there in the first place, and for so long?
This is as shameful as Abu Ghraib and other transgressions of the law under America's watch, as Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the U.N. said:
"No one is above the law.
"Every nation that proclaims the rule of law at home must respect it abroad, and every nation that insists on it abroad must enforce it at home."
Such words should be coming from Kerry, loud and clear.
He will not so much be defending the much-maligned Muslims and Arabs, something he has been reluctant to do, but standing up for bedrock American values.
He may be pleasantly surprised to find how many Americans would rally to the cause.
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