31 October 2006


Timothy Burke is a serious scholar of African history. He's dismayed about recent developments in the US.
For years, one of the most powerful arguments you could make about a lot of misguided, failed or actively dictatorial regimes and political actions would be to point to some of the guiding political ideals and official practices of the United States. When the Soviet Union or other adversaries might point to alleged abuses of human rights within the United States (say, in U.S. prisons), a lot of us could take observe in reply that the abuses described were unofficial, or in spite of the law.

That’s all changed now.

When I say in the future, “Government which bows to the universal rights of human beings”, I can’t really say any longer, “Like in the United States”.
The only thing that our official representatives will be able to say at these and many other such moments in the future will be, ”It is ok for us to do these things, or reject these ideals, but not you. We are allowed to torture. You are not. We are allowed to hold people in secret, you are not. We are allowed to give the executive unrestrained authority not subject to judicial or legislative overview. You are not.”

Either you stand for universal principals or you don't.

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