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Alberto Gonzales: A new fox to guard the henhouse; Will Gonzales do more damage than Ashcroft?

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Alberto Gonzales: A new fox to guard the henhouse; Will Gonzales do more damage than Ashcroft?

 by Mary Shaw


While civil libertarians throughout the U.S. are shedding no tears over the resignation of Attorney General John Ashcroft, many are wondering if President Bush's choice of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to replace Ashcroft might ultimately take matters from bad to worse.

Ashcroft's PATRIOT Act and detentions of countless non- citizens for indefinite lengths of time without charge and without legal recourse sparked a public outcry that led to extensive lobbying efforts in favor of reforms to safeguard human rights. Some of those efforts have been successful; others not. But, in the media, those concerns have been overshadowed by the reports of yet another kind of human rights abuse by the Bush administration -- the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and elsewhere.

The images of naked prisoners stacked in human pyramids or trembling in front of snarling dogs are forever etched in the memories of all who saw the shocking photos. To many, the image of the hooded prisoner on a box with wires extending from his appendages has become a more fitting symbol of American "values" than the Statue of Liberty.

And, as most citizens of the world have learned by now, that stage was set by Gonzales, who, in his famous "torture memo", described the Geneva Conventions as "quaint" and advised the Bush administration of ways to skirt international law while reducing the risk of criminal liability. As a result, not only have countless detainees endured unthinkable suffering and humiliation, but our national reputation has suffered, too, in ways that may take decades to repair.

And who is paying the price? Low-level soldiers like Lynndie England and Charles Graner, not Gonzales, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, or any other high-level officials who are ultimately responsible for U.S. policy. Indeed, instead of holding Gonzales accountable for the atrocities he endorsed and enabled, President Bush seeks to reward him by placing him at the head of the U.S. Department of Justice. The irony would be almost poetic if the ramifications weren't so alarming.

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Even Amnesty International, which maintains a policy of taking no position on the appointment of individual nominees, recently issued a statement calling for close and careful examination of Judge Gonzales's views on human rights and humanitarian law, "with particular reference to the Administration's misguided approach to these in the course of its declared 'war on terror.'"

The world is watching. Those involved in the confirmation process must demand a policy of openness and true justice, and the Bush administration must launch its next four years in power by setting an example of positive action and respect for human rights and the rule of law. The future of this nation, the world, and our fundamental freedoms depend on it.


Author's Bio -

Mary Shaw is a writer and activist based in Philadelphia, PA.

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She currently serves as Philadelphia Area Coordinator for Amnesty International, and her views on human rights and social justice issues have appeared in numerous online forums and in newspapers and magazines worldwide. She can be reached at mary@maryshawonline.com.

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