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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/8/10

In Tea Party Address, Palin Stokes the Anti-Rights Fire

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On February 6th, Sarah Palin gave the keynote address at a tea party convention in Nashville.

As expected, I disagreed with just about everything Palin said. However, there was one part of her speech in particular that really got my blood boiling: She propagated the lie that the would-be Christmas airline bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, stopped talking after he was read his Miranda rights. The right wing likes to use that talking point to further their belief that terrorism suspects deserve no rights.

The Washington Post described that portion of her speech as follows:

"Serving up fiery rhetoric with a broad smile, she attacked the administration's policies on the economy and on national security, assailing in particular the decision to read Miranda rights to the man accused of attempting to bomb a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day.

'Treating this like a mere law enforcement matter places our country at great risk because that's not how radical Islamic extremists are looking at this,' Palin said to thunderous applause. 'They know we're at war, and to win that war we need a commander in chief, not a professor of law standing at the lectern.'"

It is alarming to hear this nonsense being repeated and then devoured so enthusiastically by Palin's audience, primarily because it simply is not true.

In fact, law enforcement officials have gained a great deal of intelligence from Abdulmutallab, proving that a rights-based approach can actually be much more effective than the previous administration's preferred pro-torture/anti-rights methodology.

After all, experts agree that torture does not work. It does not produce reliable intelligence, because the victim is likely to say whatever he thinks his torturer wants to hear, in order to make the pain stop. Palin's former running mate John McCain made that very point when he told the story of how, when asked under torture in Vietnam to provide his captors with the names of the members of his flight squadron, he instead rattled off the names of the Green Bay Packers' offensive line, "knowing that providing them false information was sufficient to suspend the abuse."

And, because torture is illegal, and because information obtained under torture is not reliable, it is not admissible in court, opening up another can of worms: If the only proof you have against a defendant was obtained under torture, you have no basis for conviction. But what if the defendant is deemed too dangerous to release?

As Georgetown Law Professor David Cole wrote in a 2005 article for the Los Angeles Times:

"[B]y electing early on to violate the universal prohibition on torture and cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, the [Bush] administration has not only inflicted unconscionable harm on detainees from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo, and done incalculable damage to the U.S. image abroad, it has painted itself into a corner. It is becoming increasingly unacceptable to hold so-called enemy combatants indefinitely without trial. But we have shielded the vast majority of them from being tried for the wrongs they may well have committed."
But all these facts are apparently not enough to stop Palin and her rabid fans from calling for more of the same. So, for this reason and many more, if Palin does decide to run for the presidency in 2012 as her fans are hoping, Democrats and others must work very, very hard to keep her from winning. Regardless of President Obama's shortcomings and unkept promises, we cannot afford another neocon in the White House any time soon. There's still far too much healing to be done.
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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
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