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What's in a Name?

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Message Jayne Stahl
Forget the raging Southern California wildfires, forget e-coli poisoning from bad spinach that has contaminated more than a hundred people nationwide, I think a rabid outbreak of hubris, which is currently circling the globe, poses a far graver threat to the survival of the planet.

This malodor of arrogance can be detected not merely in our nation's capitol, but in the U.N. General Assembly this week, as well, coming from the mouth of Iranian President Ahmadinejad who calls his country's nuclear program "transparent, and peaceful;" talk about oxymorons; to call a nuclear program "peaceful" is like calling a pit bull docile. (AP) One thing is "transparent;" while the leader of the "free world" boasts of not reading newspapers, clearly his Iranian counterpart does.

Yes, friends, the unmistakeable smell of mendacity, the aroma of hubris is visible, too, in the words of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who, this morning, called Bush "the devil," and lashed out at U.S . "imperialism." I would like to ask Mr. Chavez, if I could, if there is another brand of "imperialism" he would prefer to American imperialism, or if he is is he indicting the concept of imperialism at large; one would hope the latter would apply. Mr. Chavez hit the nail on the head when he suggested that Bush " came here talking as if he were the owner of the world," (AP) I daresay one would be hard-pressed to find a better characterization of our president.

That said, the best example yet of this contagion of hubris comes from the Pentagon in its egregious effort to justify detaining an Associated Press photographer, Bilial Hussein, in Iraq, "indefinitely without charges" for his alleged "improper ties to insurgents." (AP) Unspecified "journalist groups" are calling for charges to be brought, or that the photographer be immediately released.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, claims that Mr. Hussein has strong connections to "insurgent" groups in Iraq, and is participating in activities one would not "expect a journalist to be doing." (AP) So, the press now has to look to the Pentagon for its job description. And what does Bilal Hussein's attorney want? Just that his client have his day in court, be formally charged, and have access to the evidence against him; in short, due process, a process which is due south thanks to the ongoing efforts of this administration to subvert the Constitution and international law.

As to the assertion by Mr. Whitman, the Pentagon's spokesperson, that Hussein has been known to consort with, and have "improper ties to insurgents," (AP), using that same argument, why not pick up, and detain, all members of this administration who are known to have consorted with, and had ties to Osama bin Laden's kinsfolk only hours before 9/11.

Maybe it's just that this poor photographer happens to be unlucky enough to share a name with a deposed dictator that leaves him vulnerable to incrimination. But, if so, why is it that the same transparency didn\'t result in rounding up, and incarcerating family members of one who is considered responsible for the most heinous crime against America ever.
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Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.
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