Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Hollow words about democracy


Pat Murphy

In the world of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, charity doesn?t begin at home but in faraway places.

In a 913-word piece for The New York Times last week, Wolfowitz was on his bended rhetorical knees appealing to judges in Indonesia to spare a Jakarta editor from jail on charges of criminal defamation of a businessman.

Unfortunately for ?Tempo? editor Bambang Harymurti, Indonesian judges either don?t read the Times or found Wolfowitz?s plea unconvincing: the editor received a year in prison.

Yes, Wolfowitz was correct in appealing for Harymurti?s freedom.

But what struck more than a few people is that Wolfowitz doesn?t argue as strenuously for justice at home for U.S. citizens as he does for an Indonesian.

One phrase in Wolfowitz?s op-ed plea leaped off the page--?The real test of a democracy is how it protects the rights of its citizens.?

Wolfowitz, you?ll remember, is one of the signatory neoconservatives to a 1998 manifesto of the ?Project for the New American Century,? which beat the drums for overthrowing Iraq?s Saddam Hussein. After worming their way into policy posts of the Bush presidency, the Wolfowitz & Co. cabal trumped up reasons for attacking Iraq by creating a Pentagon black bag operation to dish up discredited information on Iraq?s nonexistent doomsday weapons.

So, as Pentagon No. 2 man, Wolfowitz ignored his own mantra that ?the real test of a democracy is how it protects the rights of its citizens?: he denied citizens the right to truth behind sending U.S. troops to war.

Having accomplished that intellectual swindle, Wolfowitz stood by while policies were shaped to round up terrorism ?suspects,? throw them into cells without legal counsel and without charges.

Wolfowitz uttered nary a public complaint about citizen rights as heavy-handed government descended on the innocent. (He also was notably mum when our man then in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, shut down a pesky newspaper whose policies irritated him. So much for democracy?s freedom of the press.)

Among victims of brass knuckle Pentagon policies was Capt. James Yee, treated to Indonesia-like authoritarianism by the Pentagon.

A Muslim chaplain and U.S. citizen, Yee was dumped into solitary confinement for 76 days--two months and two weeks!--as an espionage ?suspect.? Now totally cleared, he?s understandably resigning from the Army in disgust. As Pentagon second in command, Wolfowitz can?t deny he wasn?t aware of Capt. Yee?s predicament.

If Wolfowitz can wring his hands for the plight of an editor on the other side of the world in Indonesia, how outrageous Wolfowitz can?t show public disgust about the clenched fist treatment of Americans in their homeland by his Bush administration colleagues.

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