"The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant." ~ John Stuart Mill
How Republicans Can Save America (and Perhaps the World)
Exclusive to STR
May 21, 2007
"There is a strong tradition of being anti-war in the Republican Party. " -- Dr. Ron Paul at the recent South Carolina GOP debate.*
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Why a column addressing Republicans at a site that eschews the coercion of politics?
Because preaching to the choir does nothing to advance the cause of love and freedom. A more free and compassionate world will require that many people change their point of view, and writing for those who already understand the evils of coercion does little to change anything. We need a great number to adopt a more empathic, pro-freedom, anti-coercion position. We need millions to embrace the ideals of love and freedom in a very real, practical, and passionate manner.
We need massive and widespread change, in other words, and unless we speak to those who do not yet support love and freedom, we won't be doing anything useful to create that change.
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Today's Republican major officeholders and candidates are, with rare exceptions, vocally and enthusiastically in favor of torture and war.
Is this the traditional Republican position?
No, it is not. The traditional Republican position has been peace and non-interventionism. For example, Republicans were elected to end the wars started by Democrats in Korea and Vietnam . Ron Paul, the 10-term Congressmen from Texas and former Libertarian Party presidential candidate (and a genuine country doctor; an OB/GYN who has delivered thousands of babies), has been reminding people of what the GOP once stood for, and causing a firestorm of debate in the process.
Paul's comments about things that Americans once knew (but have for the most part forgotten) – not only about traditional values of the Republican party but about the founding principles of this country, and about the highest law of the land – have shaken up the power establishment and their willing pawns in the major media.
Dr. Paul's approach to foreign policy is constitutional, respectful, non-interventionist, and non-violent. The current GOP approach is arrogant, violent, aggressive, and cruel.
The contrast could not be greater. People are noticing, too. This is bad news for the lizard-eyed power elite.
The pattern of behavior followed by the United States government, not only currently but under Clinton and Bush I, has been to attack small, weak nations that are no real threat to us, and to use sanctions and outright violence (the decade-long embargo of Iraq and the imposition of no-fly zones over Iraq, for example) to coerce other nations to do as the U.S. government wants them to do. The current Bush administration has also worked to make torture commonplace, using verbal and legalistic (yet unconstitutional, and thus null) attempts to justify that torture. Torture is illegal under both international and United States law. The Geneva Convention forbids torture, as does the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Brief excerpts from these documents appear at the end of this column.
Torture is a serious crime, whether committed by a psycho like the BTK killer or by a soldier or other government employee. After World War II, the United States sentenced a Japanese military officer to 15 years hard labor for waterboarding of prisoners; today, the U.S. employs the same method of torture and GOP presidential hopefuls are falling all over themselves to endorse the practice.
Frankly, the idea that torture would be sanctioned and used by the United States even occasionally is appalling. But torture is being used widely and routinely, against people who in many cases clearly have no useful information to provide and who may not even be enemy combatants but rather victims of the U.S. bounty program – people sold into slavery, basically, to be tortured by U.S. interrogators. How can the interrogators know who has information and who does not? "Torture them all, then, just in case" appears to be the standard procedure. It is shocking and often gut-wrenching to read reports of the suffering inflicted on many of our detainees; see, for example, here.
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"Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit, recently told the National Journal that less than 10% of Guantanamo prisoners are high-value Al Qaeda operatives with any knowledge of terrorism. Of those turned over by Pakistan , he said: 'We absolutely got the wrong people.'"
-- Who's Really Locked up in Guantanamo?, Human Rights Watch
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Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.
Therefore having and not having arise together.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short contrast each other:
High and low rest upon each other;
Voice and sound harmonize each other;
Front and back follow one another.
-- Lao Tzu, The Tao Te Ching
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Can anything positive come from all this?
Despite my admiration for the Tao, I have difficulty seeing torture and other evil bringing good into the world. But perhaps things have gotten far enough out of hand that Americans will at least now wake up and do something decisive to stop the insanity of torture and aggressive war.
The contrast between Dr. Paul's simple, compassionate decency and our government's increasingly cold depravity may be the spark that ignites real change. There are many people in government (it is a very large government, after all) who, like Ron Paul, are decent, compassionate – and unhappy with the illegal and offensive policies that the federal government has been following. Dr. Paul's example, and the surprisingly broad and positive response to his candidacy, may help others to stand up for human rights and for constitutional principles.
If not, I shudder to think where we are headed.
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The Republican Party is a political organization in the United States . When I say, in the title for this column, that Republicans ". . . can save America (and perhaps the world)" am I not over-reaching?
American foreign policy hugely affects other nations, so no: My suggestion makes sense. But there is even more at stake, because to create a healthier world – a world characterized by love and freedom – will require that millions of people understand and insist on such a world. Republicans are human beings, and the truth is, we need them – or at least many of them – if we are to create such a world in a timely fashion. Unless that world is created soon, the human race may not survive, literally.
There are millions of people in America 's Republican Party, and I am convinced that most of them do not want a world of torture and war. My hope is that increasing numbers of these people will look beyond the political nonsense of power politics, and embrace a deeper sense of their own humanity. It is time to insist on a healthier world, and if we are to succeed, those now in the Republican Party can and must be a part of that movement. Even a small move in the direction of compassion and freedom will be helpful, but we can certainly hope for more.
Love and freedom,
or cruelty and tyranny:
which future shall we have?
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Next week: "How Democrats can Save America (and Perhaps the World)".
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* This was not actually a debate so much as a mish-mash of questions, most of which were addressed to and answered by only one participant, but it is generally being called a "debate." The link (here it is again) includes a clip showing a montage of most of the participants embracing and justifying the current Party line (Romney says "we ought to double Guantanamo", in fact) – followed by Ron Paul talking truth and sanity, followed by stunned, disbelieving look on the faces of his opponents. And after the clip, Maher calls Paul "My hero." Click here for a clip with all of Ron Paul's answers at the Fox News debate in South Carolina . Click here for a compilation of Paul's answers at the MSNBC debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley , California .
** "No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind." – from Article 17 of the Geneva Convention
Please note that I am not reproducing this text because I believe that any formal document, signed by members of various governments, creates human rights: Each person has the right to be treated with respect simply because he or she IS a human being, regardless of what governments do or say. I am reproducing text from the Geneva Convention and (below) from the UN Convention Against Torture as a reminder of what is actually at issue, and of how undeniable are the basic rights being discussed. Not torturing other human beings isn't much to ask; it is simply a bare-minimum standard of behavior, and we are right to absolutely and forcefully insist upon it.
More from the Geneva Convention document:
"Collective punishment for individual acts, corporal punishments, imprisonment in premises without daylight and, in general, any form of torture or cruelty, are forbidden." – from Article 87
The High Contracting Parties undertake to enact any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing, or ordering to be committed, any of the grave breaches of the present Convention defined in the following Article.
Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts. It may also, if it prefers, and in accordance with the provisions of its own legislation, hand such persons over for trial to another High Contracting Party concerned, provided such High Contracting Party has made out a prima facie case.
Each High Contracting Party shall take measures necessary for the suppression of all acts contrary to the provisions of the present Convention other than the grave breaches defined in the following Article.
In all circumstances, the accused persons shall benefit by safeguards of proper trial and defence, which shall not be less favourable than those provided by Article 105 and those following of the present Convention.
Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the Convention: wilful [sic] killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, compelling a prisoner of war to serve in the forces of the hostile Power, or wilfully depriving a prisoner of war of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in this Convention.
No High Contracting Party shall be allowed to absolve itself or any other High Contracting Party of any liability incurred by itself or by another High Contracting Party in respect of breaches referred to in the preceding Article.
For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.
Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.
Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.
Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.