I have written to the U.S. Senate expressing my strong opposition to the confirmation of Alberto R. Gonzales to the office of U. S. attorney general. I hope others here in Astoria will share my sentiments and take the time to write to their representatives.
Gonzales lacks the ethical, professional and moral qualifications for any public office. Confirmation of his appointment would send yet another message to the international community that the United States no longer honors its treaty commitments. It also sends the more frightening message that this county no longer considers humanitarianism an absolute imperative, but rather a situation-specific concept to be implemented only when this country is neither scared nor angry.
In his memorandum of Jan. 25, 2002, Gonzales refers to some provisions of the Geneva Conventions as "quaint." This memorandum asserts that the need to protect American civilians from future violence, "renders obsolete the convention's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners..." Gonzales' reasoning is a rationalization purporting
to justify this country's lock-stepped march into
institutionalized barbarism under a banner of
A wise statesman would have fully appreciated that a 22-year-old sergeant stationed in Iraq could easily translate the memorandum into a license, perhaps even a mandate, to engage in inhumane conduct. By the time this memorandum would have reached the troops, the subtle jurisprudential analysis would have been transformed into bumper sticker slogans, motivating young enlistment men (and women) to dance about, humming Jesus Loves Me, This I Know while attaching electrodes to genitalia.
And, let's not forget our neighbors and essential allies in our struggle against terrorism in London, Berlin, Paris, Beijing and Ottawa. What would their most probable response have been? Fear. Fear that a superpower had concluded civilized behavior no longer applied to it. Fear that a government armed with nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them anywhere in the world no longer felt constrained by over 2,000 years of the most elementary dictates of human conduct.
A person qualified for the office of attorney general must be fully cognizant that there are times when conduct not strictly proscribed by the letter of the law is nonetheless prohibited. Prohibited by international custom, prohibited by tradition, prohibited by a sense of belonging to a larger community, or prohibited by simple fairness. The absolute, unconditional obligation to treat others fairly, honestly, honorably, and humanely does not and cannot be conditioned upon their conduct.
It is also important to view the consequences from the other side of the equation. It would seem extraordinarily difficult to "win the hearts and minds" of a person while arguing that you have the legal and moral right to subject his neighbor to inhumane
treatment, even torture. The administration's position as exemplified by Gonzales' memorandum has
done nothing other than enhance terrorist recruitment while alienating potential allies we need so desperately.