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Thursday, September 16, 2004

I just wish he were as worried about American rights and democracy

Neonut Paul Wolfowitz writes a pretty compelling op-ed today on behalf of a journalist friend of his being tried in Indonesia. It's a very fine article, and I really can't find anything in it to disagree with. I just wonder how Wolfie can possibly reconcile these fine sentiments with the actions of the administration he's a part of and the brutal war and occupation of Iraq for which he bears so much personal responsibility. Here are some excerpts from his op-ed:
The country held a fair presidential election in 1999, parliamentary elections last April and is about to conduct a runoff on Monday to complete its second democratic presidential election. These are no small achievements.
Oh. So both Afghanistan AND Indonesia have runoffs in their presidential elections, a process much more democratic than our own plurality wins system, a system under which Wolfowitz would still be just a crank author at the American Enerprise Institute? Not fair!
While holding two fair presidential elections in a row is a hallmark of democratic progress, the real test of a democracy is how it protects the rights of its citizens.
Whereas holding two stolen elections in a row, and locking up citizens without rights as "enemy combatants" is a hallmark of totalitarianism.
Our own Declaration of Independence doesn't speak of elections but rather about the rights of all human beings to certain "inalienable rights," in particular "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." And it is a fundamental principle of our Constitution that citizens cannot be deprived of those rights except by due process of law. Elections are properly viewed as a mechanism to hold government accountable, particularly in its most fundamental responsibility of protecting the rights of its individual citizens.

Accordingly, the rule of law is one of the essential pillars of a democratic society. There are few powers that a democratic state possesses that are as awesome as the power to prosecute its own citizens lawfully. And few things are more threatening to a true democracy than the abuse of that prosecutorial power.
Hear that, Mr. Ashcroft?
One of the worst possible ways that power can be abused is to take away the freedom of the press and thereby remove one of the most important mechanisms for ensuring that government respects the rights of its citizens. As Mr. Bambang pointed out in his eloquent pleading before the court in August, the collapse of Indonesia's first brief experience with democracy in the 1950's began with "an attempt to undermine freedom of the domestic press through the criminalization of journalists."
Of course, in Wolfie's democracy project in Iraq, the press like Moqtada al-Sadr's newspaper and al Jazeera have been criminalized, while numerous journalists have been killed by American forces, without trial, of course.

I guess when you've gone through the looking glass, it no longer works as a mirror.