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Daily News Friday, Jan.

7, 2005 13

OPINION

Gonzales all wrong KBOVBSZ


for attorney general TBMF
If the United States were to look It is eroding the checks and balances
into a mirror right now, it wouldn’t so crucial to American-style democra- TUBSUTKBOUISVUIF
recognize itself. cy. It led the United States, against the
The administration that thumbed its advice of most of the world, to launch FOEPGUIFNPOUI
nose at the Geneva Conventions the dreadful war in Iraq. It led Gonza-
seems equally dismissive of such les to ignore the expressed concerns
grand American values as honor, jus- of the State Department and top mili- TFMFDUFENFSDIBOEJTF
tice, integrity, due process and the tary brass as he blithely opened the
truth. So there was Alberto Gonzales, gates for the prisoner abuse vehicles EJTDPVOUFE
counselor to the president and enabler to roll through.
in chief of the pro-torture lobby, inter- ROBERT There are few things more danger-
viewing on Capitol Hill yes- HERBERT ous than a mixture of
terday for the post of attor- power, arrogance and
ney general, which just
happens to be the highest
This is an administration incompetence. In the Bush
administration, that mix- $BMJGPSOJB"WF 1BMP"MUP
law enforcement office in that believes it can do ture has been explosive.
the land. Forget the meant-to-be- QIPOF 

Gonzales shouldn’t be
and say whatever it comforting rhetoric sur-
allowed anywhere near that wants, and that attitude rounding Gonzales’ confir- /4BOUB$SV["WF -PT(BUPT
office. His judgments is changing the very mation hearings. Nothing’s QIPOF 

regarding the detention and changed. As detailed in
treatment of prisoners nature of the United The Washington Post earli-
rounded up in Iraq and the States. er this month, the adminis-
so-called war on terror tration is making secret
have been both unsound plans for the possible life-
and shameful. Some of the time detention of suspect-
practices that evolved from ed terrorists who will 3BNPOB4U 1BMP"MUP
his judgments were appalling, gruesome, never even be charged. Due process? That’s a QIPOF 

medieval. laugh. Included among the detainees, the
But this is the Bush administration, where paper noted, are hundreds of people in mili-
incompetence and outright failure are rewarded tary or CIA custody ‘‘whom the government
with the nation’s highest honors. (Remember does not have enough evidence to charge in
the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded courts.’’ And there will be plenty more
last month to George Tenet et al.?) So not only detainees to come.
is Gonzales’ name being stenciled onto the
attorney general’s door, but a plush judicial Trust
seat is being readied for his anticipated eleva- Who knows who these folks are or what
tion to the Supreme Court. they may be guilty of? We’ll have to trust in
the likes of Alberto Gonzales or Donald Rums-
Weak Democrats feld or President Bush’s new appointee to head
It’s a measure of the irrelevance of the the CIA, Porter Goss, to see that the right thing
Democratic Party that a man who played such is done in each and every case.
a significant role in the policies that led to the Americans have tended to view the United
still-unfolding prisoner abuse and torture scan- States as the guardian of the highest ideals of
dals is expected to win easy Senate confirma- justice and fairness. But that is a belief that’s
tion and become attorney general. The Democ- getting more and more difficult to sustain. If
rats have become the 98-pound weaklings of the Justice Department can be the fiefdom of
the 21st century. John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzales, those in
The Bush administration and Gonzales are search of the highest standards of justice have
trying to sell the fiction that they’ve seen the no choice but to look elsewhere.
light. In answer to a setup question at his Judi- It’s more fruitful now to look overseas. Last
ciary Committee hearing, Gonzales said he is month Britain’s highest court ruled that the
against torture. And the Justice Department government could not continue to indefinitely
issued a legal opinion last week that said ‘‘tor- detain foreigners suspected of terrorism with-
ture is abhorrent both to American law and out charging or trying them. One of the jus-
values and international norms.’’ tices wrote that such detentions ‘‘call into
What took so long? Why were we ever — question the very existence of an ancient liber-
under any circumstances — torturing, maim- ty of which this country has until now been
ing, sexually abusing and even killing prison- very proud: freedom from arbitrary arrest and
ers? And where is the evidence that we’ve detention.’’ That’s a sentiment completely lost
stopped? on an Alberto Gonzales or George W. Bush.
The Bush administration hasn’t changed.
This is an administration that believes it can do Robert Herbert, a New York Times colum-
and say whatever it wants, and that attitude is nist, can be reached via e-mail at
changing the very nature of the United States. bobherb@dailynewsgroup.com.

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