On Abu Ghraib: silence enforced

I watched in vain for a mention of “Abu Ghraib” in the presidential debates. Bush twice brought up the question of whether the US should support an international criminal court. Even if Kerry does not support such a court, he should at least have noted that other countries will see as hypocrisy our refusal to join such a court at a time when Americans may have committed war crimes.

As Michael Froomkin notes: “A vote for Bush legitimates his first term. Thus, a vote for Bush is a vote for torture”; torture not only in an Iraqi prison, but apparently also in the press black hole of Guantanamo. Indeed, while recent polls show that most of the world still loves Americans but hates our president, if Bush is reelected, they will have to come to terms with the fact that it really is the American citizenry who is supporting the activities that much of the world despises.

Now comes the trial of six men who attempted to simulate an image taken from the prison as a protest of the president. The ACLU has come to the aid of the six, indicating that the only laws broken were by the police. This isn’t, you will recall, the first time a Ghraib protestor has been arrested.

But the fact that they were arrested before the president could see them is troubling. Not only was their right to free expression interfered with, so was their right to petition the government. This isn’t so strange: most are aware that the Secret Service has been used to keep protesters out of Bush’s sight. But this raises a second question: Is this Bush and his administration trying to control what makes it onto the evening news, or is it even more sinister. Are these efforts to control dissent a kind of Potemkin village, an effort by the president’s staff to keep him isolated from the fact that a majority (if only a small majority) of Americans do not support his policies?

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