2006-01-05 / Letters to the Editor

What kind of nation do we want?

I spent a good portion of my life teaching American history to high school kids and took great pride in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the principles upon which this nation was founded, but I am now frightened for my country. A quick glance at the news reveals just how far we have strayed from “American” values and beliefs.

Recent news stories focus on controversial questions such as “torturing” and maintaining secret prisons around the world. The government denies the practice of torture, but daily news reports indicate we most certainly do. The number of violations indicates that despite the government’s denial, it is a common practice, and the only refutation is to parse words and argue that what we do does not constitute

true torture.” What kind of nation condones, justifies, and allows torture?

The Senate finally spoke, and by an overwhelming margin (90-9) passed a law condemning torture, but the president insisted he would veto any bill outlawing torture. Only when the polls turned against the president’s position, did he abandon his veto threat. What kind of a president insists on protecting torture as a government practice?

In Cuba, the U.S. government is holding people for the rest of their lives with no charge, no legal representation, and in inhumane conditions. No one is told who these people are. We are told that Guantanamo holds “bad” people, yet many have quietly been released and sent home. The U.S. government denies the mistreatment of these prisoners but refuses to give the Red Cross access to them. What kind of a country do we now live in?

An American citizen has been held for three and one half years in solitary confinement with no charges, no legal representation, and denied all constitutional rights. The original accusation of being a “dirty bomber” has been dropped because the evidence against him was extracted from a witness through torture, and was proven baseless. The witness has disappeared, and it is thought he is being held by the U.S. in a secret prison somewhere. Meanwhile, all the original accusations against the citizen have been dropped, yet he is still held in violation of everything American.” What kind of a nation do we now live in?

The U.S. is the only major nation refusing to participate in an International Court that would bring war criminals to justice. Why would a great nation that espouses democracy refuse to support international justice? What kind of nation do we live in? Why would an American president be afraid of an International Court for War Criminals? Does he fear for his own future?

What kind of nation illegally attacks a defenseless nation under false pretenses, after having starved that small nation for 10 years with the most brutal sanctions in the history of the world? When the former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was presented with the fact that 600,000 Iraqi children had died from brutal sanctions, and she was asked if she thought it was worth it, she said “yes.” What kind of a nation condones the deaths of 600,000 children whose only crime was being born in the wrong country at the wrong time?

This week we were told by the president that he is spying on American citizens in defiance of the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment clearly states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

What kind of a nation do we live in when the President feels he is above the Constitution?

What kind of a nation imprisons it own people in defiance of its own laws, uses torture on people from other nations, maintains secret prisons around the world, starves innocent people in other nations, makes war as a matter of choice, refuses to participate in a court designed to punish war criminals, refuses to allow the Red Cross access to its prison camps, castigates and attacks anyone who questions its methods, tactics, and practices?

Evil will flourish as long as good people do nothing.

Is this what Jamestowners want? If not, what have you done about it?

Joseph Clifford,


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