Defending America`s Values

In recent weeks, controversy has mounted over the treatment meted out to detainees at U.S. facilities in Guantanamo Bay and other locations around the world. In an effort to deal with the criticism and change the subject, the White House and their allies have responded, blasting critics, like Amnesty International, charging that their comments damage the image of the U.S., endanger American troops and harm the war on terrorism.

Watching the right wing's attack machine go into motion is really quite a spectacle. It targets its victim, strikes, and then launches into a multimedia, multi-day assault. Every medium is used: the White House comments, Senators and Congressmen issue releases. And then Fox News, radio talk shows, the Washington Times, web logs and websites-all carry the "story" and add to it. The initial attack is then echoed and magnified. The goal is to bury the target and silence critics with overwhelming force.

Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) is their most recent target. Last week, on the Senate floor, Durbin, who, in the past, has successfully led the effort to pass anti-torture legislation, read aloud a statement by an FBI agent describing the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. He said that the techniques described by the agent called to mind those used by repressive regimes, including the Nazis and Soviets.

The response was quick and harsh, utilizing all the media noted above. Prominent among the attackers were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Gingrich said that Durbin's comments appeared on Al-Jazeera, and that, "You cannot have a public official quoted throughout the world by our enemies describing the U.S. in these terms -- it puts every young American in uniform at risk."

Frist went further, mischaracterizing Durbin's remarks, alleging that his statement was "anti-American and only fuels the animus of our enemies. . . .It is this type of language that they use to recruit others to be car bombers; suicide attackers; hostage takers; and full-fledged jihadists." The assault went on for a week, frightening many from coming to Durbin's defense.

Abandoned by his allies, Durbin went to the Senate floor and apologized for the inept historical references. But on the critical issues of torture and detention, he firmly stood his ground.

The rhetorical excesses of Gingrich and Frist are dead wrong. What damages the U.S. image and endangers us are not comments by Durbin and other critics of Guantanamo Bay. It is the Bush administration's detention and interrogation policies. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld explicitly authorized the use of abusive interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay. FBI agents and the Red Cross both concluded that the use of these techniques at Guantanamo constituted "torture." In the past, the United States has always condemned the use of such techniques. Now, we apparently approve of them.

According to polls we have conducted, Arab attitudes toward the United States have dropped to dangerously low levels. The treatment of Arab and Muslim prisoners is a big reason, rivaling regional disapproval of US policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Iraq.

Buttressing these poll results are my experiences in the Arab world, where I travel frequently. In conversations with opinion leaders and average citizens across the region, they frequently note their deep disappointment with current state of our human rights policy. Many Arab reformers tell me that our behavior now mimics that of their own governments.

President Bush has linked the spread of democracy to the war on terrorism. Unfortunately, the indefinite secret detention and highly coercive interrogation of Arab and Muslim detainees in Guantanamo Bay and other locations has harmed our ability to advocate credibly for democratic reforms. Indeed, some governments now point to American practices to justify their own human rights abuses.

President Bush has suggested anti-democratic practices and human rights abuses promote instability and create the conditions that can breed terrorism. Democratic reformers and human rights activists used to look to the U.S. as an exemplar, the city on a hill. Now they are dismissed by their countrymen when they point to the American experience.

Once we set a high standard for the world, now we have lowered the bar. The damage to our image, to the values we have sought to project, and to our ability to deal more effectively with root causes of terror have been profound. Efforts to silence debate and the attacks against courageous opponents of torture like Dick Durbin are wrong and send the wrong message to our world.

Comments by Durbin and other critics of torture help, not hurt, the U.S. image in the Middle East. People there are already outraged about Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. The fact that Durbin and others have demonstrated the courage to speak out and challenge these shameful and abusive practices demonstrates to the Arab world that not all Americans support what the world knows we have done. As their criticism makes clear, there are still Americans who hold high the values we call on others to emulate. At a time when we're trying to spread democracy, Durbin and other critics show people in the Arab world how a democracy works. The good new is that not only has Durbin not been silenced, but the controversy about Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and the treatment of detainees, in general, is growing and will not be stopped until changes are made.

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute and can be reached at [email protected]

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Older Comments:
American values? Yes there are American values in American Writing, like the Constitution, Literature, in art performances like Hollywood, Visual arts, Theatre,etc. Somebody hijacked these values and replaced them with, human decadence, immorality, crime, selfishness, greed and blatant disrespect for human life that was not Israeli or American Jewish. Any loss of American life is not significantly important if it wasn't Jewish but it will be used as a propaganda chip in starting any "legitimate" hostilities toward the enamies of Israel. I am disgusted. Why didn't the so ever Jew-loving Americans make a home for the holocaust survivals in the USA? They could have gave them Arizona that would have resembled the deserts of Naqab and Galilea. We wouldn't have a problem today in Palestine, would we? And USA could freely and directly kiss the Israelis' shiny butts in the deserts of Arizona! It would have costed less money less energy and far less human sacrifice!

Values. What are values? American Values?
We have always had a huge gap between the dream of who we want to be, and who we are.

"Give us your tired, your poor, your hungry" Excerpt from the plaque on the statue of liberty.

We would like to be the "Land of the Free" the "Home of the Brave". We aren't, but we keep trying. Americans are decended from the misfits of the rest of the world, it is our greatest strength and our greatest weakness. Those who came before us had the courage to seek a better way. We must follow in their footsteps, and SEEK A BETTER WAY. We have it in our power to become what we dream we could be. May Allah give us the courage to do so. We can do it if we try.


But...but it the value of U.S. I do not believe there is any value in the White House.

What American values?? HaHaHaHa (I grabed my stomach). You gotta be kidding man!

Very nice comment by TODD. I did not all these.

We do not see any good or religious value anywhere ....
on TV( serials, movies, news, talk shows), in Politics, in families, in parties, in malls, near lakes or beaches, etc.

Infact people do not know what is good or religious value, all they know is sex, movies,
TV(cable, games), partying, boyfriends and girlfriends, nudity, fun & vacation, backbiting, gossips, bullying and so on. You name it we have it.

Read Quran and hadith: a complete guide to way of life. They are neither revised nor edited by anyone for our advantage (as some other religious books). Find out by yourself. You do not need media or religious scholars or politicians to understand them.

May ALLAH (GOD) bless us & show everybody the right path. AAMEEN.


the title reads 'defending america's values.' what vlaues?

What values? We have no values. We are mostly descended from the refuse of human society that was dumped on these shores by the Europeans who wanted to cleanse Europe of its cut-throats, rapists, murderers, debtors, robbers, highwaymen, retarded and other mentally and physically sick people for whom there was no cure, lepers and sexual deviants. The other half of us descended from returning Europeans who plundered and looted these and South American regions, in the assumption that there might be gold and untold treasures buried free for the taking. The remainder of us are made up of slaves, defeated indigenous people/victims, poverty stricken wretches and opportunists who were either dragged here in chains by Europeans to work as beasts of burden or came to these shores all starry eyed hoping to share in this lands wealth, and centuries later their descendents still toil away in dead end and hopeless jobs still dreaming the dream of their forefathers, not realizing that it will take another 4 generations just to get their mortgages paid off and their schooling, and so these poor fools slave away with each new generation bonded into the debt slavery system of this country. Those initial marauders who pillaged, raped, looted and murdered their way through history naturally fared much better. Their descendents ended up inheriting vast stolen wealth and property, and it is these people who make up the ruling class in our land today. Look at any past US president and you won't find any evidence of humble beginnings like you would as with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela for example. These people who make up the US ruling class have also inherited their forefathers murderous and mad ways. Look at Bush or his loony dad or any other US presidents, (excepting Jimmy Carter) each of whose administrations are marked by bloodshed and mayhem and always against some two-bit country that couldn't defend itself. So you see I don't see how "Values" apply to us. We really don't have any.

Arrogance should be the title of this article.

It is the only thing which is uniform throughout this reading.

This is one of the qualities you get.

When collectively
Keeping blind eye to the killings of Native Americans and then again following up with slave trade , and again while killings of about a million Mexicans went on, plus when 2 Atomic Bombs.

Telling that he said this and she said that.
Their is actually much more to it. IN such situations.
In other words its simply arrrogance.

Extremely important for americans to recognize and fix this type arrogance first.

Officers we expect a good sail and sound journey. For good luck charm i put 2 slaves bodies along with the coal. For good luck charm.

Ha ha ha ha , to mention anything for the negros would be putting all the men in uniform in danger.

Bulls eye...
Right ON!!