Amnesty International released its annual report on human rights around the world, and our US Government is specifically listed as a human rights abuser. Using the term "gulag" to refer to the Guantanamo Bay prison, where 500 men have been held for more than three years without criminal charge, Amnesty has done what we as a Church have failed to do: speak truth to power about abuses of human dignity at our expense that no Christian or American citizen should tolerate. Only the Red Cross has been granted access to these prisoners, but the US Government has countless other people in custody around the world in "secret locations" with no accountability to anyone. If these prisoners are guilty of some wrong-doing, let our government publicly accuse them of it and expose the charges to public scrutiny.
The wrongness of what our government is doing is further elevated by the false premises under which it is being done. The release in Britain in April of information showing that the American and British governments had pledged to invade Iraq as early as April 2002 now makes it clear that there was criminal intent on the part of these Administrations. Before seeking any international input, before giving weapons inspectors a chance, the Bush and Blair Administrations had determined that certain self-interests were served by displacing the Iraqi government and imposing Western control over the economy there. The further release of British government legal counsel documents indicates that Mr. Blair was informed that invading a sovereign country for purposes of overthrowing its government was illegal under international law. Mr. Kofi Annan had the courage to acknowledge the illegality of this action last fall, and nearly lost his job for his honesty.
Anti-American protests broke out across South Asia and into the Middle East in May. Mr. Bush blamed them on a single short reference to defamation of the Koran that appeared in Newsweek magazine. But similar accusations have appeared in scores of periodicals over the past three years, and the indignities visited on US prisoners' physical and emotional wellbeing is now well-documented. The Administration may succeed in scapegoating Newsweek for these protests, but the underlying truth of the abuse of American power across the Middle East is not going away anytime soon. These protests are only the beginning.
In our churches, millions of Americans earnestly pray for peace each week. We must realize that we have it within our own power to answer those prayers by holding the Bush Administration accountable for the abuses imposed on those they have kidnapped (neither criminals, given the absence of charges, nor acknowledged as prisoners of war), and the populations all around the world from which these political prisoners come.