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Was mich gestern Abend noch zum kopfnicken gebracht hat sind diese Worte.

Defining America Down

Many years from now, when historians look back on this period in our history, I fear that they will describe it as the moment when the idea of America lost its resonance in the world, when America became just another country.

I‘ve traveled enough to know that America has long occupied a unique place in the collective consciousness of people across the globe. The idea of America has long encompassed a number of adjectives: some complimentary, some derogatory, but all distinctive and uniquely American. America is viewed as a nation of unparalleled decadence, of conspicuous and unapologetic consumption. But it is also viewed as the land of opportunity, a place where innovation and industriousness are rewarded like nowhere else. People around the world have long complained of American arrogance and self-importance, but on some level, they understand why Americans are proud of their country. They grudgingly admit that America has, for most of its history, been a powerful force for good in the world.

Americans‘ sincere and earnest belief in their founding principles, in freedom of speech and religion, the rule of law and constitutional democracy, have popularized those concepts throughout the world. America’s continued success and vitality have proven not only that a government based on such principles can survive, but that it can flourish. The power of the American dream is ultimately what doomed communism.

America has long been a country dedicated to leading by example. It has been a country that tries to hold itself to its own high standards, regardless of how its enemies behave. That’s why there have been countless documented examples over the years of enemy soldiers seeking out American troops in order to surrender, knowing that Americans would not mistreat them. That’s the idea of America boiled down to its essence. It’s a belief that America, for all its arrogance and annoying self-righteousness, is a country that stands for something important. It’s a country that very much believes in its own principles and endeavors heroically to live up to them. That kind of reputation did not develop overnight; it was earned, slowly and painstakingly, by the deeds and actions of countless Americans over many decades.

And it’s exactly that reputation that the Bush administration has carelessly pissed away over the last four years. Confronted by a particularly brutal and unprincipled enemy, our leaders decided that our principles were the problem. They were just too confining. So almost immediately, the Administration began defining American down. Torture was essentially defined out of existence. Novel legal theories were introduced justifying the circumvention of long-standing prohibitions. International treaty obligations and rules of war were disregarded. The rule of law itself was up-ended--in secret, by executive decree. Many of the most celebrated American principles were hastily cast aside. Just yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Pentagon has decided to omit the prohibition on „humiliating and degrading treatment“ from the Army Field Manual on interrogation. Just add it to the list.

This defining down of American principles has not gone unnoticed by the rest of the world. They see a country famous for its embrace of freedom and individual rights spying upon its own citizens without warrants and locking away its own citizens without due process of law. They see a country famous for its humane treatment of captives building secret torture prisons, engaging in widespread abuse and humiliation of detainees, and using an off-shore prison at Guantanamo Bay as a way of circumventing its own laws and constitutional principles. And worst of all, they see a country that appears to have no more interest in leading by example, a country more concerned with getting itself out of prior commitments and finding ways to exempt itself from the rules. A reputation that took the better part of a century to earn may soon be little more than a memory.

If America ceases to hold itself to a higher standard than the rest of the world, it will lose any legitimate claim to exceptionalism. If America ceases to value and abide by the very principles that it introduced and popularized to the rest of the world, it will no longer capture the imaginations or influence the thinking of people outside of its borders. America will become just another country, remarkable only for its size and strength. It’s time to stop defining American down.

UPDATE: Having now reread my post in a less sleep-deprived state, there are some points I‘d like to clarify. First, the idea of America that I‘m talking about didn‘t really emerge until the 20th century. I‘m talking about the period in our history from roughly World War I onward. Second, I don‘t mean to suggest that during that period America and Americans did nothing but good. Far from. But I think America did enough good and was true enough to its guiding principles that it became associated with certain ideals. What’s troubling about the last four years is not so much that we‘ve not lived up to those ideals; we‘ve often failed in that regard. What’s troubling is that in many respects we‘ve disavowed those ideals, openly repudiating them in the name in expediency. It’s one thing for the world to see Americans failing to live up to their own professed standards (e.g. by mistreating prisoners of war). That’s damaging, but not unprecedented. It’s quite another thing, however, for the world to see America, as a matter of policy, defining its standards down. That’s what has been happening under the Bush administration, and I find it deeply troubling.

Abed Tavancheh


Student blogger missing, may have been arrested

Reporters Without Borders today said it was “very worried” about Abed Tavancheh, a blogger and student at Tehran’s Amirkabir polytechnic university, who has been missing since 26 May and may well have been arrested after posting photos and reports about the demonstrations taking place at his university for the past few weeks.

“Tavancheh is a courageous blogger who may well have fallen prey to the government’s crackdown on the student pro-democracy movement,” the press freedom organisation said. “His work nonetheless shows that Iranian civil society is dynamic and is resisting government censorship and authoritarianism.”

Tavancheh has been out of contact with his family and friends since 26 May and cannot be reached on his mobile phone. He had participated in the rioting between pro-democracy youths and the government-controlled Basij student militias that recently broke out on his campus.

Many photos of these incidents have been posted on his blog, called “In the name of man, justice and truth”. His last message, posted the day he went missing, includes the text of a letter by Nasser Zarafshan, a famous lawyer – now in prison – who acted for the families of intellectuals and journalists who were murdered during a crackdown in 1998.

Two other bloggers Arash Sigarshi and Mojtaba Saminejad, are currently in prison in Iran.

6 June 2006

Arrest confirmed of blogger Abed Tavancheh, missing since 26 May

Blogger Abed Tavancheh, from whom nothing had been heard since 26 May, finally got in touch with his family on 6 June to tell them he is being held at Evin prison in Teheran. He said that he was well but gave them no further information. The blogger is accused of being “a Marxist questioning the existence of God”, which under Iranian law is an apostasy that could bring him a death sentence. The newspaper Sobeh Sadegh, the official organ of the Revolutionary Guards, accused Tavancheh of being among those behind rioting which has shaken Amirkabir University in Teheran for several weeks.

Spazieren gehend…

…über Buchstaben, traf ich auf dieses aufschlussreiche, belehrende Zitat von Karl R. Popper:

Obwohl ich unsere politische Welt für die beste aller Welten halte, von der wir historische Kenntnis haben, so müssen wir uns davor hüten, diese Tatsache der Demokratie oder der Freiheit zuzuschreiben. Die Freiheit ist kein Lieferant, der uns die Güter des Lebens ins Haus zustellt. Die Demokratie schafft nichts – auch nicht ein Wirtschaftswunder . Es ist falsch und überaus gefährlich, die Freiheit dadurch anzupreisen, dass man den Menschen erzählt, es werde ihnen sicher gutgehen, wenn sie nur frei sind.

In unserer aktuellen Lage kann man diese Sätze durchaus verinnerlichen.

The War Tapes

Schonmal etwas davon gehört? Ich bin durch die empfehlenswerte Community darauf gestoßen. Trailer anschauen!

„Turns out they don’t have to find us. They are us“

Die geplanten Bombenanschläge in Kanada zeigen mitlerweile ein sehr nüchternes Bild, mit was für Tätern man es zu tun hat.
Einen vollständigen, informativen Text über die Ereignisse ist heute im Frontpage Magazine erschienen.
Ich möchte ein paar Textstellen hervorheben.

Shockingly for Canadians, almost all the suspects, who range in age from 17 to 43 years, were either born in Canada or had arrived here at an early age and possess Canadian citizenship. Five are under the age of 18 and thus will be tried as young offenders under Canadian law; most of the others are in their early twenties.
The father of one of the accused works for Atomic Energy of Canada, while the father of another is a doctor. Two are related by marriage. They live in nice suburban houses or in city apartments, sometimes close to each other.
Security officials say this group is part of the new wave of homegrown Muslim terrorists appearing in the West. Like the British subway bombers, these second and third generation Muslims have never lived in an Islamic country, at least for any length of time, and have never attended an al Qaeda training camp, but are inspired by Osama bin Laden’s hatred for the West.
But Joe Warmington, who was present in the courtroom for the shackled suspects’ bail hearing last Saturday, termed some of the alleged terrorists’ behavior “bizarre”, saying they were smiling and laughing, as they waved to family members, some of whom were clad in burkas.

“You could ee that they were proud of themselves,” said Warmington.