When George W. Bush addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, he glowingly referred to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN in 1948. He said:
This morning, I want to speak about the more hopeful world that is within our reach, a world beyond terror, where ordinary men and women are free to determine their own destiny, where the voices of moderation are empowered, and where the extremists are marginalized by the peaceful majority. This world can be ours if we seek it and if we work together.
The principles of this world beyond terror can be found in the very first sentence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document declares that “the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom and justice and peace in the world.”
One of the authors of this document was a Lebanese diplomat named Charles Malik, who would go on to become president of this assembly. Mr. Malik insisted that these principles applied equally to all people, of all regions, of all religions, including the men and women of the Arab world that was his home.
In the nearly six decades since that document was approved, we have seen the forces of freedom and moderation transform entire continents….The words of the Universal Declaration are as true today as they were when they were written.
That is some endorsement. But how familiar is Bush with the entire document? Let’s start with Article 5:
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Bush claims that his adminsitration has not tortured any terrorist suspect. But that claim has been challenged. (In the book I co-wrote with Michael Isikoff, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the War, we recount the tale of a captured al Qaeda commander handed over by the CIA to Egyptian authorities, who was aggressively questioned–perhaps tortured–and provided false information linking Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda. This information was then used by Colin Powell during his now infamous UN speech before the invasion of Iraq.)
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
Terrorist suspects detained as enemy combatants by the United States were not afforded equal protection of the law.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
The Bush White House has argued that the president has the power to arrest and detain anyone suspected of being an enemy combatant and that a detainee can be held as long as the president deems fit, without any due process. The Supreme Court, though, has not gone along with that view.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him
Did Bush’s original idea of using a military tribunal to try suspected terrorists jibe with this provision? Is his current proposal to try detainees with secret evidence in sync with this article?
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Bush keeps insisting on the right to wiretap people–including American citizens (under certain circumstances)–without a warrant, not even a secret warrant. As for the right not to have one’s honor and reputation assailed, the drafters of this declaration must have forgotten to put in a clause exempting the targets of political campaigns.
Noting in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein
In other words, not even a wartime president gets a pass. So did Bush read this document before he praised it? Or was he just reading a speech?
INFO ON HUBRIS: Tom Brokaw says “Hubris is a bold and provocative book that will quickly become an explosive part of the national debate on how we got involved in Iraq.” Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor of The New Yorker notes, “The selling of Bush’s Iraq debacle is one of the most important–and appalling–stories of the last half-century, and Michael Isikoff and David Corn have reported the hell out of it.” For more information on Hubris, click here.