DEFERENCE WHERE IT’S DUE
Santa Monica, Calif.
So Ari Berman thinks, “The rap on Baucus is that he has always valued his own re-election above all else” [“K Street’s Favorite Democrat,” March 19]. That is the rap on politicians, all politicians. Trying to make it a rap on an individual politician is one of the willful distortions Berman uses to try to make Max Baucus look like a bad senator. Another is calling it “remarkable” that chairman Baucus shows “deference” to the senior Republican during Finance Committee hearings. In our interview for this article, I told Ari that every Finance chair has always shown deference to the senior member of the minority party during hearings.
Nation readers should not be surprised to learn that Democratic senators from Montana do not vote like Democratic senators from Massachusetts. Montana would not have two Democratic senators now if Max Baucus had not spent decades teaching Montana voters that they did not have to be afraid of sending Democrats to Washington. And if Montana didn’t have two Democratic senators today, then Berman would be watching Republican chairman Grassley being deferential to Senator Baucus in Finance Committee hearings.
Lawrence O’Donnell Jr.
DEPARTMENT OF INJUSTICE
Alexander Cockburn, in “The Persecution of Sami Al-Arian” [March 19], is correct that “across the globe, Al-Arian’s case has aroused much outrage.” In February I was in Oslo, where a documentary about the trial and its effect on the Al-Arian family opened in theaters. Norwegians are hot under the collar about America’s treatment of Dr. Al-Arian and can’t believe the degree to which Americans have allowed their government to erode civil liberties. The film was screened in Parliament, hosted by two MPs, who said of Dr. Al-Arian’s treatment, “We don’t like to see people have their human rights treated this way.”
Amnesty International Norway hosted the Al-Arian family at the Nobel Peace Center, where Gerald Folkvord said Amnesty believes the United States has subjected Al-Arian to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. This very much looked like just a means of punishing him for his attitudes” as an activist for the Palestinian people. In a February letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Susan Lee of Amnesty International wrote that the way the US government is treating Dr. Al-Arian “is in breach of the USA’s obligations under international standards and treaties” and that his conditions “appear to be unacceptably harsh and punitive.”