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Olbermann on Zeltzer

Tuesday, 13th January 2009

Keith Olbermann reported this story last Friday, and since MSNBC hasn't posted a transcript yet, I thought I should reprint it here:

The story is all too familiar: a citizen of another country is drinking coffee at a café in a bustling city center. Before he passes out, he vaguely realizes the coffee has been spiked. The next thing he knows, he's on a private plane being renditioned to another country. He awakes next in a cold cell, and when he tells them he needs medication for diabetes and arthritis and a heart condition, they instead torture him, and they move him from country to country and cell to cell, while at home his desperate friends and neighbors try to find out what happens to him, and how to save his life. Finally he is tried in an extraconstitutional court where he is permitted only the most perfunctory of defenses; he's convicted on manufactured evidence that he can neither see nor challenge, and he is told he will stay in prison indefinitely.

Some alleged terrorist, rotting at Gitmo, awaiting the moment that we as a nation come to our senses? No. This is the journey of Emmanuel Zeltzer of New York. He's a lawyer. The city from which he was kidnapped last March was London. The place he was taken to was in Belarus, and the place in which he languishes to this day is a KGB penal colony. His alleged crimes: economic espionage against Belarus, using false official documents, and possession of illegal drugs.

Until he was renditioned, Zeltzer had never been in Belarus, and the illegal drugs he was convicted of possessing? His medication for diabetes, and arthritis, and a heart condition. A private law firm, and Amnesty International, and our state department are trying to rescue this New York attorney, and one can only wonder if it has dawned on any of them that the impunity with which the KGB and Belarus did this to this American must at least in part have been inspired by what we Americans have done to... whoever George Bush's minions have damned well felt like doing it to.

Now, with that in mind, consider this question asked of President Bush during his final press conference yesterday:

One of the major objectives that the incoming administration has talked frequently about is restoring America's moral standing in the world. And many of the allies of the new president—I believe the president-elect, himself, has talked about how damaged—that Gitmo, that harsh interrogation tactics that they consider torture, how going to war in Iraq without a U.N. mandate have damaged America's moral standing in the world.

I'm wondering, basically, what is your reaction to that? You think that is something that America—that the next president needs to work on?

Bush began his response thusly:

I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged. It may be damaged amongst some of the elite. But people still understand America stands for freedom; that America is a country that provides such great hope.

America's policy of detaining people indefinitely without trial, and torturing them in a military prison that only exists because the same behavior would be more obviously illegal if it occurred on US soil, has marred our reputation overseas and “damaged America's moral standing in the world,” but only among “some of the elite.” Who the hell does the President think these “elite” are?

America cannot “stand for freedom” and detain suspected terrorists without a fair trial and proper representation. We Americans who are disgusted by this hypocrisy are not elite; we are patriots. It's unfortunate that President Obama will most likely have to release dangerous terrorists from Guantanamo for lack of evidence, but that's the price we as a free nation must pay for Bush's failure.


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