November 29-December 5, 2006

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Open Mic

Right of the People

By Peter Phillips

Human rights belong to people collectively. To believe in rights for some and not others is a denial of the humanness of people worldwide. Yet denial is exactly what Congress and George W. Bush did with the signing of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The new official U.S. policy is that torture and suspension of due process are acceptable for anyone whom the president deems to be a terrorist or supporter. This act is the overt denial of the inalienable rights of human beings propagated in our Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Our famous words "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" did not declare that some men (and women) are without unalienable rights. Our independence was founded on the belief that all men and women are recognized by this nation as having innate rights derived from their humanness.

Likewise, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, created by the United Nations in 1948 and signed and ratified by the U.S. Congress, specifies in its preamble that "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been a guide for international law for most of six decades, and as such binds the United States to its general principles. Article 10 states that "everyone is entitled to 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," and Article 5 specifically prohibits torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

For the U.S. government to unilaterally declare that our country will not comply with international human-rights laws nor uphold the core values of our nation's foundation is an indication of extremism that supercedes the values and beliefs of the American people. When such extremism exists, we may need to take seriously the founders' declaration that "to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

The U.S. government is actively torturing people to death. One need only read the 44 official U.S. military autopsy reports on civilian detainees from Afghanistan and Iraq in 2002 to 2004 posted on the American Civil Liberties website to see the horrendous details of deaths by "strangulation," "asphyxiation" and "blunt force injuries."

The Military Commission Act retroactively approved the use of torture to the beginning of the 9-11 wars. Congress's reaction to the ACLU report in October of 2005 was to pass legislation banning further use of the Freedom of Information Act to request documents on current military operations from the Defense Intelligence Agency.

We are in a time of extremism, permanent war and the unilateral manifestation of ethnocentrism and power by an openly public cabal of people in the U.S. government. Those in power are set on the U.S. military domination of the world. They seem willing to defy the foundational values of the American people to achieve their ends. We have no choice but to openly declare our belief in universal human rights and demand the immediate impeachment of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, and a full accounting of those in their administration.

Peter Phillips is a professor of sociology at Sonoma State University and the director of Project Censored. He is co-editor with Dennis Loo of the new book 'Impeach the President: The Case Against Bush and Cheney,' available on the website. The Byrne Report will return next week.

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