Hard When You Lose the Respect of Others Harder Still, When You Lose Self-Respect

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Growing up in America, I always knew that the rest of the world respected us. The world could look at our Bill of Rights and Constitution with envy and whenever anyone needed humanitarian help, they knew that the Americans would be there for them.

All of Europe was thankful for our help after WW II and even Japan became our steadfast friend because of the way we treated them after the war.

I can still remember that huge white hospital ship, The USS Hope that went around the world bringing modern medicine to third world countries. In grade school we went around the neighborhood collecting used eye glasses so we could send them to poor countries and even middle size American cities had "Sister Cities" around the world that they would help out.

As a young man, I felt proud to be an American and I knew without a doubt the rest of the world looked u2018up’ to us. It felt good to be a citizen of this great nation.

Today things have changed. Amnesty International, the international human rights watchdog, who in cold war day would constantly get on the Soviet Union for their dark ways is now talking about American human rights failures.

These last four years have been hard on many Americans who took pride in what we were trying to do for mankind.

Now Amnesty is saying the same things about us, as they said about Ronald Reagan’s nemesis, the "Evil Empire," the Soviet Union. In fact they even use the same terms. Paisley Dodds writes for the Associated Press, "Amnesty International branded the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a human rights failure." Amnesty Secretary General Irene Kahn said, "Guantanamo has become the gulag of our time." When I hear the word "Gulag" I immediately think of Joseph Stalin and the millions of Soviet prisoners who died in his prison camps. There are reports that some Americans, who were captured in the Korean War, spent their last years in some of those camps.

What has been so sad these last four years is that we have changed from the champion of freedom and liberty, to a nation that tortures and sexually abuses those we hold in custody. There is just no wiggle room for us to deny what is going on, because the whole world has seen the pictures and we are still enough a nation of law, that some of our investigations into prisoner murders have been made public.

The Amnesty report states, "During the year, released detainees alleged that they had been tortured or ill-treated while in US custody in Afghanistan and Guantanamo." Before Bush’s War on Terror we could have blown off these reports as disgruntled prisoners who were trying to make us look bad, but the report goes on with, "Evidence also emerged that others including Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and the International Committee of the Red Cross, had found that such abuses had been committed against detainees."

I guess we can look at it as a positive note that the FBI is still honest enough to speak out when they find the Pentagon running amok and tarnishing our once good name.

On top of the report’s criticism of the Unites States, it points out that, "In Afghanistan, a downward spiral of lawlessness and instability had shaken the country once again." I know the rest of the world has lost a lot of respect for our nation because of constant abuses condoned by the Bush White House and the lying that got the United States into the war in Iraq in the first place. Now they see this report and think about all the rhetoric George has expounded about what a success Afghanistan has been.

Here in the States many Americans are losing their respect for our country. One blow after another for the last four years has taken its toll. Citizens of our country liked looking at what Washington was doing with the confidence that what ever we did, we could take a certain pride in it. We knew Washington was doing the "right thing."

Today we have to question what is going on in our names. Many Americans cringe when they hear the latest faux pas by this administration and wonder what will come next.

Americans have thick skins and they can blow off critiques from foreign lands, at least we could at one time, but now there is a growing concern by the American people that what we are doing is just wrong. We have all seen the photos, we have heard the lies, we have read the reports and we find it hard to respect what our country is becoming.

Jim Glaser [send him mail], a Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran and Commander of VFW Post 3869, works to educate the American public on the consequences of war. His personal website is James-Glaser.com.

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