Submitted to the Duluth News Tribune 1/7/2005 

Should Senator Coleman vote to confirm Alberto Gonzales?

The following testimony is from a Red Cross deposition taken from a detainee in Abu Ghraib Prison which seems fairly typical of the abuses meted out in many American detention centers:

“They took me inside the building and started to scream at me. They stripped me naked, they asked me, ‘Do you pray to Allah?’ I said ‘Yes,’ They sad, ‘F*** you’ and ‘F*** him.’ … Someone else asked me, ‘Do you believe in anything?’ I said to him, ‘I believe in Allah.’ So he said, ‘But I believe in torture and I will torture you. When I go home to my country, I will ask whoever comes after me to torture you.’ Then they handcuffed me and hung me to the bed. They ordered me to curse Islam and because they started to hit my broken leg, I cursed my religion. They ordered me to thank Jesus I am alive. And I did what they ordered me. This is against my belief. They left me hang from the bed and after a while I lost consciousness.”

Long before the sexual humiliation, the rape, the force-feeding of pork and liquor, and the duct taping of inmate’s mouths to silence their prayers gave Iraqi insurgents a new reason to kill American soldiers I read that America would not be held to the standards of the Geneva Convention. I’m sure such stories can be found in the New Tribune’s archives pre Abu Ghraib.

It did not occur to me, however, that some of our soldiers would make Iraq a “Christian” war. I was lulled into complacency in part because immediately following 9/11 President Bush called on Americans not to persecute American Muslims. I am now suffering belatedly from second thoughts. It doesn’t help that President Bush has nominated Alberto Gonzales to be Attorney General. I don’t want Gonzales to be America ’s top law enforcement officer while the men and women who followed his directives are being tried for torturing helpless prisoners.

Many of President Bush’s supporters believe that the problem with the United States is too many judges who do what they want rather than what the law requires. They are particularly incensed that such people can be appointed to the Supreme Court. But, what about Mr. Gonzales? What about the Geneva Convention?

It is widely rumored that Gonzalez is a likely Supreme Court nominee. If, after his directives on torture, he can become Attorney General why shouldn’t he also become the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?

Some of George Bush’s supporters find nothing terribly offensive about the interrogation methods which have been brought to light. Rush Limbaugh has likened them to fraternity hazing. (Maybe I was in the wrong fraternity but mine never forced me to sit in my own excrement.)

Six years ago I invited a friend of mine, a Muslim woman, to the Christian work camp that my daughter and I were attending to rebuild people’s houses. Rubaba brought her children and was very touched by our good work. After 9/11 Rubaba has had reason to be fearful despite the President’s early call for tolerance. I see little in the Gonzales appointment to offer her reassurance. Neither do I see any reassurance for two young men who also accompanied us on our Christian mission because both of them are now in the military and headed for Iraq .

I still believe that the GOP is the “Grand Old Party” and not God’s Own Party.  But I also remember when Minnesota ’s Republican US Senator, Rudy Boschwitz, faced blistering criticism from Christian Republicans for opposing a Constitutional Amendment authorizing prayers in public schools. In taking this stand Boschwitz bucked the Republican President Ronald Reagan.

Senator Boschwitz was Jewish. So too have been his successors, PaulWellstone and now Norm Coleman.  Mr. Coleman, another Republican, has made it clear that he leans toward confirming Gonzales to be Attorney General.

As a Republican I would like to remind Senator Coleman of Rudy Boschwitz’s willingness to buck a Republican President. As an American I’d like to ask Senator Coleman how he would have responded to the interrogation techniques which our soldiers thought had been officially approved. If the Senator had been ordered to thank Jesus that he was still alive would it have altered his opinion of Alberto Gonzalez?