Secretary of offensiveness - Gerry Yandel

When I was in high school, there was always a kid who managed to stay out of trouble by perpetually pointing out the wrongs of all the other kids around him.

This person was typically loathed by other students, and even many teachers, who all realized what a deceptive weasel he was.

When cornered, he would always manage to shift the blame elsewhere and escape any punishment for his own transgressions, always to the detriment of someone else.

Of course, such people exist in the adult world, too... and none moreso than our distinguished Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Last week, after first the vice president and then the president cried foul about Amnesty International's report that our country might be violating the civil and human rights of hundreds of people being held in the black hole of Guantanamo Bay, Rumsfeld quickly followed suit.

And then, just like those two-faced kids in high school, he quickly pointed the finger at China in an effort to create a huge cloud of smoke around our country's on transgressions. (Why China - or any other country in the world, for that matter - should not be allowed to defend itself as it sees fit, just as our country does, is a subject for a different column.)

For those who don't know, Guantanamo Bay is a prison camp in Cuba where we send people deemed enemies of the state. Holding perceived enemies in captivity during wartime, in this case, the so-called war on terrorism, is, of course, nothing new and perfectly allowable under the accepted standards of the Geneva Convention.

But what makes Guantanamo Bay such a reprehensible excuse for a prison camp is the audacious way in which we wield our oppression as the world's primary superpower.

Under rules and laws created in the name of freedom, a person our government decides might be an enemy can be spirited away without so much as a trial and held indefinitely, without so much as a shred of hope of proving their innocence. Under the same rules created in the name of freedom, our government does not have to answer to anyone regarding what these people are charged with, when they might have a hearing or if they are even still alive.

If it sounds vaguely like the way Nazi concentration camps, the Soviet Gulag or any number of Latin American dictatorships where people were made to simply disappear have been run, that's because it is.

This is primarily what Amnesty International takes exception to in its report. For our leaders, who have used Amnesty International's findings in the past as a hammer of righteousness to threaten other dictators, to suddenly decry the organization is the ultimate act of hubris.

This is no surprise, because if there is one word to describe America's military attitude under Rumsfeld's watch, it would be arrogance. Since he has been in power, we have watched our military devolve into acts of human degradation that bring us dangerously close to the subhuman levels of those we claim to be fighting.

Of course, war is never pretty, and sometimes extreme measures must be taken. Throughout our country's history, our military has always managed to fight for freedom while maintaining an integrity and courage that never required us to wallow in the depths of depravity that we have been apparently engaging in for some time. Even in those cases when our military leaders and our brave soldiers found it necessary to fight at the same sordid depths of inhumanity as our enemies, they never appeared proud of it and were sorry for having done so afterward.

Since Rumsfeld's been in charge, however, the way we fight has become less and less honorable as more and more instances of depravity become known. The fact that he never apologizes or suggests that perhaps our military leaders need to rethink our approach, choosing instead to claim it is isolated incidents of a few individuals, makes it that much worse.

In high school, these situations eventually straightened themselves out, typically after school behind the gym in a flurry of fisticuffs that left the weasel with a bloody nose.

The parallel, of course, is that even when Rumsfeld's reign of terror is finally ended, he will likely emerge unscathed. The ones left holding their noses will be you and me.

Gerry Yandel is the city editor for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or gyandel@henryherald.com .