Washington Diarist: In Which We Engage
April 01, 2009
Is it really possible that in a Democratic administration the championship of human rights and the promotion of democracy will no longer figure conspicuously in the foreign policy of the United States? It is really possible. Oh, the stirring words will be spoken; the stirring words are always spoken. But in the absence of policies one may be forgiven for not being stirred by words. And so far even the language has been wanting in ardor. Idealism in foreign policy is so 2003. After all, the opposite of everything that George W. Bush believed must be true.
Cuba's Health Care Paradise
May 12, 2007
Apparently, Michael Moore went to Cuba. You can get Treasury Department permission if you are a journalist. So one question is: is Michael Moore a journalist? I don't know really. What I know is that he is a very smart buffoon. In any case, many Americans go to Cuba without being journalists. Just for travel or on pilgrimage, a left-wing version of pious Catholics going to commune with Our Lady of Guadalupe or the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. This is a silly law, a truly silly law, and so it is widely violated, even by completely non-political people who, let's say, just love Cuban music.
Black Hole; The other Guantanamo.
May 07, 2007
Early last spring, outside a guesthouse in Kabul where I was staying, an injured Afghan man limped up to the locked gate. He wore a blazer with suede elbow patches and leaned on crutches. Because a suicide bomber had attacked the building not long before, a guard blocked the entrance of the unannounced supplicant. The fact that the man refused to give his name didn't help his case.
May Day In Cuba
May 01, 2007
Happy May Day ... in Cuba Fidel Castro did not appear for the May Day festivities in Cuba today.
Sancti Spiritus Diarist
October 16, 2006
The first friend I make in Cuba is Chaviano, the bus station master in Trinidad. I have just finished a six-hour ride from Havana, and all is well except for the absence of my suitcase. "Unusual," says Chaviano, but not something to worry about. And, indeed, 24 hours later, in rolls the suitcase, missing nothing but an envelope marked cash--which, ingeniously, contained all my money. An investigation is launched, and Chaviano asks me to give an affidavit--this being Sunday and his afternoon off--at his home.
August 22, 2005
Guantnamo Bay, Cuba The detainee, by all appearances, is resigned to his fate. Throughout his hearing, he remains stoic, not once even shifting in his chair, let alone jostling the restraints that bind his wrists and ankles. His tan jumpsuit indicates his compliance with the camp guards. (The infamous orange jumpsuits are reserved for "problem" detainees.) When the panel of American military officers asks if he wants to submit additional statements on his behalf, he declines.
Gulag v. Guantánamo
June 03, 2005
In a recent report, Amnesty International referred to the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo as "the gulag of our time." The term--a Russian abbreviation for Glavnoe Upravlenie Lagerei, or Main Camp Administration--refers to the network of Soviet labor camps established during Stalin's rule that continued, in a different form, for much of the Soviet Union's history. During a press conference on Tuesday, President Bush rejected the charge as "absurd." Amnesty has defended its use of the term.
Close, but ...
May 23, 2005
It's Thursday evening in Trinidad, Cuba, and Fidel Castro has a captive audience. In house after house on the cobblestoned main street of this river town 200 miles southeast of Havana, the image of El Comandante flickers from Soviet-era TV sets. Of course, it's hard not to score high ratings when your country has only two TV stations, both of them state-run, and the neighborhood Committee for the Defense of the Revolution keeps watch on who's tuning in and who isn't.
July 26, 2004
The House of Representatives is such a reliable rubber stamp for George W. Bush that it's remarkable anytime the body votes against the president's wishes. It's even more remarkable when the House thwarts one of Bush's few election-year legislative priorities. But that's exactly what happened last week. It was lost in the hoopla surrounding John Edwards's selection the previous day, but, on July 7, 46 Republicans joined 174 Democrats to block parts of the Bush administration's new Cuba policy.
January 26, 2004
On December 18, two federal appeals courts rejected the Bush administration's claim that the president has the unilateral authority to identify citizens or aliens as enemy combatants and to detain them indefinitely, at home and abroad. The rulings were a clear sign that President Bush's sweeping claims that he can do whatever he likes in the war on terrorism without review by the courts or Congress are provoking a judicial backlash.