If anyone should have been able to put human rights at the centre of US foreign policy, it was Harold Hongju Koh. The dean of Yale Law School and a prominent critic of Bush-Cheney lawlessness, his reputation was clinched by a chorus of crackpot accusations that he wanted to smuggle Sharia law into the US courts. Surely this was a man to undo the previous administration’s damage to American moral prestige; as legal adviser to the State Department, Koh would restore decency and goodness to US foreign policy. Instead, he has been busily justifying Bush-era national security policies.
Since last June, Private Bradley Manning, the 23-year-old alleged source of the WikiLeaks hoard of war logs and diplomatic cables, has been kept in solitary confinement at Quantico. He is in his cell for 23 hours a day, frequently deprived of clothing and denied the right even to do press-ups. He has no contact with other prisoners and is forced to acknowledge to a guard that he is OK every five of his waking minutes. Whether this no-touch torture is being inflicted on Manning to force a confession implicating Julian Assange, or is merely an object lesson to other potential whistleblowers, is not clear.
When asked by Jim Lehrer, the host of Newshour on PBS, if Hosni Mubarak was a dictator, the US vice president, Joseph Biden, said: ‘Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things and he's been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interests in the region, Middle East peace efforts, the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalising the relationship with Israel... I would not refer to him as a dictator.’ Here are some excerpts from the rest of Lehrer’s interview with Biden, containing more of the VP’s candid assessments. On Darth Vader: Look, I know Darth fairly well,