The book my book group met to discuss last night was Mao, The Unknown Story, by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. I loved the book and read it straight through. No one else made it even partway through. They were bothered about how "evil" he was, struggled with reading about a man responsible for the deaths of over 70 million Chinese - in peacetime. For Mao, all was about himself and power. He had no care for anyone else.
I think it is important to read books like this and not turn away. It is the only way we can combat what goes on. We need to pay attention and accept that others may have a different idea of ethical behavior than we.
I found the Mao book augmented by Czeslaw Milosz's book The Captive Mind, written in 1951 and dealing with totalitarianism. The blurb says, "The Captive Mind analyses the power of tyrannical regimes to enslave men and women, not just through terror, but through ideas, achieving 'mastery over the human spirit.'" Mao did not believe in Communism. He believed in himself, but what a magnificent step into power it provided as he gave the food the Chinese people needed to Russia, so he could have more weapons and control. Ack!
Jose Padilla was finally tried, and it took a great deal of work for that to happen, for the constitutional right to a trial to take place. The Bushies can be glad he is guilty, but why did it take so long for that to be shown? The NY Times has a good editorial on that today. We must continue to ensure constitutional rights for everyone. Padilla's were violated. That is not okay.
Here is an editorial on the subject from the NY Times.
The Padilla Conviction
It is hard to disagree with the jury’s guilty verdict against Jose Padilla, the accused, but never formally charged, dirty bomber. But it would be a mistake to see it as a vindication for the Bush administration’s serial abuse of the American legal system in the name of fighting terrorism.
On the way to this verdict, the government repeatedly trampled on the Constitution, and its prosecution of Mr. Padilla was so cynical and inept that the crime he was convicted of — conspiracy to commit terrorism overseas — bears no relation to the ambitious plot to wreak mass destruction inside the United States, which the Justice Department first loudly proclaimed. Even with the guilty verdict, this conviction remains a shining example of how not to prosecute terrorism cases.
When Mr. Padilla was arrested in 2002, the government said he was an Al Qaeda operative who had plotted to detonate a radioactive dirty bomb inside the United States. Mr. Padilla, who is an American citizen, should have been charged as a criminal and put on trial in a civilian court. Instead, President Bush declared him an “enemy combatant” and kept him in a Navy brig for more than three years.
The administration’s insistence that it had the right to hold Mr. Padilla indefinitely — simply on the president’s word — was its first outrageous act in the case, but hardly its last. Mr. Padilla was kept in a small isolation cell, and when he left that cell he was blindfolded and his ears were covered. He was denied access to a lawyer even when he was being questioned.
The administration also insisted that the courts had no right to second-guess its actions. It was only after the Supreme Court appeared poised last year to use Mr. Padilla’s case to decide whether indefinite detention of an American citizen violates the Constitution, that the White House suddenly decided to give him a civilian trial. It was obvious that the administration was trying to game the legal system and insulate itself from Supreme Court review. J. Michael Luttig, a federal appeals court judge who heard Mr. Padilla’s case, warned about the consequences “for the government’s credibility before the courts in litigation.”
The administration is already claiming victory, but the result in Mr. Padilla’s case is in many ways a mess. He will likely never be brought to trial on the dirty-bomb plot, a much publicized charge that cries out for resolution. (In another move worthy of Alice in Wonderland, the government is holding another prisoner in Guantánamo, Binyam Mohamed, because he was accused of conspiring with Mr. Padilla in the dirty-bomb plot for which Mr. Padilla was never charged.) There is also the danger that Mr. Padilla’s conviction will be reversed on appeal because of his alleged mistreatment before trial. In hailing the verdict yesterday, a White House spokesman thanked the jury for “upholding a core American principle of impartial justice for all.” It is a remarkable statement, since the administration did everything it could to keep Mr. Padilla away from a jury and deny him impartial justice.
After all that, there was still some good news yesterday: a would-be terrorist will be going to jail. And the Bush administration was forced, grudgingly and only at the very end, to provide him with the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.