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Through the looking glass


The news about U.S. policy is getting curiouser and curiouser

When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean ' neither more nor less.

' Lewis Carroll,

Through the Looking-Glass

The news regarding American policy and behavior in Iraq increasingly makes us feel as if we have slipped through the looking glass, like Alice, into a world where very little makes sense.

The latest revelation is the report that White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, in a memo to President Bush months after Sept. 11, suggested that some of the Geneva Conventions' limitations on questioning enemy prisoners had become obsolete, and some of its provisions were now quaint.

Quaint? What exactly does that mean, and who gets to decide?

— Apparently, we, the United States, get to decide on our own when international agreements in force for decades no longer apply to us. That cavalier attitude toward long-settled principles has been a pattern of this administration all along; the information now coming to light about prisoner abuses in Iraq is merely the latest example.

After 9/11, Attorney General John Ashcroft decided that constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure had to be loosened to combat terrorism. The administration proposed and Congress passed the Patriot Act, giving unprecedented powers to government authorities at the expense of citizens.

In going to war against Iraq, the same administration announced a new doctrine, asserting that this country has the right to invade any country it pleases when it feels threatened, without any overt action by that country against the U.S. and without international support.

When the U.S. military established the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during the Afghan war, our government declared that unlawful combatants were not enemy soldiers entitled to the protection of the Geneva Conventions.

And now it appears that same freedom to interpret the conventions as this administration sees fit may have contributed to the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

Whether there is a direct connection between the Gonzales memo and the prisoner abuse, or whether Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld directly authorized aggressive interrogation techniques in Iraq remains to be seen.

It may not really matter. It certainly fits the pattern.

The question is, said Alice, whether you can make words mean so many different things.

The question is, said Humpty Dumpty, which is to be master ' that's all.

Vote today

If you haven't mailed in your primary election ballot, you're out of luck using the mail. The election is today. You have until 8 tonight to cast your ballot at one of 11 drop-off sites in Jackson County.

County Clerk Kathy Beckett said late last week that she would normally expect a turnout of 45 to 48 percent for a presidential primary. Twenty-one percent of registered voters had cast ballots as of late last Friday.

That figure had crept upward by Monday afternoon, with the turnout at nearly 24 percent. Beckett said the small number of contested races and the lack of a money measure on the ballot might have contributed to the low turnout.

Ballots may be dropped off at the Jackson County Elections Office, 1101 W. Main St., Medford, and at libraries in Ashland, Central Point, Eagle Point, Gold Hill, Jacksonville, Phoenix, Rogue River, Shady Cove, Talent and White City.