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Atocha Station
Joshua Ramo who was moderating a panel at the Atocha summit asked the question, is the world more democratic since 9/11. Clearly most people thought no. One person in the audience stepped up and said that the elections in Iraq were a good sign and that Iraq was more democratic. A young man from Iraq jumped in and said that he didn't believe that the elections had made Iraq more democratic citing the low turnout and the problems they were having getting started. Then a young Iraqi woman who was working on monitoring elections jumped in and said that she believed it was getting more democratic and that it would take time and people had to be patient. What was striking was the passion that both of these young Iraqi's had and the strength of their words which were based on experience rather than analysis or speculation.

One of the problems with the question about whether the world is more democratic or not is that it is very difficult to measure and the word "democratic" has so many meanings and is ill-defined. What is more interesting, which Kenneth Roth from Human Rights Watch pointed out was to talk about human rights. He made the point that the Bush administration talks about liberty, freedom and democracy, but avoids talking about human rights. Liberty, freedom and democracy are very fuzzy words, but human rights is very specific. It would be easy to define terrorism as attacks against human rights and international humanitarian law forbids attacks against innocent non-combatants which is often the definition used for terrorism. Roth points out that the US has a terrible position on human rights in the name of the war on terror. He pointed out that Alberto Gonzales told the Senate committee the Senate Convention Against Torture treaty doesn't prohibit the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" tactics, which makes the US the only country which is not upholding the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as a matter of official policy. How can a country which is not upholding basic human rights expect to be respected and supported internationally?

One of the people in the audience mentioned that it was too easy to waste time Bush bashing and maybe there was a bit too much of that. However, someone noted that at yesterday's summit only George Soros criticized George Bush by name.


I prefer Bush's pro-democracy messages to his exclusionary, anti-gay message. Unfortunately, I think his pro-democracy push is a sham. Just look at Taiwan. It's a thriving democracy that is under the Damocles sword of Chinese conquest. Does anyone think Bush will lift a finger to help them? If his Dad's response to Tiananmen Square is any indication of the current administration's China policy, then Taiwan is in trouble. It's just more hypocrisy from the redneck who cloaks himself in righteousness.

Yet, the Iraqis you mention were each expressing their opinions passionately in a public forum. That's great. It's pure democracy in action! This just shows that even an idiot like Bush can end up performing acts that are ultimately serendipitous.

It's rather pointless to bash Bush about human rights when he is preceeded by a long line of presidents also unwilling to sign basic UN conventions on human rights, or the more recent war crimes convention that means military leaders can be called to trial outside the USA for war crimes.

This is not something that has happened recently because of the war on terror. It would appear that either American voters or the people they elect believe that it's important to be able to violate human rights for expedient means (hence Guantanamo Bay etc.)

There are certainly a number of countries with worse human rights records than the United States, but that's no reason not to feel disgust that the US wouldn't sign common sense agreements like the conventions against land mines and agreements that all military leaders should be able to called to justice in an international court.

I think the point here is that the majority of the citizens of the US are just not ready yet to weigh international human rights as more important than military security or economic security.

The world has come a long way over the past century in terms of how nations have increased their recognition of the rights of non-citizens. But no nation can go beyond their comfort level in this, or risk strained relations and strained treaties, possibly later pull-outs, and harm due to failure to fulfill other nations' high expectations...

I hate my government's policy on human rights. Look at how blase and unrepentant the Bush/Rumsfeld/Rice team are about prisoner abuse in Iraq.

Always, the top eschalon leaders blame the subordinates for carrying out their [secret] orders. Low level leaders get punished, their superiors are not blamed.

Now our U.S. government is going to outsource the interrogation of suspected terrorists, and a spokesman said "if the suspects are tortured, that's beyond our control" as a way to avoid responsibility.

I'm horribly ashamed of the United States. Some example we're setting for the rest of the world. God's judgment will strike us down, and we won't be able to get back up. God Himself is sick and disgusted with us. What a shame.

I think the world has become less Democratic, and more Republican, actually.

How are you people doing?

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Joi wonders if the world has gotten more democratic since 9/11, a topic discussed at the Atocha memorial forum. Tough question. I think I'd say: More democracies, less democratic. More voting, less liberty.... Read More

Here are pictures and MP3s from the Atocha Workshop. Openning by Martin Varsavsky then Dr. Yael Danieli (Left) 20050311%20035838.mp3" "War on Terror" panel 20050311%20044501.mp3 Interview with Kenneth Roth (Right) 20050311%20054115.mp3 Wrap up of Creat... Read More