All this week, AmericaInTheWorld is spotlighting six key arguments
from Justin Webb's 'Have A Nice Day: Behind The Chiches, Giving America
Another Chance'. You can purchase your copy here.
Few things have done more damage to America's global standing than Guantanamo Bay. America has been condemned across the world. Leaving aside for the moment (1) that the condemnation has sometimes come from nations with much inferior human rights records and (2) from human rights organisations that go soft on more serious abusers, it is right that the United States does clean up its act in this area. But, writes Justin Webb, it should not be forgotten that the decisive pressure for change has come from within the USA:
"Guantanamo was a disaster for the Bush administration because of home-grown protest. Amnesty International they could have coped with. The Council of Europe they could safely have ignored. Foreign public opinion as well. It has been the relentless drip drip of American legal opinions, including those of the Supreme Court itself, that has undercut the ability of the Bush team to do what they wanted to do at Guantanamo. Even the European attack, led by the Swiss MP Dick Marty, relied on US news reports for its evidence of US wrongdoing. It was the Washington Post - an American institution in every sense of the word - that reported the CIA was "hiding and interrogating some of its most important al-Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe".
Dainty lawyers and dainty reporters trumped a president in his pomp in the midst of a war. For all the power that the Bush White House accrued to itself, for all the intentions it had to fight the war with radical Islam in semi-legal shadows, the upshot has been row after row with Americans who will not stand for this behaviour in their name. And in 2008 they choose two presidential candidates, both of whom were genuinely implacably opposed to torture, both in name and in fact."
America has all of the institutions - a free press, an independent judiciary, a super-competitive democratic system, a good people - that make self-correction possible. It is still a nation that makes mistakes. Sometimes big mistakes but unlike alternative world powers - Russia, China, the EU and the UN - it is better at putting those abuses right.
In the first part of the series, yesterday, we noted that America remains the last, best hope of people - even people it has let down.