- Current Issue
SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
In an interview with CNN on May 16, 2006, Alberto Gonzales said that he was the grandson of immigrants from Northern Mexico; in response to a question, he confirmed that three of his four grandparents had “no documentation,” which is to say, they had immigrated illegally. That’s a background not likely to appeal to the G.O.P. base today, though it had the potential to make him a heroic figure down south of the Rio Grande (or as they call it, the Río Bravo del Norte)
Gonzales is the first American of Mexican ancestry to hold the office of Attorney General. So you might be wondering, how do Mexicans view his story? I spend a good bit of time working in Mexico. My experience over the past several years in dealing with well-heeled, English-speaking Mexican business people in Mexico City and Monterrey—usually people who have a measure of U.S. education and conservative political leanings, who tend to support the PAN party and President Felipe Calderón–has been pretty consistent: they wince at the mention of his name. Usually this is followed by a comment: “why does the first Mexican-American to hold high office in America have to be someone like that?” The import of these comments is that no one considers Alberto Gonzales to be a person of gravity or substance. They view him as a toady. They don’t take pride in his assumption of the position of attorney general—it’s viewed as an embarrassment. Something they’d rather forget.
Today I came across an editorial in Mexico City’s La Jornada which makes all these points; it is similar to, but more sharply stated than, a piece that ran recently in the more centrist La Reforma. The piece’s title is “Gonzales and the end of justice in the U.S.” Here are some clips:
The relief provoked by the news of Alberto Gonzales’ resignation from the U.S. Department of Justice is insufficient to overcome the tremendous destruction wrought by that public official on our neighbor to the north’s system of justice, on individual liberties and guarantees, and on the cause human rights. First, as legal counsel to George W. Bush and later as Attorney General, Gonzales – the first U.S. citizen of Mexican origin to hold that position – engineered the biggest rollback of the institutional protections and democracy in that country in decades, and it will take much time and legislative work to repair the vast legal regression he has caused.
Certainly Gonzales didn’t act alone, nor does the fundamental responsibility for the grave legal distortions introduced during the Bush Government correspond only to him. Simply put, he was the executor of the group of fanatical neoconservatives that had taken control of the superpower’s levers of power – and by extension the world – after the contested U.S. election in 2000.
One must keep in mind that as a presidential advisor, the now outgoing Attorney General played a major role in elaborating the legal regression called the “war against terrorism,” launched by Bush after the attacks of September 11th, 2001. This regression took its most deplorable expression in the so-called Patriot Act , approved by Congress in October of that year, all within the context of the hysteria generated by the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. That document legalized, among other things, spying on U.S. citizens without a warrant, the illegal searches of homes, and – if thought to be suspicious in the eyes of the authorities – the indefinite detention of foreigners without providing them with legal counsel. In addition to promoting that legislation, Gonzales drew up a document [Executive Order 13233 ] in which he recommended ignoring the directives of the Geneva Conventions on the matter of prisoners of war, with the purpose of giving the military and U.S. public officials wide latitude to mistreat those captured and put them under “moderate” torture.
This and similar kinds of legal backsliding have generated a catastrophic moral regression in the society of our northern neighbor, sparking a weakening of ethical and humanitarian standards and encouraging public officials and opinion leaders to maintain that if inflicted on terrorists – torture is acceptable. Because of these acts, a repressive and barbaric climate eventually translated in the atrocities perpetrated at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and other detention centers operated by the U.S. armed forces, as well as the creation of a vast government network dedicated to the kidnapping, aerial transport and torture of uncounted terrorist suspects in Europe, Asia and Africa. . . While Bush is the person most responsible for the tragic regression of individual liberties and guarantees in the United States and the world – as far as this decade goes – Gonzales will be remembered as the principal executor of that backward movement.
Hat-tip to watchingamerica.com
. Translation courtesy of Barbara Howe.
More from Scott Horton:
No Comment — November 4, 2013, 5:17 pm
An expert panel concludes that the Pentagon and the CIA ordered physicians to violate the Hippocratic Oath
No Comment — August 12, 2013, 7:55 am
How will the Obama Administration handle Edward Snowden’s case in the long term?
No Comment — July 29, 2013, 11:36 am
Is it possible to simply disband the partisan FISA court?
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Rank of Detroit among major U.S. cities whose residents give the largest portion of their income to charity:
A South Dakota researcher concluded that only scant blood spatter results when chain saws are used to dismember pigs.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature