In his valedictory address as UN Secretary-General, at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, press reports state Kofi Annan criticized the Bush Administration.
But what did he say, specifically? Here are what I consider the key paragrahs:
In short, human rights and the rule of law are vital to global security and prosperity. As Truman said, "We must, once and for all, prove by our acts conclusively that Right Has Might."
That is why this country has historically been in the vanguard of the global human rights movement. But that lead can only be maintained if America remains true to its principles, including in the struggle against terrorism.
When it appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused.
And states need to play by the rules towards each other, as well as towards their own citizens. That can sometimes be inconvenient, but ultimately what matters is not convenience. It is doing the right thing.
What he was saying, quite directly, is that the United States under this Administration is betraying its ideals, betraying its own Constitution and laws, becoming, potentially, the Great Satan its enemies call us.
These are not just words. This was not just an academic exercise. This hits very, very close to home.
A new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists shows the U.S. tied with Russia in holding two journalists -- that we know of -- without charges. In addition to holding an al-Jazeera journalist and an AP photographer, the report says, our military has committed a string of attacks against working journalists.
As Glenn Greenwald notes, this does not put us in the same league as Cuba, Iran and China. But those nations don't pretend to respect press freedom. We do. As Abraham Lincoln wrote, in 1855, to his friend Joshua Speed:
"When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic]."
I should add that in the CPJ report they are not counting the case of Josh Wolf, a freelance photographer being held right now for refusing to turn over tapes he took of a lawful, peaceful demonstration against American policy.
These examples were collected over just a few hours, from my own e-mail inbox and a cursory check of a blog. There may in fact be more cases like this.
What Annan was saying is that when the U.S. does things like this is loses its moral authority, its credibility, its right to lead. Right makes might, not the other way around. This has always been the American way.
In my eyes the sins of George W. Bush and his Administration are no longer forgiveable by history. In six years he has destroyed what took 225 years to build. It can only be partly regained after he has left the scene.
For the rest of my life, and your life, and the lives our children's childrens' children, any attempt by any American President to exert moral authority, to state right against wrong, to speak truth to power, will be dealt with summarily in the world's court of public opinion, with one word. Bush.
If you supported this, if you still support this, you are as guilty of these crimes as he is. May God have mercy on your soul. History will not.