Friday, September 22, 2006

Aaj ka Arjun

There are very few things that happen in America's foreign polity that dont make me cringe with dissapointment or disbelief. Among these rare exceptions were the events leading to the terror-suspect deal reached yesterday between the administration and a group of rebellious senators.

For those not keeping track, the US administration had proposed a bill which would allow the reinterpretation of the Geneva Convention's diktat on treatment of war prisoners in its application to terror suspects, so that CIA personnel and US troops can carry out "tough" interrogations without being exposed to personal legal liabilities. The stiffest opposition to the bill came from least expected quarters - a trio of Republican senators, all members of the Senate Armed Forces Committee. After a few days of taking tough positions, finally both parties gave concessions and reached a deal yesterday.

Many have argued since that the rebels have not achieved much, that most of the administration's original proposals in the bill remain intact, and I agree. However, what has left a good taste in the mouth is the very fact that barely two months before the mid-term elections, a bunch of senior ruling party politicians can take up a purely principled stand against their leader. It is one of those rare happenings that reaffirm your belief in politics. The last time I had the feeling was in May 2004, when Sonia Gandhi refused to become Prime Minister of India - a moment when, for a change, the issue in question was NOT petty political gains (for all the conspiracy stories and inspite of my own disdain for her capabilities, I firmly believe that the decision was of a purely personal nature).

The senator who is the leading light of the opposition to the interrogation bill is John McCain from Arizona. McCain is an ex-Navy pilot whose plane was shot down over North Vietnam, following which he was captured, tortured and imprisoned for over five years. McCain had locked horns with the administration earlier too, for instance when he was able to successfully implement the McCain Detainee Amendment in 2005 which ensured humane treatment for terror prisoners (though the latest deal is said to undermine it). There is something filmishly idealistic about a former prisoner of war putting so much at stake for protecting enemy prisoners. Cant help but draw a comparison with the best-known warrior with a conscientious heart - Arjun. We need more of this breed.

McCain is said to be a strong contender for the 2008 US presidential elections. Starry-eyed that I am at the moment, I am excited about it.

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