For the past five years, the United States government has acted like a banana republic dictator, violating laws, morality, principle and justice. And the American people, still hallucinating on a never-ending snort of post-Sept. 11, 2001 emotion, are complicit.
The reason this country is "great" has to do with the fact that we don't act like the killers, dictators and fanatics that today consumes our paranoia. America is supposed to be different. Justice, not vengeance, supposedly is what lifts us above everyone else. Sets us apart. Makes us different.
Turns out that Americans are not much different at all from the killers, the dictators and the fanatics we decry.
We've used torture to punish the alleged terrorists who have been accused of criminal conduct but have been denied any ability to respond or defend themselves against the charges.
We've used torture to force anyone we suspected of complicity in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorism attack to confess to our whims and shameful national misconduct.
We've violated international law. We've even murdered innocent people - using the old trick of dictators and tyrants to simply brush off the murdered victims as "terrorists."
And to make it worse, our nation is doing everything possible to cover up the lies, the crimes and the torture.
At the kangaroo court re-convened in Guantanamo this week, five of the alleged perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack, were finally lifted out of their oppression and torture and brought before a so-called military tribunal.
What was offered was not the justice that makes this country so strong and proud, but rather a public relations stunt orchestrated by the Bush administration to help bolster a sagging Republican Party in the November elections.
But the Democrats have been no better. Not one Democratic leader has had the courage to stand up and call our misconduct what it is, a violation of human rights, a civil rights disgrace, a smearing of everything that we hold sacred as Americans. Their voices have been weak, driven by politics, too.
During the window-dressing arraignment of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the rest, reporters were brought in to report the military's propaganda, but were denied the right to listen to the defendants dispute the charges or detail the torture they have endured.
The government imposed a 20-second delay so that when the accused spoke, the government could "protect national security." What they censored, however, were charges that the American government, the representatives of the American people, are guilty of committing grave crimes of torture themselves.
Once a country tortures, it is automatically enrolled in a rogue's gallery of world tyrants. The shine of American morality is stained. The principles of American dignity are sullied.
The titles "champion of freedom" and "leader of the free world" are empty public relations spin. The substance is gone, replaced by: "This country is a disgrace. And calling it a disgrace is the patriotic, true American action."
One day our soldiers and our citizens will become the prisoners of tyrants and dictators and terrorists. And they will be water-boarded, tortured, denied the right to defend themselves and paraded like cattle in front of a media that is only allowed to see what the dictators want them to see.
And when we look in that scenario, we will shamefully recognize that we are looking in a mirror that we helped to shine.
Rather than give justice to the 2,973 people who were murdered in the World Trade Center's Twin Towers, in the attack on the Pentagon and in a field of courageous resistance in Pennsylvania, we have instead insulted them.
When you terrorize those you claim terrorized you, you become the terrorist.
When you murder those you claim murdered you, you become the murderer.
When you conduct yourself like the monsters, and dictators and tyrants you decry, you become the monster.
And the more you pretend by wrapping yourself in empty words of morality, principle and justice to cover your misconduct, the more the monster you become.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and author. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)