Tell Us What You Really Think

Friday, June 03, 2005

Tell Us What You Really Think

My fellow Demagogues have written about the administration's over-the-top attacks on Amnesty International after the organization's annual report pointed out that holding people indefinitely and incommunicado and torturing them from time to time aren't good things. Amnesty International USA's Executive Director William Schulz has shown a refreshing willingness to match the level of the administration's rhetoric.

Dick Cheney:
"For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously."
William Schulz:
"It doesn't matter whether he takes Amnesty International seriously. He doesn't take torture seriously; he doesn't take the Geneva Convention seriously; he doesn't take due process rights seriously; and he doesn't take international law seriously."
Donald Rumsfeld:
"To compare the United States and Guantanamo Bay to such atrocities [by the U.S.S.R. and Saddam Hussein] cannot be excused."
William Schulz:
"Twenty years ago, Amnesty International was criticizing Saddam Hussein's human rights abuses at the same time Donald Rumsfeld was courting him. In 2003 Rumsfeld apparently trusted our credibility on violations by Iraq, but now that we are criticizing the United States he has lost his faith again."
George Bush:
President Bush called a human rights report "absurd" for criticizing the United States' detention of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and said Tuesday the allegations were made by "people who hate America."
William Schulz:
"What is 'absurd' is President Bush's attempt to deny the deliberate policies of his Administration, which has detained individuals without charge or trial in prisons at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Air Base and other locations. What is 'absurd' and indeed outrageous is the Bush Administration's failure to undertake a full independent investigation, and that completed reports into human rights violations in these prisons remain classified and unseen....It is also worth noting that this administration never finds it 'absurd' when we criticize Cuba, China, or when we condemned the violations in Iraq under Saddam Hussein."
The usual right-wing mouthpieces are spreading the contention that Amnesty is a partisan liberal group. What's unfortunate is that Schulz himself is a liberal, with a C.V. replete with connections to liberal organizations. But the Amnesty is famous for its evenhandedness. There are some respects in which its human-rights focus will tend to lead it to "liberal" conclusions; for instance, it will naturally scrutinize a country's police and judiciary, and the rights of the accused (let alone the convicted) is regarded in the U.S. as a bleeding-heart concern. In the bad old days of the Cold War, Amnesty could point to the fact that it was equally tough on rightist dictators supported by the U.S. and Communist dictators supported by the Soviet Union. And, as Schulz pointed out, the administration itself used Amnesty's criticisms of Saddam Hussein's regime to bolster its case for war.

The bottom line is this: if Al Gore had been president after 9/11 and done everything at Gitmo that Bush has done, I have no doubt that Amnesty would be just as critical. For a human-rights organization, this just isn't a borderline case: locking people up for years without trial and without contact with the outside world; approving (at the highest levels) techniques that constitute torture; condoning torture by failing to sanction the individuals who authorized it; and closing a prison to outside observers as soon as criticisms were made. Bush seems to think that since we're on the right side of the War on Terror, whatever we do in prosecuting it must by definition be right. Amnesty knows, however, that the rules have to apply even to those whose goals are pure; otherwise, all regimes would grant themselves an exemption.

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