Sunday, June 05, 2005

Bush, Amnesty International, and "People Who Hate America"

Bush on Amnesty International (Tuesday May 31st):

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."

"It's absurd. It's an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world," Bush said of the Amnesty International report that compared Guantanamo to a Soviet-era gulag.

Vice Preznit Cheney told Larry King on CNN that he was "offended" by the Amnesty International report and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called it "reprehensible". Amnesty International is not going to be a favorite tax charity with the people in the Bush Administration this year.

But as Dana Milbank notes in today's Washington Post:

Funny -- these officials had a different view of Amnesty when it was criticizing other countries.

Rumsfeld repeatedly cited Amnesty when he was making the case against Saddam Hussein, urging "a careful reading of Amnesty International" and saying that according to "Amnesty International's description of what they know has gone on, it's not a happy picture."

The White House often cited Amnesty to make the case for war in Iraq, using the group's allegations that Iraq executed dozens of women accused of prostitution, decapitated victims and displayed their heads, tortured political opponents and raped detainees' relatives, gouged out eyes, and used electric shocks.

Regarding Fidel Castro's Cuba, meanwhile, the White House joined Amnesty and other groups in condemning Castro's "callous disregard for due process."

And the State Department's most recent annual report on worldwide human rights abuses cites Amnesty's findings dozens of times.

"This administration eagerly cites Amnesty International research when we criticize Cuba and extensively quoted our criticism of the violations in Iraq under Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the war," protested William F. Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

Hmm. The administration used to love Amnesty International, now Bush describes the group as "people who hate America". Hard to figure how the Bushies attitude toward Amnesty changed so quickly, but we'll be able to chew over that attitude adjustment while we study the 144 new Abu Ghraib photos Judge Alvin Hellerstein of New York federal court ordered the Bush Administration to release to the American Civil Liberties Union. The Independent Online depicts the fight over the release of the photos thusly:

Government lawyers argued that releasing the photographs would reveal the prisoners' identities, a violation of their rights under the Geneva Conventions. But the ACLU said that objection could be easily overcome by blocking out the prisoners' faces. The judge agreed, and gave the White House until the end of the month to hand over the material.

More pointedly, the ACLU also said the government's reasoning was absurd because the violation of the Geneva Conventions began with the abuse, not with attempts to uncover it.

But a Pentagon spokesman indicated yesterday that the administration would not give up the materials without a further fight.

President Bush has come under increasing scrutiny over his repeated claims to be interested in spreading freedom around the world, most recently in the damning Amnesty International report on conditions at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

The White House has, in turn, responded aggressively to its critics, savaging Amnesty for its use of the word "gulag" to describe Guantanamo and impugning the journalistic ethics of Newsweek magazine over the "Koran-in-the-toilet" story, which was largely, if not wholly, untrue.

Boy howdee, will the White House be able to keep a straight face when the press waves the newly released Abu Ghraib photos at them later this month while the Bushies are trying to savage Amnesty International and impugn the journalistic ethics of Newsweek? I mean, it's hard to nail Newsweek for the "Koran in toilet" story when some smartie from CBS is shaking photos of U.S. military personnel pissing on Iraqi prisoners at you, isn't it?

As Bush would say, it's hard work being preznit.

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