Tuesday, March 01, 2005

HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES by U.S. allies? Who knew?

But seriously, I am really not sure what to make of the tough language in the 2005 edition of the State Department's annual report on human rights. I admit, I'm more than a little surprised that the report discusses the prevalence of arbitrary arrest and detention, poor prison conditions, torture, beatings, and rape in Iraq under the interim government. It's also unlike the Bush administration to be so frank and straightforward about appalling human rights records in countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which, as staunch U.S. allies, usually get a pass on these things.

According to one government source, it's all about the soaring rhetoric in Bush's inaugural speech.

A senior State Department official said the criticism of Iraq was in keeping with the administration's approach. "What it shows is that we don't look the other way," the official said. "There are countries we support and that are friends, and when they have practices that don't meet international standards, we don't hesitate to call a spade a spade."
Any fair-minded person would have to give the Bush administration credit for this. That said, however, it still begs the question of whether U.S. allies who commit such abuses will face any consequences from the U.S., and what those consequences will be. If it's just about agreeing that Iraq, or Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan, or Egypt or Jordan torture and abuse their people; and then going on with business as usual, that kind of cynical and hypocritical manipulation of public opinion does not wash with me.

It also increases the Bush administration's obligation to explain to the American people why the U.S. invaded Iraq, overthrew Saddam Hussein, and installed a new government to begin with. If the Bush admin is all but admitting now that conditions in Iraq are still brutal and abusive, and that the interim government that the U.S. put in place is not all that much better (if at all better) than the old one was, then how on earth does the White House justify the deaths of 1,500 Americans, the wounding or permanent maiming of thousands more Americans, and the killing of well over 100,000 Iraqi civilians?

No comments: