Sunday, June 05, 2005

BETSY NEWMARK takes exception to Dana Milbank's rather weird article about the Bush administration's reaction to Amnesty International's human rights report in which Guantanamo was called "the gulag of our time."

Get a load of the opening sentence of this Dana Milbank nothing of a story on Amnesty International.

The folks at Amnesty International are practically begging for a one-way ticket to Gitmo.

Yeah, right. Gitmo is just full of all those who criticize the administration. I'm sure the jack-booted thugs of the Bush administration are marching to arrest Howard Dean even as we think.

The rest of the story is to contrast the criticisms that the administration has made of Amnesty's "gulag" characterization of Guantanamo with all the times that they have cited AI research on people like Saddam and Castro. I just don't see what is so dissonant about that. Amnesty has long done admirable work exposing cruelty and human rights violations worldwide. But their attitude towards Gitmo is just so exaggerated as to lose all credibility. Perhaps, the dissonance stems from a difference in personnel at AI. But just because an organization was right to criticize Saddam doesn't mean that they are right to compare Guantanamo to Stalin's gulags.

I agree that Milbank's opening sentence is obnoxious. I'm not even sure what it means, to be truthful. And Newmark is right when she says that Amnesty is not necessarily justified in its criticism of a specific country's human rights policies simply because it was justified in the case of another country.

But that's not the Bush administration's call, is it? Let's be honest here. Does any government that finds itself on AI's human rights violator list agree that it should be there? Come on, now. Name me the country that said, "You know, they're right" when Amnesty International criticized them for practicing torture, or for holding prisoners without charges or trial or due process, or whatever.

The United States cannot be the judge of whether U.S. treatment of foreign detainees in facilities like Guantanamo deserves to be condemned as "the gulag of our time." Certainly the U.S. government can disagree with Amnesty. But there's no credibility in the Bush administration calling Amnesty's charges "absurd" or "reprehensible." That's for others, who are not a part of the U.S. government and/or who are affected by U.S. policy toward foreign detainees, to decide.

No comments: