In Defense of Amnesty International
June 7, 2005
I'm sick of the attacks on Amnesty International, one of the noblest and most effective organizations in the world.
For the last four decades, it has bravely exposed the most horrific acts of repressive governments across the globe. And it has successfully campaigned to free many political prisoners.
For its work, day in and day out, it deserves our thanks.
And I applaud it now for having the courage to blow the whistle on the Bush Administration.
But the Bush Administration can't stand criticism. And so it is attacking the messenger, as it has in the past with Richard Clarke or Paul O'Neill.
The Administration wheeled out its three biggest guns: Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush himself.
Each of them seized on the word "gulag," which Amnesty International had used to describe the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay.
Cheney said he was "offended" by it. Isn't he offended by the reports of torture there?
Rumsfeld said it was "reprehensible" and "cannot be excused." But what is really reprehensible and inexcusable is Rumsfeld's memo that gave the green light to specific torture techniques. (See "Stripping Rumsfeld and Bush of Impunity.")
Bush said it's "absurd," but the absurdity is Bush's claim that his Administration has not exported detainees for torture.
Now you can quibble with the word "gulag," and William Schulz, head of Amnesty International USA, has acknowledged that the Bush policies are not nearly on the scale of Stalin's.
But it's no great accomplishment to say that Bush's Guantanamo is better than Stalin's Siberia.
Can't we aim a little higher than that?
Amnesty International, along with Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, the ACLU, and the Center for Constitutional Rights, has been performing a vital service in drawing attention to the illegality of the Bush Administration policies: the indefinite detention of tens of thousands of people without charge; the grotesque torture of some of them at Abu Ghraib, Bagram Air Force Base, Guantanamo, and elsewhere; and the murder—yes, murder—of more than two dozen detainees at the hands of U.S. soldiers, guards, or interrogators.
And Amnesty International, along with these other groups, is to be commended as well for demanding that the architects of these illegal policies be held accountable.
It's quite obvious the Pentagon can't police itself.
Its latest report says that by some magical drift of wind and some peculiar arc of urine, a U.S. soldier accidentally desecrated a detainee's Koran.
The Pentagon also wants us to believe that another detainee may have defaced his own Koran with a two-word obscenity. "It is possible," the military said, according to The New York Times, "that a guard committed this act; it is equally possible that the detainee wrote in his own Koran."
I doubt it.
This is just another whitewash by the Pentagon, one of many.
And Amnesty International won't stand for these whitewashes.
Neither should we.
And we should join Amnesty International, and other human rights groups, in demanding accountability.
America should not be a land of impunity.