Topic: World View
Moral Nagging: The Amnesty International Report
Amnesty International is now suggesting Bush and the crew could be tried for war crimes? Really! Well, everyone knows Amnesty International, like the UN, needs put in its place. John Bolton will be confirmed in a few weeks. Let him deal with it.
Thursday, May 26, 2005, Amnesty's U.S. director, William Schultz - "The apparent high-level architects of torture should think twice before planning their next vacation to places like Acapulco or the French Riviera, because they may find themselves under arrest."
They’re upset about Guantanamo and Bagram and Abu Ghraib and all that.
Yeah, yeah. Alberto “Quaint” Gonzalez should not try to check in at the Carlton? Get real. No Bush Republican would be caught anywhere near the French Riviera. That’s where Michael Moore won the big prize for his treasonous film, at Cannes – and they eat snails and frog legs and that odd fish stew there. And they don’t have NASCAR there. And Henry Kissinger should not visit Paris again as many consider him a fellow that should stand in the docket for war crimes. Christopher Hitchens in 2001 argued that. Like Henry cares?
Add to that the Constitution Project, a Washington advocacy group based at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute, is calling for a new big congressional commission, with hearings and everything, specifically on prisoner abuse. And who is urging that? Former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta - David Keene, head of the American Conservative Union - former FBI director William Sessions! They’re saying the military cannot investigate itself, nor can the executive branch. No kidding.
That’ll go nowhere, although having a prominent conservative and the former head of the FBI saying something is wrong here is unusual.
Newsday covered the basic story regarding Amnesty International here -
I don’t think we’re about to close Guantanamo – as a matter of fact we're planning to build an execution chamber there - as that might be useful. The Associated Press quotes General Geoffrey Miller saying, "We're getting ready so we won't be starting from scratch." Remember him? The former commander of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Janis Karpinski, accused him of introducing the methods that got us in trouble there from Guantanamo. Charming guy.
Anyway, Newsday reports Amnesty International's US director, William Schultz, saying that if US officials don't act, other countries will. And you won’t see George and Laura at next year’s Cannes Film Festival?
It seems we are a bit unpopular.
Our defense against all this? The New York Times leads with this: Defending its human rights record as "leading the way," the White House dismissed the accusations as ridiculous and unfounded.
What else were we going to say?
What Amnesty International wants?
Fat chance. They claim we are condoning "atrocious" human rights violations, thereby "diminishing our moral authority" and setting a global example "encouraging abuse by other nations." And that our "rendition" of prisoners to countries known to practice torture is how the United States "thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights."
So we’re supposed to hold open hearings?
What they got -
Is Scott changing the topic, or just putting things in a wider perspective? Torture and abuse, beating prisoners to death, knowing many of them are guilty of very little and some innocent, and the practice of holding 'ghost detainees' (people in unacknowledged incommunicado detention) – all that is outweighed by other good stuff we do in other areas?
No. He couldn’t mean that.
If you want us to assure that women get the right to vote in Afghanistan and some funds go to AIDS victims in sub-Saharan Africa, then this other stuff must be excused?
That’s only what he said, not probably not what he meant.
The Times also reports that this Schulz of Amnesty International USA acknowledged his organization had used "strong language" because it felt that "the United States has betrayed a very fundamental principle that this country stands for."
Maybe he doesn’t understand what we now stand for.
Out there in the world of commentary you get things like this from the defenders of Bush and his crew -
Ah, as the new Pope says, the problem is moral relativism – as he equates the Western liberal tradition, that is, the Enlightenment, with Nazism, and denigrates it as "moral relativism." (See this for background.) The idea is we may torture folks, but we investigate and punish the low level folks who carry it out, so it’s okay.
Over at Obsidian Wings you find this response -
You mean you have to practice what you preach? No, that’s for losers.
Well, no matter what Amnesty International calls for, I don?t think we?re about to close Guantanamo. Our president is a stubborn man ? or is that steadfast? (Yes, you can conjugate adjectives ? as in "I am firm and resolute, you are stubborn, but he is bullheaded" ? one man?s synonym is another?s antonym.)
But late in the week we find just such a call in the New York Times.
Just Shut It Down
Thomas L. Freidman, May 27 2005
Freidman is writing from London, deep in the UK, and that, some would claim, means he?s been seduced by the dark side, those who hate America (and drink warm beer). In any event, he addresses the president directly -
And of course if you click on the link you can read what he finds there. As he puts it - just another day of the world talking about Guantanamo Bay.
For someone who supported the war, even if reluctantly at times, because it would show our seriousness, or something like that, and change things for the better, shutting the this place down would be part of winning the war.
Yeah, don?t argue morals with these guys. What?s the point? Argue tactics.
The idea is the whole business has a toxic effect on us - "inflaming sentiments against the U.S. all over the world and providing recruitment energy on the Internet for those who would do us ill."
And one element in his array of evidence that this is so is a comment made to him by one Husain Haqqani, a Pakistani scholar now teaching at Boston University - "When people like myself say American values must be emulated and America is a bastion of freedom, we get Guantanamo Bay thrown in our faces. When we talk about the America of Jefferson and Hamilton, people back home say to us: 'That is not the America we are dealing with. We are dealing with the America of imprisonment without trial.' "
They?re not the same?
The best line is in his conclusion -
Yeah, telling them we?re special ? that we?re extraordinary and unique victims like no other people on earth and thus are exempt from playing by the rules we want them to play by ? well, that?s just not convincing anyone. It really is a hard sell.
Every American may believe that fully and deeply ? the government and the press has been telling is that for more than three years, hammering it in ? but step outside the borders and no matter how loudly you declare "I?m SPECIAL! I?m UNIQUE! I?m EXTRAORDINARY! I?m an AMERICAN! ? a new kind of victim of the cruel world that deserves latitude in the matters!" you will be seen as a petulant child, and a dangerous one. No, you are not special. You are expected to be responsible, and as adult as you can be, and do what is right, as best you can.
Time to grow up.
You will find an interesting comment - on the Friedman item in the Times from Hunter over at the Daily Kos -
Well, Freidman is late to the party. And his reasoning, is, shall we say, more pragmatic than centered on right and wrong.
And Hunter agrees with everyone else, even if more forcefully -
As for Freidman -
That was perhaps a tad blunt ? but at least Freidman came around, three years too late and for the wrong reasons. But he came around.