Bush Supports Human Rights, Press Sees Hypocrisy
McClatchy Newspapers is running a story with the headline “Bush astounds activists, supports human rights.” Here’s the lede:
President Bush implored the United Nations on Tuesday to recommit itself to restoring human decency by liberating oppressed people and ending famine and disease.
Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, the president called for renewed efforts to enforce the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a striking point of emphasis for a leader who’s widely accused of violating human rights in waging war against terrorism.
Bush didn’t mention the U.S. prisons in Afghanistan or at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. practice of holding detainees for years without legal charges or access to lawyers, or the CIA’s “rendition” kidnappings of suspects abroad, all issues of concern to human rights activists around the world.
“At first read, it’s little more than an exercise in hypocrisy. His words about human rights ring hollow because his credibility is nonexistent,” said Curt Goering, the deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA. “The gap between the rhetoric and the actual record is stunning. I can’t help but believe many people in the audience were thinking, ‘What was this man thinking?’ “
I’ve long argued against the use of torture for terrorist suspects and for affording at least minimal due process rights for detainees at Gitmo and elsewhere. Some of these policies are morally and legally dubious and all of them are, in my view, counterproductive.
The United States is fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s allowed to take prisoners under international law. There is quite a bit of ambiguity, though, in the treatment of combatants who fight without identifying uniforms and insignia and who illegally use the non-combatant civilian population for cover.
For the most part, the United States is complying with international law and affording these people the treatment normally reserved for legitimate prisoners of war. While the abuses at Abu Ghraib were arguably made more likely by policies at Guantanamo and elsewhere, they were nonetheless crimes and treated as such. The courts have, too slowly in my view, dealt with the due process issues.
But, my word, what kind of hack news organization can’t see the distinction between those things and the mass genocide of Darfur? Can a leader not simultaneously believe that extraordinary measures are necessary to protect his people from a very real enemy and yet oppose slaughter, oppression, and famine?