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May 31, 2005

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I don't care if Amnesty International is holding the US to a higher standard, they are holding it to the standard I want my government to be held to. I don't care if we are as not as bad as North Korea or Iran or Sudan, if our actions are put into the same category as theirs, we are already lost. I don't care to hear the excuses coming from the White House. Both the President and the Vice-President are behaving inexcusably by refusing to look into the charges or root out the causes. They make our military look bad by excusing the worst behaviors -- and feeding that behavior in the future. I am embarrassed that we have leaders like this. They are bad for this country and bad for the world.

I agree with freelunch. "Well, we aren't as bad as North Korea" sounds like an awfully weak excuse to me. I'd rather my government had a slightly higher standard of behavior. In any case, I have yet to see any evidence that AI doesn't condemn North Korea, Cuba, the Sudan, etc for their human rights violations--AI's reports on those countries are extremely critical. AI also condemns the human rights violations of France, Switzerland, Australia, and other first world countries when any are reported. The US is not immune from criticism any more than any other country.

What the hell is wrong with this country that Edward even has to SAY any of this?

And that Bush can get on TV and glibly dismiss the AI report (and our history of torture) with his "freedom freedom America freedom" gabble, and not be blown out of the water by the media and the nation?

America is in trouble.

A few days ago, two armed robbers were shot dead by police in Ireland. AI is demanding an independent investigation, to determine whether everything possible was done to avoid using lethal force.

Does AI normally issue similar calls when armed robbers get shot on the job in America? If not, is it possible that they are holding Americans to a lower standard?

"Well, we aren't as bad as North Korea" sounds like an awfully weak excuse to me.

It is beyond mediocre. The people who offer this canard up have lost their moral compasses.

Well it all comes down to who you gonna believe.
The administration or your damn lyin' eyes?

Edward, I linked to the very same QandO post (actually three QandO posts) in the post that I wrote. The only other disagreemnt I think we have (other than what I wrote earlier) is that AI's gulag reference is "splitting hairs". It's not, because it speaks about a leadership that has lost its perspective and its bearings.

It is beyond mediocre. The people who offer this canard up have lost their moral compasses.

And it is a canard, for no-one actually offers it.

One can be vehemently against torture (both pragmatically and morally); condemn extraordinary rendition; oppose what's happening at Gitmo and elsewhere; and hold the U.S. to the very highest standards (as well it should be held). Indeed, one should do all these things. What one should not do, however, is to pretend that the foregoing -- even combined, even assuming the very worst -- is at all comparable to a "gulag" or is anywhere near a "top" civil rights concern. There's a f-cking genocide going on in Darfur, for Chrissakes; there are countries (mostly Islamic) where women are stoned for having a child out of wedlocks and folks are beheaded just for being gay; and there are police states -- including, yes, darling Cuba -- where artists and thinkers die in lonely jail cells.

Were AI truly interested in reducing human suffering and living up to its manifest -- as opposed to scoring cheap political points -- they would put their condemnation of the US in perspective. That is, they would place Sudan, Cuba, and the so-called "Arab world" firmly in the spotlight -- and keep them there, until change occurs.

In the old days, the US used to justify its support of thuggish dictators by saying that at least they were better than the thugs on the other side. Only under this administration has the practice been extended so that we're now measuring ourselves against the thugs on the other side and congratulating ourselves for not beheading prisoners on TV. That's been the standard line from a lot of Bush supporters for years now, and I'm beyond disgusted with hearing it.

Only under this administration has the practice been extended so that we're now measuring ourselves against the thugs on the other side and congratulating ourselves for not beheading prisoners on TV.

Who's patting ourselves on the back, KC? Who's measuring ourselves against "the other side"?


What one should not do, however, is to pretend that the foregoing -- even combined, even assuming the very worst -- is at all comparable to a "gulag"

Sorry, the dictionary disagrees with you. If the best you can do is whinge about AI using English properly, well, you protest too much.

That is, they would place Sudan, Cuba, and the so-called "Arab world" firmly in the spotlight

That's nonsense. They place more emphasis on countries they think are more influential in the world. The reasons should be obvious.

von: That is, they would place Sudan, Cuba, and the so-called "Arab world" firmly in the spotlight -- and keep them there, until change occurs.

Errrr... what makes you think they haven't been? Have you read the Amnesty report? Have you read the previous ones?

"Were AI truly interested in reducing human suffering and living up to its manifest -- as opposed to scoring cheap political points -- they would put their condemnation of the US in perspective. That is, they would place Sudan, Cuba, and the so-called 'Arab world' firmly in the spotlight -- and keep them there, until change occurs."

Von, I'm wondering if you read the prior thread here in which the distinction between what the AI area reports said, what wosshername said in a speech, and what the AI general statement said, was discussed?

Were AI truly interested in reducing human
suffering

Yes, what a bunch of Johnny-come-latelys AI is to the cause of human rights.

they would put their condemnation of the US in perspective.

They did:

Instead, the US government has gone to great lengths to restrict the application of the Geneva Conventions and to “re-define” torture. It has sought to justify the use of coercive interrogation techniques, the practice of holding “ghost detainees” (people in unacknowledged incommunicado detention) and the “rendering” or handing over of prisoners to third countries known to practise torture. The detention facility at Guantánamo Bay has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law. Trials by military commissions have made a mockery of justice and due process.

The USA, as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power, sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide. When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity and audacity. From Israel to Uzbekistan, Egypt to Nepal, governments have openly defied human rights and international humanitarian law in the name of national security and “counter-terrorism”.

What I particularily resent as well, von, is your implication that to be appalled by Gitmo means I, and the AI's of the world, ignore the plight of the Darfur, which they do not, and which the historical record validates again and again.

Von:

Were AI truly interested in reducing human suffering and living up to its manifest -- as opposed to scoring cheap political points -- they would put their condemnation of the US in perspective. That is, they would place Sudan, Cuba, and the so-called "Arab world" firmly in the spotlight -- and keep them there, until change occurs.

...because twenty years of condemning tinpot dictators has done wonders for ending human rights abuses there.

The way I see it, Amnesty International is one large bully pulpit and little more than that - they have no actual power to implement beyond saying "hey, guys, this is bad" over and over again and hoping somebody with actual power says "hey, wow, you're right!" and does something about it. They have already said "hey, guys, the genocide in Sudan, that's bad" and "hey, guys, they're boiling people alive in Uzbekistan you know" and "hey, guys, Saudi Arabia, not very free, huh?" - and the collective response from the actual empowered has been either total ignorance or "yeah, wow, you're right, that's bad" and then no actual action.

I would suspect those who issued the report on Gitmo using such inflammatory language did so quite on purpose, figuring that individual citizens of the United States might not be able to alter their nation's foreign policy appreciably, but most certainly can alter pressure on their own government.

darling Cuba
Huh?

Who's patting ourselves on the back?
Um, the president was.

Who's measuring ourselves against "the other side"?

Sorry, the dictionary disagrees with you.

Gitmo is a "forced labor camp"? [Leave aside the fact that the first and third definitions of "gulag" expressly reference the Soviet prison camp system.]

Errrr... what makes you think they haven't been? Have you read the Amnesty report? Have you read the previous ones?

The Sec Gen's forward to the current report mentions Dafur in two paragraphs (most of which lambast the UN for failing to take action; the Sudanese government -- which is perpetrating the genocide -- is criticized only in passing). It spends seven full paragraphs discussing Gitmo as the "gulag" of our time and decrying our tactics in the WoT -- a war, I should not need to point out, we did not start.* Save Egypt (which I'll count as "Arab" for these purposes), the Arab world is mentioned nowhere; although, tellingly, Israel is.

This is a moral focus that is utterly out of whack.

von

*Any report that fails to recognize that we at least have legitimate concerns that prompted us to act as we do -- unlike, say, the butchers in Darfur -- however, is a report that says more about the authors than the reportees.


Von, I'm wondering if you read the prior thread here in which the distinction between what the AI area reports said, what wosshername said in a speech, and what the AI general statement said, was discussed?

I haven't seen that discussion, Gary, although I do think that the Sec Gen's forward -- which, rightly, is considered to show the "focus" of the report -- primarily deserves our scrutiny.

(sorry, incomplete comment)
Who's measuring ourselves against "the other side"?
Er, you were, like a half hour ago, when you said that, while Gitmo may be problematic, it's nothing like a "top" human rights concern like Darfur, China, Cuba, etc., etc.

Nowhere in your comments do I see you address the argument that the United States' breaches, however they compare in isolation to the atrocities of a hardened death state like NK, do more to enable similar abuses globally than any single act by an established despotism. Or do you not think the US justifiably held and used the rhetoric and reality of the moral high ground in its long battle against Soviet tyranny? Or was that just a smokescreen, to get tossed away as soon as we got REALLY mad? Or is there another perspective I am failing to grasp?

Any report that fails to recognize that we at least have legitimate concerns that prompted us to act as we do -- unlike, say, the butchers in Darfur

The butchers in Darfur also thought they had legitimate concerns.

Er, you were, like a half hour ago, when you said that, while Gitmo may be problematic, it's nothing like a "top" human rights concern like Darfur, China, Cuba, etc., etc.

What? Stating that thirty homicides are bad but two million are worse is not measuring the former against the latter. It is applying the same standard to both -- and finding the latter violation immeasurably more egregious than the former.

Nowhere in your comments do I see you address the argument that the United States' breaches, however they compare in isolation to the atrocities of a hardened death state like NK, do more to enable similar abuses globally than any single act by an established despotism.

Where is the evidence for this assumed causal link, in which the fact that the Sudanese and NK governments have managed to "get away" with mass slaughter is somehow less freeing to, say, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, than a handful of incidents in the US, which have provoked (well-deserved) soul searching, as well as domestic and international outrage?

Or do you not think the US justifiably held and used the rhetoric and reality of the moral high ground in its long battle against Soviet tyranny?

And we continue to justifiably hold the high ground, though I'll be the first to argue that we are slowly conceding it through our short-sidedness in Gitmo and elsewhere. (Indeed, this is why I agree with Andrew Sullivan that true supporters of the WoT should be outraged at the abuses at Gitmo and elsewhere.)

The butchers in Darfur also thought they had legitimate concerns.

Yes, but we're blessed with a brain -- and therefore need not adopt the view that all justifications are equal.

What? Stating that thirty homicides are bad but two million are worse is not measuring the former against the latter. It is applying the same standard to both -- and finding the latter violation immeasurably more egregious than the former.

It is 'worse' in a quantitative sense, not a qualatative sense. Many in America believe that we still hold the moral high ground, but many outside of America do not. This isn't because they believe that our death count is higher when in fact it is not. It's because they believe -- based on the evidence they are staring at -- that our nation does not have the will to stop evil in its own midst, or even the collective capacity for horror when its own people are committing terrible acts.

Saying, 'Ours aren't as big as the REALLY bad guys' is not comforting. The standard we should hold ourselves to is 'WE DON'T DO THAT.'

--Jeff

We agree, von, and well said.

Von: It's not, because it speaks about a leadership that has lost its perspective and its bearings.

Wait. Amnesty International refer to Guantanamo Bay as a gulag - certainly inflammatory language, but not exactly a completely wrong word to use (and I have to say, though I haven't yet finished The Gulag Archipelago, I think that Alexander Solzhenitsyn would agree there is certainly a strong family resemblance - especially in the system of arresting people and then finding them guilty by means of interrogation/confession) and you think this means their leadership "has lost its perspective and its bearings".

Bush's response to a report on the human rights abuses of Guantanamo Bay - which, as Edward has just pointed out to you, includes a 27% murder rate by US soldiers of helpless prisoners - is to deny it all and claim "I'm aware of the Amnesty International report and it's absurd - it's an absurd allegation."

Isn't it rather the US that has a leadership that has lost its perspective and its bearings?

von: What? Stating that thirty homicides are bad but two million are worse is not measuring the former against the latter. It is applying the same standard to both -- and finding the latter violation immeasurably more egregious than the former.

And Amnesty International would agree with you, if you read their report. What they will not do is ignore the 30 murders of helpless prisoners committed by US soldiers and (for the most part) unprosecuted by the US military, just because that's not as bad as two million dead. Nor, I think, do you wish them to.

Von: I do think that the Sec Gen's forward -- which, rightly, is considered to show the "focus" of the report -- primarily deserves our scrutiny.

Why do you think that? Because the country-by-country reports are clear and give the right level of condemnation to human rights abuses, whereas the foreword perhaps (you feel) focusses too much on the world's only superpower? You don't feel the SecGen should use the foreword to speak truth to power? You don't feel that the balanced and detailed reports "deserve our scrutiny"? Why not?

Charles, still waiting for you to answer how you know all the detainees at Guantanamo Bay are guilty.

Gitmo is a "forced labor camp"?

It is a place or situation of great suffering and hardship, likened to the atmosphere in a prison system or a forced labor camp, emphasis mine.

Yes, but we're blessed with a brain -- and therefore need not adopt the view that all justifications are equal.

Ah, so they're "brainless". I see.

I think they're actually quite clever: they made their calculations as to how far they could go to achieve their goals, and they seem to have calculated correctly. But then, this isn't a question of innate intelligence, it's a question of morality. Because they, and you apparently, see the world in extremes, and believe the stakes so high that the ends justify the means.

The only difference b/w Gitmo and Darfur is scale. It's all fruit of the same poisoned tree.

AFAICT, the AI approach is to push where pushing is most likely to get results. That's why, as I noted above, a shooting by police in a country where the police don't normally even carry firearms gets AI's attention, which it never would in a country where levels of violence are high. That's also why the worst governments don't get the attention they would merit if the idea was simply to devote most attention to the worst offenders.

You can argue against that approach on pragmatic grounds or on grounds of principle, but I can't see anything anti-American about it. If Swedes or Canadians ran a Gitmo or an Abu Ghraib, they would hear from AI too.

"That's nonsense. They (AI) place more emphasis on countries they think are more influential in the world. The reasons should be obvious."

Let me hazard a few guesses.

Narcissism coupled with a messianic complex and the media spotlight?
More donations (I'm assuming) to AI from San Francisco than Havana or Darfur?

Or were you going somewhere else with that?

To the extent that they raise legitimate objections to where America has failed to live up to our standards, and hasn't corrected the lapse or punished lapsers, I'm all right with AI. But once they start grandstanding and throwing around terms like gulag, then it's pretty clear to me that they are motivated much more by attention and fundraising than promoting humanity's general welfare.

mikep: But once they start grandstanding and throwing around terms like gulag, then it's pretty clear to me that they are motivated much more by attention and fundraising than promoting humanity's general welfare.

Why is it "pretty clear to you"? How do you get from "A" - Amnesty International use the word "gulag" to describe Guantanamo Bay - to "B" "they are motivated much more by attention and fundraising than promoting humanity's general welfare".

I don't see the logic chain. Have you read the AI report? It's available online, for free.

But once they start grandstanding and throwing around terms like gulag, then it's pretty clear to me that they are motivated much more by attention and fundraising than promoting humanity's general welfare.

Well, "pretty clear" seems subjective. Because what's "pretty clear" to me, when a group like AI starts raising its voice & going into hyperbole (granting your assumptions), is that they are *utterly at a loss* to know what more it would take to get America to take these crimes seriously.

They're used to the Chinese, etc., torturing people, and have never expected them to listen. What they expect is for nations like America to listen to how bad the Chinese (etc.) are being.

And now the country committing these wicked crimes is ... America. And, guess what? We don't think it's a big deal. Some bogus hearings after Abu Ghraib ... no real Congressional oversight ... what's a human-rights group to do?

And now Bush blows them off, calling their report "absurd" because they're saying we're abusing prisoners, and prisoners are bad people who can't be believed (or why else would we lock them up in Gitmo?), so if prisoners say they were tortured, they're lying.

Anyone who says he was tortured is therefore not believable. Therefore, there is no torture, and it's "absurd" to say otherwise.

Makes me want to get a little hyperbolic myself.

I see now. So, Amnesty is in it for the money. Maybe they don't want torture to stop at all. Maybe the more torture the better. Let's go for it. Expand Guantanamo and AI will have the money rolling in.

Take Jonas Salk, for example. He actually liked polio and was left an empty shell of himself when the disease was nearly wiped out. Plus, where was his concern for cancer, for Christ's sake?

I say convert AI into a profit-making organization. Then Rupert Murdoch could buy them out, unload the debt and the troublesome low-margin torture-whining business into a self-liquidating stand alone, and then buy out FOX, reclaim the tax-exempt status and pay no taxes.

Word nitpick: that introductory section of a book is called the "foreword," not the "forward." We now return you to this thread, which is pretty much recapitulating the last thread but one here on the topic, just a few days ago, save this time with von's participation.

-“Were AI truly interested in reducing human suffering and living up to its manifest -- as opposed to scoring cheap political points -- they would put their condemnation of the US in perspective. That is, they would place Sudan, Cuba, and the so-called "Arab world" firmly in the spotlight -- and keep them there, until change occurs.”

An important ingredient that is being left out of the equation of where the most condemnation should be directed when comparing the human rights records of nations in regard to issues of “moral relativism” and “moral focus” is power. I believe this was Felixrayman’s point about the comparative influence of (e.g.) the US versus Sudan.

In re definitions of “gulag,” the following also apply:

“any prison or detention camp, esp. for political prisoners”

“A place or situation of great suffering and hardship, likened to the atmosphere in a prison system or a forced labor camp”

There is also the issue of objectification: Gitmo is not a gulag because we say it is not. Is this distinction relevant for its detainees? “Yeah, we’re being tortured here, but at least it’s not a gulag.”

Bush's response to a report on the human rights abuses of Guantanamo Bay - which, as Edward has just pointed out to you, includes a 27% murder rate by US soldiers of helpless prisoners - is to deny it all and claim "I'm aware of the Amnesty International report and it's absurd - it's an absurd allegation."

But it is absurd to focus for this report to focus on Guantanamo Bay -- which it does -- when far worse evils are being perpetrated around the world. The nameless apparatchiks of Kafka's novels have clearer moral sense.

AI could have written a balanced report in which it justly criticized the Bush Administration for its nonchalance towards the torture and murder of helpless detainees. It did not do so. Instead, it wrote a hyperboylic screed that makes itself look like a bunch of moral idiots.

Why do you think that? Because the country-by-country reports are clear and give the right level of condemnation to human rights abuses, whereas the foreword perhaps (you feel) focusses too much on the world's only superpower? You don't feel the SecGen should use the foreword to speak truth to power? You don't feel that the balanced and detailed reports "deserve our scrutiny"? Why not?

The forward will, rightly, be considered the "report" for the world -- it's the headline, and it rightly gets the attention. The rest is buried.

It's wonderful to speak truth to power. Speaking real truth to power, however, would be to focus most of the forward on the fact that the the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Pakistan, Syria, and the insurgents in Iraq have perpetrated -- and continue to perpetrate, without apology -- human rights violations on a massive scale. This hypothetical, unwritten forward would include a paragraph detailing the US's wrongheadedness in seeming to accept the practices of these aforementioned regimes through policies at Gitmo and elsewhere that have allowed prisoners to be tortured and killed. It might conclude with the statement that the US, though at war with forces that are the enemies of life and freedom everywhere, must take care not to become the evil that it combats.

Ehh, Gary, it's a typo -- though one I've now repeated at least twice.

Five, but who's counting? :-) It's an extremely common mistake, as any copyeditor knows.

It's not, because it speaks about a leadership that has lost its perspective and its bearings.

Would that you'd hold our own country's leadership's feet to the fire on loss of perspective and bearings, Charles. We'd all be better off for it if somebody, anybody, would hold the Administration accountable for something, instead of letting them point to the latest distraction every time something new comes up.

That is, they would place Sudan, Cuba, and the so-called "Arab world" firmly in the spotlight -- and keep them there, until change occurs.

The difference, von, is that for all the horrors being perpetrated there -- and you'll find me no apologist for any of those regimes, and in fact I had a go-round not too long ago with Jesurgislac on how Cuba's so-called universal health care record was not so terrific when one considers that Cubans live in a poverty-stricken prison -- Cuba, Sudan and the so-called "Arab world" can affect little outside their own borders. The US, on the other hand, is currently involved in taking people from all over the world and inflicting these miseries on them.

The US also sets -- or should set -- a political and behavioral standard that leads the rest of the world. Again, Cuba's influence as a standard-bearer is limited to, well, Cuba. The US has influence beyond its borders, and is therefore proportionately more notable (and noticeable) when it misbehaves.

Got it. AI's the bad guys, Bush/Rumsfeld/Cheney the good guys. Glad that is cleared up.

But it is absurd to focus for this report to focus on Guantanamo Bay -- which it does -- when far worse evils are being perpetrated around the world.

Von, how on dog's green earth can you type this sentence and expect to be taken seriously after asking, not two hours earlier, "Who's patting ourselves on the back, KC? Who's measuring ourselves against 'the other side?'" You are, von. Right there, you are.

Von: But it is absurd to focus for this report to focus on Guantanamo Bay -- which it does

No, it doesn't. You are flat wrong about that, and you would know it, if you read the report. Even in the Secretary General's foreword, the 5 paragraphs dealing explicitly with the US's human rights abuses and the US Supreme Court's action against such abuses are 387 words out of 1803: Guantánamo Bay is mentioned four times. (And the fourth time, positively: AI notes "The time has come for a sober reappraisal of what needs to be done to revive the human rights system and our faith in its abiding values. That is the import of the judgments of the US Supreme Court on Guantánamo detainees and the UK Law Lords on indefinite detention without charge or trial of “terrorist suspects”.")

when far worse evils are being perpetrated around the world.

As the AI report acknowledges. Not by - absurdly - saying "Guantanamo Bay is bad but this is far worse!" but by criticising each country appropriately, each in its own report. The Secretary General's foreword nowhere asserts that Guantanamo Bay is worse than any other human rights violation: rather, she says that the US "sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide".

AI could have written a balanced report in which it justly criticized the Bush Administration for its nonchalance towards the torture and murder of helpless detainees.

As it did. Your assertion that it did not really suggests that you haven't yet read the report. Have you?

Speaking real truth to power, however, would be to focus most of the [foreward] on the fact that the the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Pakistan, Syria, and the insurgents in Iraq have perpetrated -- and continue to perpetrate, without apology -- human rights violations on a massive scale.

That's a very interesting definition of where (in your view, apparently) the real power in the world is today. (You might want to read AI's reports on those countries.)

The opening two paragraphs of the Secretary General's foreword (and a total of 241 words in the whole foreword) deal with what is happening in the Sudan. This is actually more words than the SecGen uses to criticise the US: 220 words. Why does this strike you as unbalanced?

The forward will, rightly, be considered the "report" for the world -- it's the headline, and it rightly gets the attention. The rest is buried.

When you read a news report, then, do you read/discuss only the headline, and ignore the rest of the story? Why are you joining in with those who want to bury the rest of the AI report, and read only the SecGen's foreword - and refuse to subject the text to a properly impersonal analysis before asserting that its focus is the US? Because, you know, it's really not.

This argument is so depressing. Look, suppose AI did use hyperbole --so what? We still have Gitmo, we're still responsible for it, and, as both von, and Charles, and everyone else acknowledges, it's a terrible plot on our national character. So let's focus on cleaning up our act. Let's pressure Bush to put everyone on trial or set them free. The use of the word "gulag" as an exaggeration of our misbehavior doesn't seem worth the digression to me. We all agree that our country has done wrong and needs to clean up its act--isn't that the important thing?

Who's patting ourselves on the back, KC? Who's measuring ourselves against "the other side"?

George W Bush, this morning. Dick Cheney, sullied Memorial Day with a similar comment.

There's a f-cking genocide going on in Darfur, for Chrissakes

Yeah, I guess the AI report ignored that? Oh wait, it didn't. From the "Forward" as you call it:

Last September in a makeshift camp outside El Jeniena in Darfur, Sudan, I listened to a woman describe the attack on her village by government-supported militia. So many men were killed that there were none left to bury the dead, and women had to carry out that sad task. I listened to young girls who had been raped by the militia and then abandoned by their own communities. I listened to men who had lost everything except their sense of dignity. These were ordinary, rural people. They may not have understood the niceties of “human rights”, but they knew the meaning of “justice”. They could not comprehend why the world was not moved to action by their plight.

The summary of ethnic conflicts spends another half dozen paragraphs on the Sudan, and the regional section on Africa adds more. But of course AI mentioned the US, too, so let's blame the messenger, shall we?

Were AI truly interested in reducing human suffering and living up to its manifest -- as opposed to scoring cheap political points -- they would put their condemnation of the US in perspective

First of all the accusation that AI is not interested in reducing human suffering is puerile, offensive, and totally fact free. If you are going to whinge about, "scoring cheap political points", well, charity starts at home.

Second, AI makes their perspective quite clear:

The USA, as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power, sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide

Makes sense to me, if you disagree perhaps you could discuss why you disagree rather than calling people moral idiots and other ad hominems.

Where is the evidence for this assumed causal link, in which the fact that the Sudanese and NK governments have managed to "get away" with mass slaughter is somehow less freeing to, say, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, than a handful of incidents in the US, which have provoked (well-deserved) soul searching, as well as domestic and international outrage?

The evidence is in the statements of the leaders of those countries and others that justify civil rights violations with the excuse of fighting terrorism:

Such serious abuses carried out by a country as powerful as the USA created a dangerous climate. The US administration’s unilateralism and selectivity sent a permissive signal to abusive governments around the world. There is strong evidence that the global security agenda pursued since 11 September 2001, the US-led “war on terror”, and the USA’s selective disregard for international law encouraged and fuelled abuses by governments and others in all regions of the world.

In many countries, new doctrines of security continued to stretch the concept of “war” into areas formerly considered law enforcement, promoting the notion that human rights can be curtailed when it comes to the detention, interrogation and prosecution of “terrorist” suspects.

The “security excuse”, whereby governments curtailed and abused human rights under the cloak of the “war on terror”, was particularly apparent in a number of countries in Asia and Europe. For example, thousands of members of the ethnic Uighur community were arrested in China as “separatists, terrorists and religious extremists”. In Gujarat, India, hundreds of members of the Muslim community continued to be held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. In Uzbekistan, the authorities rounded up and detained hundreds of people said to be devout Muslims or their relatives, and sentenced many people accused of “terrorism-related” offences to long prison terms following unfair trials. In the USA, there have been reprehensible attempts by officials to argue that torture was not torture, or that the USA bore no responsibility for torture carried out in other countries, even if it had sent the victim there.

Like Jes, I wonder whether you even read the report you are criticizing. It does not seem from your arguments that you have - if you have, why do you ask for evidence that was clearly provided in the report?

But it is absurd to focus for this report to focus on Guantanamo Bay -- which it does

The idea that the report focuses on Guantanamo Bay is contrary to the facts, unless you have redefined "focus on" to mean "mention at all".

AI could have written a balanced report in which it justly criticized the Bush Administration for its nonchalance towards the torture and murder of helpless detainees. It did not do so. Instead, it wrote a hyperboylic screed that makes itself look like a bunch of moral idiots.

Um let's see, according to you AI are moral idiots who are uninterested in reducing human suffering, choosing rather to score political points, and their proper usage of the term gulag seems to provoke, from some, harsher criticism than the prison to which the term refers in the first place. Who is being "hyperboylic" here?

This hypothetical, unwritten forward

Yes, as opposed to the actual one, which opened with....oh, a passage about the Sudan.

Look, suppose AI did use hyperbole --so what?

AI didn't use hyperbole. The use of the word "gulag" was appropriate and well within the definition of the word, just as the use of the word "holocaust" to refer to Darfur. The problem here lies with people who confuse "gulag" for "the Gulag", who display the same willingness to distort language for political purposes as some hypothetical Jewish fanatic screeching that the word "holocaust" was forevermore out of bounds save in discussing Germany in the 1940s.

Gitmo Bay is a gulag. It is not the Gulag. If you can't understand the difference, go back to school.

Upon reflection, I've decided that yes, I would like to hold the US to a higher standard than the rest of the world and concentrate on its moral lapses more than those of the rest of the world for one specific reason: it's my country. I'm a citizen and a voter in the US, which means that, theoretically, I have a 1/280 millionth responsibility for the actions of the US government. I am not a citizen of the Sudan, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, etc and therefore have no direct voice in the actions of the governments of those countries. Of course, I want to do everything I can, through the US government if possible and NGOs like Amnesty, to improve human rights in those countries. But abuses there aren't my responsibility the way abuses by the US government are. And, sorry, I don't find the argument that we only killed 30 people as opposed to millions to be adequate (or accurate, but that's another post...)

good job Edward, you've roused up a pack of hair-splitters.

I heard a report on the way home tonight about Abdul-Hamid, the Sunni Party leader who was mistakenly arrested by US forces during the latest security sweep.

Abdul-Hamid says he, his three sons, and their bodyguards were beaten, hooded, and set on by dogs during the few hours they were in custody. He says he was put down on the ground with a US soldier's foot on his neck for 20 minutes.

If that's true (and he says he has photos of the injuries) it sounds as if prisoners of US armed forces no longer have to be held at Abu Ghraib for extended periods of time in order to experience the joys and wonders of our crack(pot) interrogation techniques. It sounds as if the techniques of Abu Ghraib are now widely used by US forces - despite being, y' know, illegal and ineffective.

The Bush Admin apologized "for the inconvenience."

Bush, Cheney and Rice all call the AI report "absurd."

Bush says all allegations of abuse are "investigated." Not punished, not stopped, and apparently not discouraged ahead of time, as a matter of policy.

There's just no bottom to these people, is there?

Were AI truly interested in reducing human suffering and living up to its manifest -- as opposed to scoring cheap political points -- they would put their condemnation of the US in perspective. That is, they would place Sudan, Cuba, and the so-called "Arab world" firmly in the spotlight -- and keep them there, until change occurs.

This is a tired argument not based on facts easily obtained and it is an absolute canard.

Here's AIUSA's page on Sudan. There is a link to an action on the bipartisan Darfur Accountability Act, which the Bush administration is trying to kill.

Here's AI's page on Uzbekistan. What did the president say today?

"We want to know fully what took place there in Uzbekistan, and that's why we've asked the International Red Cross to go in," Bush told a Rose Garden news conference.

"We expect all our friends -- as well as those who aren't our friends -- to honor human rights and protect minority rights," he added.

That'll show those oppresive leaders in Central Asia!

This fallacy of there being a zero-sum situation with regard to human rights work by AI is a perception and nothing else. It certainly isn't based on the facts at hand. It's also becoming more and more tiresome.

Von, if you want to see what AI is doing around the world all you need to do is look at their website. Why is that so hard?

I've refrained from posting in the last several threads in order to try to recalibrate my view of the world. I'm trying very hard to tell myself that Bush is not the worst president ever (Hoover maybe?) and that our republic will survive.

But the inability of the reasonable righties on this blog to tolerate the well-deserved criticism from AI has me profoundly worried for the future of this country.

our country is not well lead. if reasonable righties refuse to see this simple fact, we will most certainly pay the price of imperial overstretch.

money.
One basic rule of governance is that you shouldn't leave matters worse off than when you started. Not every president has that choice, but GWB did. The tax cuts were not met by any spending cuts; instead fed. govt. expenditures have risen substantially. We are mortgaging our children's government, denying them of the choices on balancing social and military spending against taxes.

How can you republicans do nothing? where is the daily drumbeat (last seen during the pre-impeachment and impeachment proceedings) of OUTRAGE? where is the ongoing grass-roots demand for a return to balanced budgets? tax-and-spend has been replaced by borrow-spend-tax.

military.
Do stop-loss orders ever expire? If so, can we expect a big jump in departures from the Army and Natl Guards anytime soon?

On the leadership issue, I'd love to hear evidence of any call for national sacrifice by the current admin. SH used to argue that the only thing preventing us from fielding a larger army was the limits set by Congress. I haven't heard that argument much recently, as recruiting rates continue to fall.

War crimes.
Why should AI focus on the US? Why not? The City on the Hill, the Beacon of Democracy is led by WAR CRIMINALS! 25% of the deaths in military custody have been attributed to murder by US troops! Not to mention the beatings, cripplings, dog bites, mental and physical torture and the "disappearances".

I've rattled on long enough. But when i found that I was unable to tolerate even reasonable criticism of Clinton, i knew my partisanship had gone too far, and I needed to make more of an effort to listen to those who legitimately believed that Clinton's perjury to the grand jury was a significant issue which justified punishing the democratic party with a vote against Gore. (not that their votes made any difference in California.)

some of the criticism against the current admin is legitimate; we risk reaping a terrible harvest from our actions. how much longer will it be before reasonable republicans understand that their party no longer deserves their support?

"... not the worst president ever (Hoover maybe?)"

For the sake of eliminating passions of the day, and leaving George W. out of the nominees, I'd say: good lord, no. Yes, it's true that Hoover was a complete failure in responding in any adequate way to the Great Depression, but he was otherwise, overall, a very competent man, which is why he had such a successful career and earned excellent reputation prior to the Depression. Sure, my first clause makes placing him first defensible, but he'd not be my own personal choice. Now, there are several plausible other candidates for worst President ever -- I think James Buchanan's inability to cope with the oncoming Civil War makes him at least as defensible as Hoover -- but for all around incompetence, I'd have to vote for the eminent Warren G. Harding.

Amen, Brother Rail Gun (on the bulk of the post, not the choice of Hoover as worst President ever -- I vote for my native Pennsylvania's only President, Buchanan)

I'd have to vote for the eminent Warren G. Harding.

If I recall correctly, some on the right were playing up the Harding-Bush connection, claiming that Harding was underrated, apparently occasioned by John Dean's biography of Harding (yes, that John Dean). Googling is a bit difficult becuase of the false positives and I may be misremembering the actual back and forth of the argument, but here are a few links. There was also a lot of comparing of Mark Hannah to Karl Rove, but again, it's hard to find out what the ur-text of this is. Here is Yglesias on the subject

I think it's a big mistake to get in a long thread based on the arguments of someone who's shouting that Cuba is generally considered a "darling" around ObWi parts. Katherine was the canary in the minefield; the Birchers got von!

Kidding. Von probably just needs some coffee and to clear up all that straw smoke.

Wow, it's late. Canary in the minefield is now my favorite mixed metaphor.

"There was also a lot of comparing of Mark Hannah to Karl Rove, but again, it's hard to find out what the ur-text of this is."

I'm insufficiently interested to look for linkish details, but this goes back through a number of years of Rove mentioning his enthusiasm for Hanna in one venue or another at various times, my memory assures me.

Although McKinley was both a lousy President, and the man who presided over one of our major dabbles with official empire when we conquered Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico from Spain, I'd still put Buchanan ahead on sheer destructive culpability to the country, and Harding ahead as Most Vaporous. But there's plenty of room for argument. (Besides, McKinley gets special points for allowing TR on the ticket in his second term, and then dying.)

I speak in defense of Warren Harding, for though he may not been worth a bucket of warm spit, and did no good for none but knaves, I ask, in the comfort of historical ignorance, did he really do that much harm?

Was the economy over-managed to its detriment? Were there the usual overseas adventures of both Wilson & Coolidge? Did he create new rights, or diminish the old?
Was the country better off at the end of his term, thru no fault of Harding himself?

In a time of peace and prosperity, is a distracted cigar-smoking philandering knave without self-respect or historical ambition such a bad thing?

I was wondering about two things: first, whose darling, exactly, is Cuba supposed to be? Not mine, at any rate. And second, what was that canary doing in the minefield? Now that I know it was just singing harmony with the fascist octopus, I'm down to one.

Since I don't really want to get into this argument much, here are two completely unrelated quotes I just loved finding today. Bonus points to anyone who can identify speaker or context without clicking the links.

""I myself am a 992 month-old embryo." (cite)

"Minister Netanyahu, you are burning up." (cite)

I must confess, I'm the one who loves Cuba [Viva Fidel! Viva la revolución!], and it just warms the cockles of my heart to see the good ol' US of A picking up a few prisoner-keeping tips from its embargoed neighbor to the south.

"Bonus points to anyone who can identify speaker or context without clicking the links."

I don't know the first, but the second was a reporter who observed that Netanyahu had put a lit cigar into his coat pocket; I read the story this morning.

Bob, I carelessly didn't define my terms or criteria; I wasn't trying to nominate a "Most Destructive President" so much as a "Dumbest President" (again, exempting the incumbent for the sake of avoiding that particular argument at the moment and for the sake of first gaining a bit of temporal perspective).

In a time of peace and prosperity, is a distracted cigar-smoking philandering knave without self-respect or historical ambition such a bad thing?

Hell, in a time of peace and prosperity, any sane person wouldn't really care what a President does with a cigar. Except to snigger.

Von, if you want to see what AI is doing around the world all you need to do is look at their website. Why is that so hard?

35 citations about North Korea in the last 7 years or so, versus over 1200 about the US. NK deliberately starved to death over 2 million of its own citizens. No, AI did not completely ignore it, but the number of AI news releases defending murederers from the death sentence, and even admitting those murderers' guilt is astonishing.

AI defended Moussaoui, an admitted 9/11 conspirator, from the death sentence.

Look at the people on AI defend who have admitted to going to Afghanistan to fight the US post-911. I have to say, I don't care if they don't get the same kind of protections that American citizens get for non-terrorist crimes.

I think that people who want to criticize or prosecute the US govt would better serve to investigate honor killings, the stoning to death of women in Iran, etc., whether or not this serves your political interests.

America has established gulags? You may argue that it is a matter of degree. NorthKorea and Russia purposely starved to death many millions of innocent people in slave labor camps. The US probably does have thousands of prisoners captured on the battlefield in a limbo-like prison sitution (no slave labor involved, and these people were combatants). But the difference in degree is about 10,000:1 compared to the real gulags, I am only guessing, but the ratio of innocents to guilty is probably similar.

Another beef I have is that if the desecration of Christian religious symbols (Piss Christ, etc.) is all right, per the NEA and the ACLU, then why is not Koran desecration a protected demonstration of free speech?

Hmmmm. So, when exactly do we get rid of all of those who are worse than us? Talk about moral relativism! Let's apply this same logic of Von and Bird to the whole pedophilia uncovered in the Catholic church. I guess because they weren't serial killers, one shouldn't consider it to be a serious problem, right? After all, there's always NAMBLA that is far, far worse than the Catholic church, right? I mean, why is the church being sued when Michael Jackson gets off scott free? Why all the condemnation of priests when there's all these really, really nasty people wondering about uncharged?

<sigh> One just has to marvel at the right and the "center" right. Slamming the left for moral relativism while making a spectacle of their selves, out doing Clinton's parsing of the word "the".

Gotta say "top marks". Top marks all the way.

DaveC, don't you understand the word "trust"? Don't you understand the idea of an example?

My word.

I'm feeling more and more like Alice, through the Looking Glass, where words don't mean what they mean and the things I'd taken for granted are twisted.

We're the United States of America, damnit. We're not just "not as bad as" or even "better than that". We're supposed to be the Good Guys. But you can't be the Good Guys by saying you are, you have to act the part. What the hell happened to us?

DaveC: 35 citations about North Korea in the last 7 years or so, versus over 1200 about the US. NK deliberately starved to death over 2 million of its own citizens. No, AI did not completely ignore it

No, they certainly didn't.

As I observed in an earlier thread, the main reason all human rights abuses committed by the US are documented by Amnesty International, whereas reports on other countries are frequently less detailed, is because the US operates with much greater transparency. And this is a good thing, speaking well of the US. You may have noticed in the report on North Korea, that AI points out "However, despite repeated requests, the government continued to deny access to the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in North Korea and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food as well as to AI and other independent human rights monitors."

, but the number of AI news releases defending murederers from the death sentence, and even admitting those murderers' guilt is astonishing.

That is such an incredibly dishonest argument I am genuinely astonished that you're using it. Yes, AI protests the death penalty. AI protests the death penalty in all countries, without fear or favor, regardless of whether the victim is guilty.

But to associate AI's consistent stance against the death penalty as "NK deliberately starved to death over 2 million of its own citizens. No, AI did not completely ignore it, but the number of AI news releases defending murederers from the death sentence, and even admitting those murderers' guilt" is so dishonest, such bad faith argument, that I cannot believe you are trying to associate the two. Really, I can't. Do you really see no difference between the death penalty and genocide? Of course you do!

DaveC: Another beef I have is that if the desecration of Christian religious symbols (Piss Christ, etc.) is all right, per the NEA and the ACLU, then why is not Koran desecration a protected demonstration of free speech?

Do you understand the difference between a work of art, which people may choose to enjoy or to protest against or ignore (see "Piss Christ", see The Satanic Verses, etc) and a prison guard using a helpless prisoner's religious beliefs to affront and humiliate them?

Dave, if you walk into a mosque off the street, pick up a Koran and throw it to the floor, I would say you were being appallingly rude, but I can't say you would deserve worse than being shown the door and forbidden to ever come back. If you construct for art's sake a picture made of torn-up pages of the Koran, I would defend that as protected free speech. If you were in prison, far from home, your only comfort a single copy of the Bible, and your guard tormented you by throwing your copy of the Bible into a bucket you were using for a latrine, I'd be furious on your behalf.

I'm sure that you can see the difference between the three situations. Just as I'm sure you understand that AI protests both genocide and the death penalty.

von: Since this thread has now been amply festooned with links, would you mind answering my questions: have you, in fact, read Amnesty's report? Have you read their previous reports?

Hmmmm. So, when exactly do we get rid of all of those who are worse than us?

Yeah, well if they are 10,000 times worse than us, or even 1,ooo times worse than us, I'd say go after them. The 9/11 attacks were not only meant to destroy the WTC, but also to destroy the White House and the Capitol, including all of our Senators and Representatives.

I happen to think that our govt's response was rather moderate and thoughtful, going after the terrorists and the state sponsers of such, in a targeted way rather than the wholesale slaughter that Al Qaeda thought was one likely option, or a lack of meaningful response, which AQ more likely expected.

Yes, AI protests the death penalty. AI protests the death penalty in all countries, without fear or favor, regardless of whether the victim is guilty.

Jes, I actually do understand this, and also the fact that the US more openly publicizes criminals that are being put to death. I was trying to make the point that a large percentage of AI's complaints about the US were in fact capital cases that had gone thru the US judicial system.

DaveC: I was trying to make the point that a large percentage of AI's complaints about the US were in fact capital cases that had gone thru the US judicial system.

Dave, if you had posted this as a separate complaint I wouldn't have accused you of making a dishonest argument. (I'd have disagreed with you, probably, but that's different.) The dishonesty of your argument was your apparent attempt to link your claim that AI had "not completely ignored" North Korea's condemnation of its own citizens with AI's protests against the death penalty. You appeared to be asserting that somehow there was a link between AI's (in your view) less-critical-than-deserved (I disagree) appraisal of North Korea, and AI's protesting against the death penalty, by asserting that "AI defends murderers from the death sentence". That at least has the appearance of being a thoroughly dishonest argument.

If you wish to avoid that appearance, I would suggest that you separate at least into different sentences, and ideally into different paragraphs, criticism of the AI report on North Korea, and criticism of AI's stance against the death penalty.

I am comforted by the fact that von and cb want to hold places like China to account. Unfortunately, it is possible that some of Bush's campaign contributors may not feel the same way

Some of the information that the White House has refused to provide to Congress for its review of the nomination of John Bolton includes the names of American companies mentioned in intelligence reports on commerce with China and other countries covered by export restrictions, say government officials who have been briefed on the documents.

---snip---

The fact that the documents also included the names of American companies, and that the subject had to do with possible violations of American export restrictions, provides a new clue as to why the White House might be rebuffing the congressional requests.

link

Dave C:

AI opposes the death penalty in all cases, so criticizing them for opposing the death penalty for Moussaoui when they would oppose it for anyone facing execution is really just a smear.

Another beef I have is that if the desecration of Christian religious symbols (Piss Christ, etc.) is all right, per the NEA and the ACLU, then why is not Koran desecration a protected demonstration of free speech?

If you want to stomp on a Koran in your own backyard, or on Main Street, or at the entrance to the Grand Ol Opry, that would be a protected demonstration of free speech, and I, for one, would object to your arrest. If you were working for the government, though, in a multi-billion dollar, multi-year, life-or-death enterprise, a primary goal of which was to win sympathy from Moslems, then maybe I'd be a little more understanding if your employer wanted to discipline you.*

Actually, though, I don't think that the incidents of Koran abuse were individual expressions of disdain for Islam, but that they were done for a specific work-related purpose. And for that, I would hold the supervisors responsible -- not criminally for bad speech, but administratively for bad management. And I would certainly hold the highest people in the Admin responsible for adopting a very bad strategy for dealing with this: they are calling the released prisoners all liars. This may play well among a certain large segment of the US populace, but is doomed to fail in that area of the globe where it really matters to people whether these things went on.


* Let's think of some other limits to free speech: a soldier gets in trouble for revealing his unit's tactical plan to a spy; you get in trouble for telling the gal in the next cubicle that she's got a nice rack; a broadcaster gets fired for telling a rascist joke on the air. And then there's Mr. Justice Holmes old chestnut about Fire in the Theater. This latter, by the way, turns out to have some similarity to stomping on the Koran . . .

Would that you'd hold our own country's leadership's feet to the fire on loss of perspective and bearings, Charles.

You're distorting again, Phil. Why do you think I linked to three QandO posts in my post if not to hold the Bush administration to account? I did so because I am not excusing their acts and their responsibility.

Just a couple of general questions for the readers here: Who actually agrees with AI's assessment that Guantanamo is the gulag of our times? Who agrees that twelve officials in the Bush administration should be pinocheted?

You're distorting again, Phil. Why do you think I linked to three QandO posts in my post if not to hold the Bush administration to account?

Are you actually asking me to mindread, here? Do I have permission, and do you really want to know why I think you linked to them?

I asked you a direct question on the other thread, though, and I'll repost it here, because I'd like an answer:

Killing the enemy in conformance with the rules of war is not murder, Bernard . . . I fully agree with Jon and Dale, and I did so precisely because I'm not excusing our behavior and our responsibility.

For the record, this is what Dale wrote: My preferred method of dealing with these terror prisoners would be to get two captains and a major together as a tribunal, declare them to be unlawful combatants, and put them in front of a firing squad.

I would like a one-word, yes-or-no answer -- with absolutely no qualifications -- to the following sentence, which I believe accurately characterizes what Dale Franks has written above:

"I, Charles Bird, publicly support the convening of show trials in which all detainees at Guantanamo Bay are declared by a three-man tribunal to be unlawful combatants, then summarily executed."

Yes, or no?


Five, but who's counting? :-) It's an extremely common mistake, as any copyeditor knows.

Ha! Maybe I'll go for six "forwards".

Yeah, I guess the AI report ignored that? Oh wait, it didn't. From the "Forward" as you call it:

Re-read my post. Two paragraphs touch on the genocide in Darfur, and mention the Sudanese government -- i.e., the perpetrators of the genocide-- only in passing. Most of the blame is put on the UN and/or the international community for failing to intervene. It is akin to arguing that the French bear the responsibility for the rapes and killings perpetrated by the Serbs in Bosnia because they failed to intervene.

On the other hand, seven paragraphs are devoted to the so-called "gulog of our time" that is being maintained by the US at Gitmo (and elsewhere). Nevermind that Gitmo does not fit the ordinary definition of a "gulag" -- that's a minor definitional point. Nevermind too that the scale of the atrocities at Gitmo hardly compares to the scale of atrocities at the actual gulog -- that's, one could say, merely a matter of degree. And nevermind that, even assuming the worst of the US government's actions in its defensive war against enemies who take pleasure in killing and torturing others, it hardly compares to what occurs on a daily basis in such places as Syria, or Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan -- all unmentioned by AI's Sec Gen in her "forward". These are clearly inconsequential points, because the US is a superpower and therefore even the grandest evil perpetrated by others can be safely ignored.

Now, you and Jes will (and have) responded that these evils not ignored, but that it's actually set forth in the body of AI's report. And you're largely correct: buried in the back of the report are strong condemnations of other regimes. But the foreward is correctly viewed as the focus of the report; it gets the press; it spurs the action. What is not in the foreward, what it buried in text and graphs and charts in the back, is largely ignored. By featuring the the US's violations in the foreward as unique evils of their own -- rather than viewing them as an overreaction to massive evils perpetrated by others -- AI fundamentally overreaches in its criticisms. Worse, by featuring the US's violations at the expense of the far more serious and pervasive violations of others (for to talk about X is also to not talk about Y), AI becomes a laughing stock -- and a moral idiot who blames Peter for failing to stop Paul's robbery.

By the way, for those who seem intent on missing the point of my argument: (1) Yes, I am aware of AI's past work; (2) Yes, I have been generally appreciative of AI's work in the past; (3) Yes, I have reviewed AI's current report, although admittedly only enough to ensure that it does indeed criticize NK, etc.; and (4) No, this argument does not descend into US=Good/AI=Bad (but thanks for playing).


Gulog = gulag. Expect many more typos from me; work constraints require me to post on the fly today.

"Another beef I have is that if the desecration of Christian religious symbols (Piss Christ, etc.) is all right, per the NEA and the ACLU, then why is not Koran desecration a protected demonstration of free speech?"

This seems deeply confused. Laying aside that the ACLU advocates that which is legal, not that which is "all right" (whatever the heck that means), and that I'm unaware the NEA has a stance on whether "Piss Christ" (isn't this getting to be rather a period piece of an issue?) is either, Koran desecration is certainly precisely as legal in the U.S. as is Bible desecration or U.S. flag desecration (or Puerto Rican flag desecration), so, um, what the heck are you talking about?

Who actually agrees with AI's assessment that Guantanamo is the gulag of our times?

Fair question. Is there another detention camp in the world right now, in our time, where similar human rights violations are occurring? If not, then it's a fair description. If there are other detention camps with worse human rights violations taking place, then it's hyperbolic at best and perhaps harmful at worst.

Is there another detention camp in the world right now, in our time, where similar human rights violations are occurring?

Bagram?

Seriously, I think it's over-the-top to use the G word, but also a necessary wake-up call. I wouldn't have done it, but then there's a whole lot of people out there doing things I wouldn't do.

Why do you think I linked to three QandO posts in my post if not to hold the Bush administration to account?
to which Phil replied
Are you actually asking me to mindread, here? Do I have permission, and do you really want to know why I think you linked to them?

I'm going to take the baton (or perhaps bludgeon) from Phil's hands here. Recently, in your posts, you seem to have eschewed using sources from the right and gone with posts from a shade more central location, if not from the left, as it were. I'm particularly thinking of 'The No Party' post, but the tendency is on display here. Rhetorically, it makes a lot of sense, a sort of 'but your guys said this, so how can you disagree?' but it suggests an willingness to trick out your prose rather than use solid defensible arguments. The notion that because you link to QandO, so you have therefore immunized yourself from the charge that you are excusing the admin's actions means that you have to address Phil's question of how far what it says represents what you believe. You can't have it both ways (I know, you can, I can't force you to write anything, but it does speak to your credibility) As I pointed out in my comment to your post, your previous post doesn't display any recognition of the problematic position the US finds itself in nor of how we determine what human rights are, and your citation of Franks simply underlines that.

I realize that the urge is to make increasingly personal attacks in order to get someone to respond, so I hope to remove the personal aspect from this. So rephrasing the question, if your linking to QandO posts represents your willingness to hold the Bush admin responsible, why should I assume that your linking to Dale Franks argument does not reflect a desire to promulgate show trials conducted by low ranking officers that are immediately followed by executions?

then it's hyperbolic at best and perhaps harmful at worst.

distraction, deflection, hair-splitting.

who gives a flying fig if there are worse places, when things plenty bad are happening in our name ? we can't control what happens everywhere, but we should at least be able to control what our elected representatives do in our name. no ?

come on, Edward, you started this topic saying:

"I have the unpleasant task here of disagreeing with a few of my co-authors. For me they've got their priorities out of order. I conclude this from what I view as, in this overall context, splitting hairs over what constitutes a gulag in comparison to what occurs in Guantanamo. "

morals trump semantics, any day of the week. stick to your guns.

It may be over the top, I hope it is a great exaggeration to call these facilities gulags, but it was the decisions of the Bush Administration that put our abuse of these victims front and center. What is happening to the others that we have abducted and do not have at Gitmo or Bagram or other publicly acknowledged detention facilities? What about the folks that appear to have been handed over to other countries like Uzbekistan, where the lip service to the rule of law is even more hollow than at Gitmo?

As long as we're counting words, can we get a count of the number of words of right-wing outrage about US torture and prisoner abuse versus the number expended on the distractions of Newsweek's flipflopping source and AI's possibly hyperbolic use of the word "gulag"? Both distraction stories have been used by the administration and its supporters mainly to create the impression that reports of US torture and prisoner abuse are all lies and thus require no further response.

"If there are other detention camps with worse human rights violations taking place, then it's hyperbolic at best and perhaps harmful at worst."

Without either ranking degrees of wrongs, nor choices of words, I would suggest that the systems of camps in such countries as North Korea and China were worse than the U.S., and more similar to the Original Gulag both in scale and in the fact that they are overwhelming systems of domestic political repression, as well as labor camps. Plenty of other countries are horrible, from Myanmar to Zimbabwe to Algeria to Uzbekistan to Congo. This is no reason to not criticize and express horror at the U.S.'s own torture and abuse, of course.

I'd suggest that the entire kerfuffle over the use of the word "gulag" is an unnecessary distraction, and thus a reasonable argument for it not having been used, but I also feel that on either side, the argument is overdone and of minimal usefulness.

And, of course, anyone who maintains that we can't simultaneously criticize ourselves and criticize others (with either put first) is wrong.

"Who actually agrees with AI's assessment that Guantanamo is the gulag of our times?"

No. Nowhere nearly that bad, or not in that category of bad. The category is important, for as a quantitive comparative for instance in the Japanese internments of WWII, the victims had at least a theoretical recourse to the legal system(IIRC). The Russian gulags also, tho certainly horrendous in a quantitive dimension, retained a hypocritical acquiescence to the rule of law. As did even the frigging Nazis.

Guantanamo, tho quantitatively insigificant compared to the abuses of other tyrannies, is, IMO, qualitatively worse. For the Bush administration publicly and defiantly abandoned even the pretense of deferring to int'l law, standards, and norms. This, if you read the foreward, is what AI finds so offensive.

Where is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and what is being done to him? Even Goering, Goebbels, and Eichmann received public trials, defenses. I cannot accept that KSM is so much more evil or dangerous that the US must go outlaw.

"Who agrees that twelve officials in the Bush administration should be pinocheted?"

Me. At least 12.

"DEFENSIVE"?!!!!!

you have to be effing kidding me. the only person still linking saddam to al qaeda is Cheney.

every damn country poses a "grave" and "gathering" threat to this one, including the land of my mother, France. Which, in case anyone has forgotten, has nukes. And is probably closer to using them against the US than anytime since the damn things were created.

As the right-wing quasi-isolationists are so fond of pointing out, countries don't have friends, they have interests. and by our inexcusable conduct at Gitmo, Bagram and Abu Ghraib, we have made it MUCH harder for our nominal allies to continue to support us.

to repeat myself, the AI report is REASONABLE criticism; there is no excuse for prisoner murder, and there is no excuse that the generals and admininstrators in charge (esp. Miller and Rumsfeld) have not been held to much sterner account. Miller should be court-martialed; Rumsfeld fired.

but no. and while there may be good reason not to, it certainly appears that the president does not disapprove.

we are not trying to win a war; major combat operations are over, as the president told us. we are trying now to win an occupation, in a time of instant communication of both words and images. This has never been done before, and this country is paying the price of fighting the occupation with the mindset that its dirty secrets would remain secret. oops.

but Von and CB for some strange reason want to blame the messenger. The AI report is just the messenger; the message, gentlemen, is that the US cannot fight savage little wars in secret.

who do you think you're trying to persuade with your outrage about the AI report? yourselves? your base? the swing voter? the loyal opposition?

as someone told me once (actually, several times) during the impeachment after listening to another impassioned defense of that president, for god's sake, grow up.

Von wrote: Two paragraphs touch on the genocide in Darfur, and mention the Sudanese government -- i.e., the perpetrators of the genocide-- only in passing. Most of the blame is put on the UN and/or the international community for failing to intervene.

You seem to think this is bad, but then you assert: But the [foreword] is correctly viewed as the focus of the report; it gets the press; it spurs the action.

So, Von, which is it? Ought the foreword of the AI report be used to spur the action of agencies (and countries) which can best act to stop the atrocities, or ought it simply be used to condemn evil people, allowing Western readers to nod happily, telling themselves that yes, bad people do bad things somewhere else.

You seem to feel that the foreword of the AI report ought not to focus on the actions of the country it asserts is "the unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power" which "sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide", nor ought to focus on the behavior of international agencies - and simultaneously, you assert that the foreword of the AI report ought to be a "spur to action".

So, if the AI report ought to focus on the bad behavior of countries such as Syria, or Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan, as a "spur to action". Do you really think that the rulers of any of these countries, seeing themselves sternly criticized in the AI report, would do more than try to block any Amnesty International workers from entering their countries? Or are you arguing that the AI report ought to be a "spur to action" in the same way that Dick Cheney found it useful? That would make sense of your otherwise-contradictory argument.

(4) No, this argument does not descend into US=Good/AI=Bad (but thanks for playing).

Oh, rubbish, Von, of course that's what your argument amounts to. You're complaining that AI is bad; and you certainly are asserting, if not that the US is good, at least the old right-wing standby "Not as bad as North Korea".

is Gitmo the gulag of our times?
No, its the gulag of our times in America. And as such, obsessing over the hyperbole of a HR group while this shit is going on, and while the President equivocates, focusses on the hyperbole and drags his feet looks very close to "moral idocy" to me. For f**k's sake, if we agree that torture and prisoner abuse must stop now, how come we can be satisfied with anything less than the President going there presto and demanding with righteous fury that it stop the day before yesterday and that all those guilty in the atrocites be brought to justice, regardless of rank? I mean, where's the outrage?

On the other matter, I understand your position to be (correct me if I'm wrong on this) that AI should feature HR abuses relative to their severity. I can see the point. What I can't see is how this (as opposed to not mentioning severe abuses, which, AFAIK they have not been accused of and are not doing) choice in arguing or advocating (as opposed to documenting) consitutes moral failure on their part. IMO it is generally accepted that advocay may focus on aspects more amendable to change. That was the reasoning behind tackling SS reform now, that's why its ok to focus on Terry Shiavo, stem-cell research, abortion, gay-marriage and so on. The first of course is no moral issue, but the latter are, and they are being pushed by groups which nominally have a broader moral agenda. And just as AI, they are pushing these topics instead of e.g. poverty (both national and worldwide), domestic violence, child labour, genital mutilation etc. Are all of these "moral idiots"? I for one don't think so. Some may be hypocrites and some may be liars and some are moral idiots in that they mistake homophobia for a moral impulse. Please let me know if (and why) you disagree or what makes them different from AI?
Finally, I'd like to know, why you seem to believe that focussing on the messengers choice of words is not a variant of the argument ad hominem. Surely, the argument (which boils down to "this must stop") and the facts can be considered on their own merits. (If OTOH you can establish, that AI is saying "the US is worse than Sudan" you're right, they would be wrong in that, no argument from me).

"Finally, I'd like to know, why you seem to believe that focussing on the messengers choice of words is not a variant of the argument ad hominem."

I'd believe it because it isn't true. Attacking someone's words, however attackable or wrong they might be, isn't at all the same as attempting to dismiss the words by hurling about an irrelevancy about the speaker. "Ad hominem" means something specific, and it certainly doesn't mean "focussing on the messengers choice of words." That's simply flat wrong.

Nevermind that Gitmo does not fit the ordinary definition of a "gulag"

Absolutely incorrect. According to the dictionary, Gitmo is a gulag. One shouldn't ignore definitions that don't fit one's purposes.

And nevermind that, even assuming the worst of the US government's actions in its defensive war against enemies who take pleasure in killing and torturing others, it hardly compares to what occurs on a daily basis in such places as Syria, or Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan

Who's measuring ourselves against "the other side" von? Tell me, please.

These are clearly inconsequential points, because the US is a superpower and therefore even the grandest evil perpetrated by others can be safely ignored

So now we have redefined "ignored" to mean "gone over in great detail in the body of the report".

And you're largely correct: buried in the back of the report are strong condemnations of other regimes

And now we have redefined "buried in the back of the report" to mean "not in the one part of the report I want to talk about". Try looking at the second page, for example. Or is that "buried in the back of the report"?

for to talk about X is also to not talk about Y

Absurd and verifiably false in the case of the AI report.

No, this argument does not descend into US=Good/AI=Bad

It's simply blaming the messenger and claiming that other countries are worse, so......what exactly?

The notion that because you link to QandO, so you have therefore immunized yourself from the charge that you are excusing the admin's actions means that you have to address Phil's question of how far what it says represents what you believe. You can't have it both ways (I know, you can, I can't force you to write anything, but it does speak to your credibility)

I can credibly have it both ways, as you call it LJ, because criticizing AI for a whacked perspective and criticizing our government for its treatment of prisoners/detainees are not mutually exclusive.

why should I assume that your linking to Dale Franks argument does not reflect a desire to promulgate show trials conducted by low ranking officers that are immediately followed by executions?

You must not've read my update, LJ.

Charles; because criticizing AI for a whacked perspective and criticizing our government for its treatment of prisoners/detainees are not mutually exclusive.

I'd take that from Von, Charles, but not from you. Your criticisms of the administration for its human rights abuses have been delicate, carefully-phrased, buried in masses of qualifications, and plausibly-deniable. And rare, I should add: you've spent far far more time claiming that all the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are guilty than you have in asserting that the administration ought not to have violated the Geneva Conventions in sending them there without determining their status by a competent tribunal. (Indeed, I don't believe the phrase "The administration ought not to have violated the Geneva Conventions, and I condemn them for doing so" has ever crossed your keyboard.)

But you have spent considerable time and focus on condemning Amnesty International for publicly criticising the US for the very same human rights violations you claim you "don't defend". You may believe that there in attacking an organisation for criticising human rights violations, you are not actually defending those human rights violations, but you should know that's really not the way it looks.

Worse, by featuring the US's violations at the expense of the far more serious and pervasive violations of others (for to talk about X is also to not talk about Y), AI becomes a laughing stock -- and a moral idiot who blames Peter for failing to stop Paul's robbery.

Speaking of moral idiocy, von, Amnesty's been complaining about human rights abuses in China, North Korea and Iraq since at least 1987. [Other places as well, naturally, but these seem to be the topics of concern.] Would you care to consider the nature of American foreign policy with those three nations during the last 17 years? Please be sure to touch on such highlights as US reactions to Tiananmen Square, Halabjah and the ascension of Kim Jong Il. Then, if you would, consider the rueful juxtaposition of stones and glass houses.

I've noted about your update the amnesty post in the original thread. I will leave it to others to compare the language and word count of your update to that of the part on AI (and the fact that the update is here, but not at Redstate, which you have suggested was the 'true' venue for your post, just as you claim that your update is not in response to what was pointed out here, but what was pointed out at Redstate. Yes, so blinded by Bush-hate we are that nothing we could point out could possibly be correct) and decide your credibility.

As for myself, I think that you might sincerely believe that you are being equally strong towards both the admin and the AI, but I don't believe you will ever be able to take the stand that Seb did, posting an anti-torture post at Redstate. At this point, the absolute best hope I can muster is that sometime in the (probably and sadly distant) future, you will post something unequivocally retracting almost everything you have written concerning this, without making any reference to the chorus of voices who complained at the time, and will be greeted to huzzahs of approval for being an honest conservative.

-“Just a couple of general questions for the readers here: Who actually agrees with AI's assessment that Guantanamo is the gulag of our times?”

Charles Bird, although I think the quibbling over “gulag” is a very minor point in regard to the AI report and human rights abuses, since I appreciate your engagement of the topic and responses to my questions, I’ll bite. Generally, I am in agreement with the comments by CharleyCarp, Markus, and Bob McManus (and Francis’ point about communication). Quantitatively, I don’t think the comparison holds up. Qualitatively, I think it has some legs. I wouldn’t have used the word, but I don’t think its use by AI was out of line (not nearly as outrageous as the Administration’s response*). Also, as I have mentioned above, it may be useful to get past our definitions and the objectification of the “other” (an example form Von: “enemies who take pleasure in killing and torturing others”) if one wants to appreciate all that is involved in relation to human rights. Part of AI’s goal, I think, is to speak for or represent those who cannot do so for themselves. Do you suppose it’s a gulag from the perspective of the detainees?

* AFP article on Cheney’s response: “For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously,” Cheney said.

“Guantanamo's been operated, I think, in a very sane and sound fashion by the U.S. military,” he said. “I think these people have been well treated, treated humanely and decently.

“Occasionally there are allegations of mistreatment. But if you trace those back, in nearly every case, it turns out to come from somebody who had been inside and been released to their home country and now are peddling lies about how they were treated.”

(Compare to Taguba report on Abu Ghraib: “beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape,” “sodomising a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick,” etc.)

Since this is now being cited on the front page:

von: It spends seven full paragraphs discussing Gitmo as the "gulag" of our time and decrying our tactics in the WoT -- a war, I should not need to point out, we did not start. [Emph in original.]

Even presuming that the War on Terror really is a war -- which, you may recall, I think is incorrect* -- this is wrong. The Bush Administration explicitly launched the War on Terror as a broadening of the smaller conflict between the United States, Al Qaeda, and its allies in the Taliban (which will forevermore remain nameless, alas); so inasmuch as the WoT exists and is meaningful, we're the ones who started it. The failure to recognize this fact, IMO, springs from the same conflations and category errors that have crippled our efforts in this arena, and it's important that we curb them at every opportunity.

* As well as the whole "on Terror" thing, which even the Bush Administration is starting to realize might not have been the smartest thing.

Anarch,

The point made by Von in the quote you cite is precisely the argument made in the Pentagon's Working Group Report on interrogation techniques at Gitmo (and related memos from DoJ and WH) to rationalize treatment of detainees: the uncivilized terrorists started it and we have no choice but to respond in savage kind. This is additionally fascinating to me since a good argument can be made that the GWOT is a continuation of the Cold War, or at least being used to rationalize US domestic and foreign policies.

The point made by Von in the quote you cite is precisely the argument made in the Pentagon's Working Group Report on interrogation techniques at Gitmo (and related memos from DoJ and WH) to rationalize treatment of detainees: the uncivilized terrorists started it and we have no choice but to respond in savage kind.

Oh, I know. Doesn't make it any less wrong, however. Though it does neatly play back into the questions I've been asking Charles, namely: just how many of the detainees are actually terrorists, and how do we know this? Thus far the answers haven't been particularly flattering.

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