Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The g-word

The ferocity of the concerted verbal assault by Bush, Cheney, Myers and Rumsfeld on Amnesty International caught me by surprise. I’d have expected a mock-dignified silence, in the hope that it would go away, which, sad to say, would probably have worked. But after successfully demonizing Newsweek, they’ve decided that vicious attacks might silence critics of Guantanamo altogether. Sadly, that may work too.

The message is that Amnesty’s use of the g-word somehow means we can ignore them now. Cheney: “For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don’t take them seriously.” (Somehow? We saw the pictures.) Rummy: “those who make such outlandish charges lose any claim to objectivity or seriousness.” The word “absurd” has also been bandied about.

Myself, I was critical of Amnesty when it failed to condemn the US for force-feeding hunger-striking inmates at Guantanamo.

Secretary of War Crimes Rumsfeld suggested that the word gulag can’t be used because “Most would define a gulag as where the Soviet Union kept millions in forced labor concentration camps,” as if an analogy has to be exact, right down to the uniforms and haircuts, before it has any salience. Using that standard, we’d never learn anything from history, which is of course the point.

A reporter asked Rummy whether removing the prisoners from Cuba to the US would increase transparency and oversight. Rummy: “Oh, my goodness. There’s so much transparency in Gitmo and so much oversight.”

The suggestion that Amnesty didn’t pay attention to Saddam Hussein’s crimes against his people is, to steal a word from the Bushies, absurd. In fact, one of Britain’s pre-war “dossiers” was largely culled from old Amnesty reports.

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