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Tuesday, May 31, 2005


american torture reviewed

slate provides a very solid and impartial overview of american torture just as amnesty international issues its 2005 overview, which contains particularly honest and damning assessment of the decay of human rights and a growing record of war crimes consequent of the bush administration's policies. the regional overview of that report used the most inflammatory language.

The blatant disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law in the “war on terror” continued to make a mockery of President George Bush’s claims that the USA was the global champion of human rights. Images of detainees in US custody tortured in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq shocked the world. War crimes in Iraq, and mounting evidence of the torture and ill-treatment of detainees in US custody in other countries, sent an unequivocal message to the world that human rights may be sacrificed ostensibly in the name of security.

President Bush’s refusal to apply the Geneva Conventions to those captured during the international armed conflict in Afghanistan and transferred to the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, was challenged by a judicial decision in November. The ruling resulted in the suspension of trials by military commission in Guantánamo, and the government immediately lodged an appeal. The US administration’s treatment of detainees in the “war on terror” continued to display a marked ambivalence to the opinion of expert bodies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and even of its own highest judicial body. Six months after the Supreme Court ruled that the federal courts had jurisdiction over the Guantánamo detainees, none had appeared in court. Detainees reportedly considered of high intelligence value remained in secret detention in undisclosed locations. In some cases their situation amounted to "disappearance".
moreover, the growing confluence of the war on terror with its counterpart war of ideology, the war on drugs, led amnesty to comment on an increasing appearance of totalitarianism in the americas.

The "war on terror" and the "war on drugs" increasingly merged, and dominated US relations with Latin America and the Caribbean. Following the US elections in November, the Bush administration encouraged governments in the region to give a greater role to the military in public order and internal security operations. The blurring of military and police roles resulted in governments such as those in Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Paraguay deploying military forces to deal with crime and social unrest.

The US doubled the ceiling on the number of US personnel deployed in Colombia in counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics operations. The Colombian government in turn persisted in redefining the country’s 40-year internal conflict as part of the international "war on terror".
the administration, for its part, expressed reaction ranging from the dismissive to the outraged (what an objective observer would have to say is a continuation of the public denial of quietly-pursued objectives) while repeating again the religious, demagogic assertion that america is the global repository of freedom -- to the point of assuming that trademark of idealistic propaganda, embarassing nonfactual hyperbole.

"I think the fact of the matter is the United States has done more to advance the cause of freedom, has liberated more people from tyranny over the course of the 20th century and up to the present day than any other nation in the history of the world," Cheney said.
the credibility gap widens with such statements, i'm afraid, as the administration appears to be taking refuge from very difficult facts in denial and ideological fantasy.

amnesty's report sticks to what has happened, and doesn't include (as far as i have read) a discussion on the political dialogue, which turned very black indeed for human rights activists as the white house openly discussed death squads while its backers became apologists and even cheerleaders as the scale of american indecency became clear.

the sort of abandonment of the standards of civility reviewed here -- continuously documented not only by amnesty but human rights watch and the international red cross -- is, as i've long argued, counterproductive to facilitating a safe, free and meaningful society.

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