President Bush yesterday called a report by Amnesty International “absurd” for its charge that the United States is mistreating terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying accusations were being made by “people who hate America.”
“It’s absurd. It’s an absurd allegation,” the president said in a Rose Garden press conference. “We’ve investigated every single complaint against the detainees. It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of — and the allegations — by people who were held in detention, people who hate America …”
Mr. Bush, who was at times combative in the 50-minute session, also said a demand by Capitol Hill Democrats for more documents before holding a vote on his nominee for U.N. ambassador is nothing more than a “stall tactic.”
“I thought John Bolton was going to get an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, just like he deserves an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, and clearly he’s got the votes to get confirmed. And so I was disappointed that once again, the leadership there in the Senate didn’t give him an up-or-down vote.”
Democrats in the Senate, led by Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, last week blocked a confirmation vote on Mr. Bolton, saying they wanted classified documents from the White House before any vote. The tactic — which even Mr. Reid acknowledged amounted to a filibuster — shattered the short-lived good will that arose after a bipartisan compromise that stopped Democratic filibusters and allowed three of Mr. Bush’s long-stalled judicial nominees to move forward.
“In terms of the request for documents, I view that as just another stall tactic, another way to delay, another way to not allow Bolton to get an up-or-down vote,” he said, his voice rising. “We’ve answered questions after questions after questions. … And so it’s just a stalling tactic. And I would hope that when they get back that they stop stalling and give the man a vote.”
Mr. Reid released a statement after the press conference, saying Mr. Bush is “caving to the demands of the far right,” but making no mention of the filibuster of Mr. Bolton.
Mr. Bush saved his strongest criticism for Amnesty International, which last week called on foreign governments “to uphold their obligations under international law by investigating U.S. officials implicated in the development or implementation of interrogation techniques that constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” at the U.S. military base known as Gitmo.
The report, titled “The State of the World’s Human Rights,” charged that the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “has become the gulag of our times” and accused high-level U.S. officials — including the president, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and former CIA Director George J. Tenet — of flouting international law in their treatment of detainees.
“The United States is a country that is — promotes freedom around the world,” Mr. Bush said. “When there’s accusations made about certain actions by our people, they’re fully investigated in a transparent way. It’s just an absurd allegation.
“In terms of the detainees, we’ve had thousands of people detained. … And so it was an absurd report. It just is.”
The Washington Times on Tuesday reported that an al Qaeda handbook directs operatives to level charges of torture once captured, a training regime that administration officials say explains some of the charges of abuse at Guantanamo Bay.
Approximately 600 detainees are held at Guantanamo Bay. Officials have not estimated the total number of complaints of abuse made by the detainees.
Mr. Bush’s harsh criticism follows that of Vice President Dick Cheney, who said on Monday that he is offended by the accusations — splashed in the news after Newsweek retracted a report that U.S. military members had flushed a holy Koran down a toilet at the base.
“For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don’t take them seriously,” Mr. Cheney said.