- The Washington Times - Monday, May 31, 2004

Terrorism and attempts by governments to suppress it “have combined to produce the most sustained attack on human rights and international humanitarian law in 50 years” —with the United States a principal culprit, says Amnesty International in its annual report.

Whoa. Let’s take a deep breath here.

Fifty years ago would put us in 1954. Josef Stalin had been dead a year, but his murderous brand of repression still held sway over the Soviet empire and its captive nations and would continue to do so, although in diluted form, another 35 years.

In China, Chairman Mao Tse-tung was instituting his lunatic social schemes. Having cleansed the land of “class enemies,” in 1956 he would institute his grossly misnamed policy of letting “a hundred flowers bloom” and in 1958 the Great Leap Forward, both of which resulted in the death, imprisonment and impoverishment of millions.

And let us not forget the bit players in oppression during the last 50 years —the Khmer Rouge; Idi Amin; the Kims, father and son, in North Korea; Fidel Castro; the genocidal leaders of Rwanda and Burundi. No, although it does the year no credit, 2004 is far from the worst year for human rights in the last 50.

The report condemns in almost ritual fashion the “callous, cruel and criminal attacks by armed groups such as al Qaeda,” but that only clears the way to what really has Amnesty’s blood boiling:

“The global security agenda promoted by the U.S. administration is bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle. Violating rights at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses has damaged justice and freedom, and made the world a more dangerous place.

“Reports of torture and ill-treatment underline the vulnerability of hundreds of prisoners, not only in Iraq but also at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Afghanistan and elsewhere, incarcerated by the United States and its allies without charge, trial, access to lawyers or protection of the Geneva Conventions.”

Double whoa. There is no moral equivalence, as Amnesty seems to believe, between the U.S. and Britain, and the terrorists who, don’t forget, brought this war on themselves on September 11, 2001. We didn’t start it; they did.

And Amnesty can quarrel with the way the war is being fought, and maybe the Bush administration did shortcut due process and the Geneva Conventions. But these are self-correcting problems as the traditional U.S. respect for human rights and international law reasserts itself.

This kind of excess is unfortunate because, elsewhere in its 339-page report, Amnesty performs the kind of human-rights monitoring for which it is justifiably regarded. But its hysterical anti-U.S. preface ensures that those charged with fighting the war on terror won’t read that far.

Dale McFeatters is a columnist for Scripps Howard News Service.

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