Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bush, The UN Speech, And Relative Hypocrisy

By Cernig

McClatchy Newspapers William Douglas has a report today, under the headline "Bush astounds activists, supports human rights," which is causing the Right to spin into all-out moral relativist mode.
UNITED NATIONS — President Bush implored the United Nations on Tuesday to recommit itself to restoring human decency by liberating oppressed people and ending famine and disease.

Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, the president called for renewed efforts to enforce the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a striking point of emphasis for a leader who's widely accused of violating human rights in waging war against terrorism.

Bush didn't mention the U.S. prisons in Afghanistan or at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. practice of holding detainees for years without legal charges or access to lawyers, or the CIA's "rendition" kidnappings of suspects abroad, all issues of concern to human rights activists around the world.

"At first read, it's little more than an exercise in hypocrisy. His words about human rights ring hollow because his credibility is nonexistent," said Curt Goering, the deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA. "The gap between the rhetoric and the actual record is stunning. I can't help but believe many people in the audience were thinking, 'What was this man thinking?' "

...“I believe the president should be championing human rights at the U.N., but he’s lost his authority and credibility as a world leader because of his policies on rendition and Guantanamo,” said Tom Malinowski, the advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “His remarks would be more effective if the U.S. was practicing what it’s preaching.”
That was all it needed for Jules Cretinhead and others to get their outrage on. Jules opines:
Without doubt, the Iranian, Cuban, Venezuelan, Syrian, Libyan, Zimbabwean, Myanmaran, Belarussian, Sudanese, Chinese and Russian delegates in the audience were thinking exactly that...I’ve thought groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have lost their credibility due to their policies re, lack of perspective on and gross distortion of same.
Thus proving that, while the Right often castigates the "moral relativism" of the Left as being dishonest and immoral, it's OK to be relativist in defense of a conservative President and his abusive policies.

James Joyner, usually a thinking conservative, falls into the same logic trap.
I’ve long argued against the use of torture for terrorist suspects and for affording at least minimal due process rights for detainees at Gitmo and elsewhere. Some of these policies are morally and legally dubious and all of them are, in my view, counterproductive.

...But, my word, what kind of hack news organization can’t see the distinction between those things and the mass genocide of Darfur? Can a leader not simultaneously believe that extraordinary measures are necessary to protect his people from a very real enemy and yet oppose slaughter, oppression, and famine?
A man who robs corner stores clearly isn't in the same league as someone who commits serial murders - but then again, if the first man says he supports the rule of law then he should be exposed as a hypocrite. Even if he says it's the only way to feed his family.

U.S. allies, the UN and top international Geneva Conventions law experts have said that the interrogation techniques and detention methods the U.S. has used in the War on Terror are illegal under international law and the Conventions. It's not a Holocaust, but it's still a crime because it is a violation of internationally agreed human rights. In practise, only the power (diplomatic, military, economic) of the U.S. protects the U.S. from sanctions and the Bush administration from international legal measures of recourse.

For the Decider of those policies to claim to support human rights - and be defended because he hasn't committed larger atrocities - is hypocrisy.

However, there's at least some pushback againt Bush's pariah policies. His nominee for the position of the CIA's general counsel, John Rizzo, has withdrawn his nomination in the face of opposition to his oft-stated preference for ignoring the rule of law.
Rizzo, a career CIA lawyer, had drawn fire from Democrats and human rights groups because of his support for Bush administration legal doctrines permitting "enhanced interrogation" of terrorism detainees in CIA custody.

...The chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the panel's senior Republican both said Rizzo did not have enough support and was unlikely to be confirmed.

"The president and Mr. Rizzo made the correct decision in withdrawing this nomination," committee chairman Jay Rockefeller said in a statement. "The confirmation process highlighted Mr. Rizzo's 31 years of dedicated service, but it also raised serious questions about whether he was the right person for this job."

During his confirmation hearing in June, Rizzo told the Senate committee he issued a legal opinion in 2002 stipulating that CIA detainee practices were lawful under international treaties against torture, including the Geneva Conventions.

But Rizzo also said he did not oppose an August 2002 Justice Department memo that said torture would not occur unless the detainee experienced pain serious enough to accompany organ failure or death.

"I did not certainly object to the memo," Rizzo said at the hearing. "My reaction was that it was an aggressive, expansive reading." [Emphasis Mine - C]
According to the White House, Rizzo will remain the senior lawyer at the CIA. That's just wrong, but it's indicative of the level of hypocrisy and doubletalk the Bush administration indulges in if ever it has the nerve to talk about human rights.

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