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US Hypocritical on Human-Rights Abuses
19 September 2002
Saddam is bad.
"Tens of thousands of political opponents and ordinary citizens have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, summary execution, and torture by beating and burning, electric shock, starvation, mutilition and rape," President George W. Bush told the United Nations in seeking to push Saddam Hussein out of Iraq.
The evildoers are everywhere.
Mass graves are bad.
Boston-based Physicians for Human Rights uncovered one in Afghanistan in January. The United States' chief ally in Northern Afghanistan, the warlord Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, appears to have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not more than a thousand, war prisoners he was rounding up on behalf of U.S. forces and transporting to the Sheberghan prison.
They were stuffed into sealed cargo containers and left to asphyxiate. Before death, they'd licked each others' sweat and bitten off their fingertips or torn into their own arms and legs - and those of others - in a desperate search for fluid. Physicians for Human Rights discovered what they believe is the prisoners' mass grave in Dasht-e-Leili.
The Pentagon says no American personnel were involved in, or aware of, the mass deaths, though Americans were nearby processing prisoners who arrived in similar containers. No one in the U.S. government has asked for an investigation into whether forces working for the Americans committed what could well be a war crime. The Pentagon has rebuffed requests that the gravesite at least be secured to preserve evidence for a future inquiry.
Security forces that use methods of torture that include "beating, whipping, electric shock and rape" are bad.
The U.S. State Department thinks so. That is what it said about Indonesia in its April report on human rights around the globe. Security forces in the province of Aceh, where separatists are battling the government, routinely resort to thuggery of this sort. It so happens these techniques bear a certain similarity to those practiced by Saddam Hussein and are so irksome to the American president.
But in July the State Department said not to worry, at least not in Indonesia. It entered a lawsuit brought by supporters of laborers in Aceh who accuse Exxon Mobil Corp. of having knowledge of torture and abuse, because the oil company hired Indonesian government forces to protect its facilities.
The State Department, reversing the government's previous refusal to get involved in similar lawsuits, suggested the judge stop this suit from going forward because it might harm the Indonesian government and interfere with the war on terror. The department also warned the suit might "further discourage foreign investment, particularly in extractive industries." (Translation: the oil industry). In remote and unstable areas, these enterprises "require security protection," the department legal adviser's letter said.
Uzbekistan's president is brutal, and very bad.
The State Department human rights report says the former Soviet republic now "is an authoritarian state with limited civil rights . . . Both police and the National Security Services routinely tortured, beat and otherwise mistreated detainees to obtain confessions . . . Police also used suffocation, electric shock, rape and other sexual abuse. Neither the severity nor frequency of torture appeared to have decreased during the year."
What increased was American aid. It tripled to $160 million, the payoff for allowing U.S. military staging areas for the war in neighboring Afghanistan. President Islam Karimov was welcomed to the White House. In July, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill traveled to Tashkent and praised Karimov's "efficient leadership."
Bush has singled out one despot for removal.
He says he has many reasons for invading Iraq. Without a look at some secret new evidence the administration may or may not have about Saddam Hussein's arsenal, it is not possible to find truth. That is how the White House wants it.
But offering Saddam Hussein's egregious human rights record as reason for war does not convince. To the contrary, it is such flamboyant hypocrisy that it invites contempt.