Pardon U.S.

“The gulag of our times” — that’s how last week’s Amnesty International report characterized the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay. In light of the five known incidents of Koran abuse — none of them, apparently, toilet-related — and myriad other reports of torture and abuse at detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 308-page annual “State of the World’s Human Rights” report called for Gitmo’s immediate closure and accused the U.S. of “thumbing its nose at the rule of law.” Here’s what some of the administration’s higher-ups had to say for themselves about fraying the edges of the Constitution: “It seemed like to me [that Amnesty International] based some of their decisions on the word of — and the allegations — by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble — that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report.”

—President Bush, White House press conference, May 31

“I think it’s absolutely irresponsible. If you look back at the policy of this government . . . we treat people . . . humanely and where military necessity permits, in accordance with the Geneva Convention . . . And I just outlined a number of incidents. And it’s very small compared to the population of detainees we’ve handled.”

—Gen. Richard Myers, Fox News Sunday, May 29

“I — frankly, I was offended by it. 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. For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don’t take them seriously.”

—Vice President Dick Cheney, Larry King Live, May 30

“The United States is leading the way when it comes to protecting human rights and promoting human dignity. We have liberated 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have worked to advance freedom and democracy in the world so that people are governed under a rule of law, that there are protections in place for minority rights, that women’s rights are advanced so that women can fully participate in societies where now they cannot.”

—Scott McClellan, White House press briefing, May 25

And yet, here’s Erik Saar, an enthusiastic supporter of George Bush in 2000 who was eager to use his language skills in the service of his country as a translator at Guantánamo Bay but became disillusioned once he saw what went on there: “To be honest with you, I had no reservations whatsoever about any techniques we were going to use and about the lack of a system of justice for the detainees . . . I came to the conclusion by the time I left Guantánamo that we’re making a drastic mistake here, and what I saw as a whole was inconsistent with who we are and the values we represent as a nation.”

—Erik Saar, Democracy Now, May 4

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