“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

“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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