Bush Admits to Human Rights Violations

Within a matter of 24 hours, the Pentagon announced a new set of rules for interrogations, and President Bush admitted to the existence of secret CIA prisons and announced the transfer of the remaining prisoners held in them to Guantánamo Bay. In so doing, both the Pentagon and President Bush were admitting that they had committed some of the same human rights violations that our own State Department condemns when they occur in other countries. As part of my research for my book Tyrants: The World's 20 Worst Dictators, I studied the State Department's annual report on human rights around the world and I found that in seven of the eighteen sections and sub-sections covered, the United States itself violates the standards by which it judges others. Here are the seven State Department categories and direct quotations from the 2006 edition of the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

Section 1b--Disappearance
"There were reports of disappearances perpetrated by government forces during the year, some of which may have been politically motivated. In nearly all cases, security forces abducted persons and detained them in undisclosed locations for varying lengths of time ranging from weeks to months."
2006 State Department country report on Ethiopia

Section 1c--Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
"The constitution prohibits torture....Nevertheless, there were numerous credible reports that security forces and prison personnel tortured detainees and prisoners."
2006 State Department country report on Iran

Section 1d--Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

"In practice there is no legal time limit for incommunicado detention nor any judicial means to determine the legality of detention. In the period immediately following detention or arrest, many detainees were held incommunicado and denied access to lawyers and family members. Security forces often did not inform family members of a prisoner's welfare and location. Authorities often denied visits by family members and legal counsel."
2006 State Department country report on Iran

Section 1e--Denial of Fair Public Trial
"The constitution provides for an independent judiciary; the judiciary was under intense pressure to conform to government policies, and the government repeatedly refused to abide by judicial decisions."
2006 State Department country report on Zimbabwe

Section 1f--Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
"Security forces monitored the social activities of citizens, entered homes and offices, monitored telephone conversations, and opened mail without court authorization."
2006 State Department country report on Iran

Section 3--Government Corruption and Transparency
"Top ruling party officials and businessmen supporting the ruling party received priority in distribution of the country's resources..."
2006 State Department country report on Zimbabwe

"In practice the government occasionally denied access to information, citing reasons of confidentiality or national security."
2006 State Department country report on Cambodia

Section 4--Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
"ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] access to prison and other detention facilities was restricted..."
2006 State Department country report on Ethiopia

Sound familiar?

It is not hard to surmise why the Bush administration chose the week before the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to deal with the unpleasant facts of its own human rights abuses. Their hope is that once the anniversary arrives, the American public will be in a mood to excuse torture and secret prisons. It would be a shame if that happened. Earlier I addressed the issue of the Bush administration's violations of the U.S. War Crimes Act. We all want to combat anti-American terrorism, but there is no need to compromise our nation's traditional values to do so.