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Old March 1st 05, 06:58 PM
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Default The Two-Faced White House

The State Department released its annual report
( documenting human rights
abuses in countries around the globe. A total of 196 different countries
were cited in this year's report; over 70 countries had human rights
records described as "poor." (An examination of tactics used by the
United States is not included in the annual report.) Some were countries
with chronic abuse records, such as North Korea, Syrian and Iran.
Others, like Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, are currently
among the White House's key allies. Sadly, this year's report won't
carry as much sting or influence as in years past. Many of the tactics
countries are being censured for are in use by the Bush White House.
That, unfortunately, has drastically undercut the moral authority of the
United States to compel autocratic nations to comply with human rights
standards. Here's a further look at the findings of the report:

THROWING STONES FROM A GLASS HOUSE: The State Department criticized
countries for what it called "torture,"
including "sleep deprivation for detainees, confining prisoners in
contorted positions, stripping and blindfolding them and threatening
them with dogs." These are all methods, however, which have been
approved "by the Bush administration for use on detainees in U.S.
custody." For example, in 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
signed off on stripping detainees at Guantanamo Bay and using dogs to
terrorize them. Much of the legal framework for torture was set up in a
series of memos approved by former White House counsel -- and current
Attorney General -- Alberto Gonzales. (For a walk through of the memos
behind the policies, read this guide
( .)

THE DIRTY SECRET OF RENDITION: The State Department also harshly
criticized Syria and Egypt for their treatment of prisoners. The report
failed to address the fact that, to circumvent torture rules, the White
House has quietly been shipping suspects
off to these countries known for torture. The practice, known as
"extraordinary rendition," has become a "principle weapon in the CIA's
arsenal" against prisoners. In one highly publicized example, the
administration, lacking enough evidence to detain Canadian citizen
Maher Arar
, shipped him off to Syria. There, he claims he suffered 10 months of
prolonged torture. In another case, the U.S. shipped Australian citizen
Mamdouh Habib off to Egypt for "questioning." There he claims to have
undergone six months of torture. When he finally arrived at Guantanamo
Bay, he was missing most of his fingernails
( .
Both men were eventually found to have no connection to terrorists and
were released.

IRAQ HAS A LOT TO LEARN: The report cites serious abuses in the
U.S.-supported, brand-new government in Iraq
.. According to the State Department, last year Iraqi police officers and
government officials committed serious human rights violations,
including rape, murder, extortion, torture and illegal detentions. (Iraq
is also currently having problems with freedom of the press: today's
Washington Post reports that after a devastating suicide bomb killed
hundreds in Iraq yesterday, Iraqi police prohibited journalists from
talking to any of the wounded at the hospital and " beat several
( "
who tried to enter.

RUSSIA'S RECORD ON RIGHTS: Russia under President Vladimir Putin has
been sliding closer and closer to a totalitarian state. President Bush
had a key opportunity in his meeting with the Russian president last
week to hold Putin accountable for his attacks on democracy. He blew it.
Putin remained silent on his transgressions, and instead of pushing him
to recommit to democratic principles in Russia, Bush merely said the
world should trust the Russian leader
( .
The new State Department report shows what happens when you just trust
Putin to do the right thing. Specifically, it criticized Putin's
, saying "government pressure continued to weaken freedom of expression
in the media, that the killing of civilians in Chechnya continued
unabated, and that there are credible reports that law enforcement
personnel engaged in torture, violence, and other brutal or humiliating
treatment, often with impunity." It also faulted Russia for " its
restriction of news media
, and its allowing of political pressure to taint the judiciary."

KEY ALLIES AT FAULT: Many other countries the U.S. counts among its
friends were guilty of crimes against human rights, according to the
State Department's report. The White House has long turned a blind eye
to abuses in Saudi Arabia
; the report charges abuses in the country today "far exceed the
advances." Saudi Arabia is charged with "a lack of legal rights,
violence against women and children and discrimination against religious
minorities" as well as "torture," including sleep deprivation and
whippings. Libya
( ,
which recently enjoyed resumed diplomatic contact with the U.S., is
charged with chaining prisoners to walls while threatening to attack
them with dogs. (According to the Washington Post, the Libyan " menu of
( "
also included electric shock and finger-breaking.)

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