Sunday, June 05, 2005

Amnesty International and Darfur

The rather over-the-top suggestion in the forward to the Amnesty International report that Guantanimo Bay was the "gulag of our time" did succeed in at least one case: It got me to move the report to the top of my reading list.

I suppose it's worth noting that Bush's claim that the Amnesty International report is "absurd" is more than over the top. He's characterizing the entire report as absurd based on a single sentence. And even that one sentence is not exactly absurd. A letter to the Washington Post [registration required] sumarizes it well:

The May 26 editorial chastised Amnesty International for drawing parallels between the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and the Soviet gulags. It noted that the size and scale of the facilities do not compare, nor does the frequency of human rights abuse. Points taken. But as a former Foreign Service officer who monitored Soviet prison abuse from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and Vietnamese abuse of prisoners in its "gulag" from the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, I note that abuses that I reported on in those inhumane systems parallel abuses reported in Guantanamo, at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan and at the Abu Ghraib prison: prisoners suspended from the ceiling and beaten to death; widespread "waterboarding"; prisoners "disappeared" to preclude monitoring by the International Committee of the Red Cross -- and all with almost no senior-level accountability.

I am dismayed to find any such similarities with previous gulags.


News reports might give you the impression that the United States was the primary topic of the report, but the forward starts out talking about crisis in Darfur. In today's New York Times, Kristof talks about the systematic rape of women in Darfur.

Doctors Without Borders issued an excellent report in March noting that it alone treated almost 500 rapes in a four-and-a-half-month period. Sudan finally reacted to the report a few days ago - by arresting an Englishman and a Dutchman working for Doctors Without Borders.
Kristof ends his column as follows:
I'm still chilled by the matter-of-fact explanation I received as to why it is women who collect firewood, even though they're the ones who are raped. The reason is an indication of how utterly we are failing the people of Darfur, two years into the first genocide of the 21st century.

"It's simple," one woman here explained. "When the men go out, they're killed. The women are only raped."

Under Clinton, the Democrats came around to the proposition that genocide had to be stopped. If one wants to read a partisan political message into the Amnesty International report, as conservatives seem determined to do, it should be this: The biggest losers in the 2000 presidential election weren't the Democrats. The biggest losers were the people now being raped and murdered in Darfur.


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