Tonight, Vice President Cheney will appear on CNN’s Larry King Live and reportedly condemn a recent Amnesty International report that faults the U.S. for its treatment of detainees in the war on terror. Cheney has said:
For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don’t take them seriously.
Other Administration officials have similarly been quick to lash out against the Amnesty report. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said the allegations were “ridiculous and unsupported by the facts.” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Richard Myers called the Amnesty International report “absolutely irresponsible.”
But in the past, when it was convenient to the Administration, they did not hesitate to cite Amnesty to make its case. And nowhere did the Administration need more help than in selling the Iraq war. Secretary Rumsfeld repeatedly turned to Amnesty to highlight the repressive nature of Saddam’s regime. On March 27, 2003, Rumsfeld said:
We know that it’s a repressive regime…Anyone who has read Amnesty International or any of the human rights organizations about how the regime of Saddam Hussein treats his people…
The next day, Rumsfeld even cited his “careful reading” of Amnesty:
…[I]t seems to me a careful reading of Amnesty International or the record of Saddam Hussein, having used chemical weapons on his own people as well as his neighbors, and the viciousness of that regime, which is well known and documented by human rights organizations, ought not to be surprised.
And on April 1, 2003, Rumsfeld said once again:
[I]f you read the various human rights groups and Amnesty International’s description of what they know has gone on, it’s not a happy picture.
So the rule here appears to be: Amnesty is a legitimate source for human rights violations of other countries, but is an unreliable and irresponsible source for reporting on the U.S.