Eric Cantor’s Selective Embrace of Human Rights

Eric Cantor loves human rights:

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the minority whip who has put out blistering statements about the White House’s response, spoke loudly and emotionally about “America’s moral responsibility to speak out on the protection of human rights wherever they are violated” — hint, hint. “I urge President Obama to follow the lead of this House,” Cantor said.

Adam Serwer wonders where this commitment was when “Cantor voted against the military appropriations bill that banned cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of terror detainees.”

Specifically, according to the State Department’s official human rights brief on Iran:


Common methods of torture and abuse in prisons included prolonged solitary confinement with sensory deprivation, beatings, long confinement in contorted positions, kicking detainees with military boots, hanging detainees by the arms and legs, threats of execution, burning with cigarettes, sleep deprivation, and severe and repeated beatings with cables or other instruments on the back and on the soles of the feet.

Now to be clear, neither the scale of abuses nor the intent of the abuses is equivalent in the United States and Iran. But when it comes to techniques, it’s hard not to notice the fact that several of the methods condemned here, most notably including sleep deprivation, stress positions (“long confinement in contorted positions”), and shackling (“hanging detainees by the arms and legs”) were specifically authorized by the Bush administration. Many of the others, though not specifically authorized, appear to have become widespread in several detention facilities in part as a result of the administration’s general habit of throwing out the human rights rulebook. These bad actions don’t justify bad actions on the part of the Iranian regime. But whenever you read about these kind of techniques being applied in Iran or North Korea, it’s immediately apparent to everyone that it’s torture, it’s cruel, it’s inhumane, and it’s wrong. It’s also cruel, inhumane, and wrong when authorized by Dick Cheney.