An article by W. Arpad Tota, in the Hungarian daily, Index, (translated from Hungarian) via Watching America is a demonstration of the outrage felt by many countries who have to live with the United States issuing report cards on the competency of their government, the durability of their democracy and above all, their practice of human rights. Issued by the US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, the "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" is a semi-factual document with an analysis of every country on earth - with the exception of the United States of America. While Tota's outrage at the contents is understandable, it should be pointed out that Hungary fared no worse from the report than did many other countries.
But Tota asks a very relevant question: By what standard does the US judge other countries?
For weeks I've been wondering what the difference is between a Soviet and American gulag.
Indeed. What, Mr. Bush, is the difference?
Placing concentration camps in Europe is a level of brashness that not even the Soviet Union achieved.
Not to mention an act which would have started a war in Europe. So, Ms. Rice (so-called Soviet expert that you are), explain how it is that the United States of America has just managed to out-evil the old "Evil Empire"?
The US, in providing criticism of the internal behaviour of other countries has become the worst kind of international hypocrite. A report from a source which, in the recent past, may have spoken with some authority, now stands to represent the phrase, "Do as I say; not as I do." The US has spiraled into the filth.
The Bush administration has been a litany of lies since September 11, 2001. From claiming an intelligence failure over 9/11 to denying the torture of prisoners of war, the administration has simply and intentionally withheld the truth, manufactured evidence and obstructed inquiry. It has engaged in "questionable" election practices which, if the Dept. of State were reporting on any other country, would be labeled "fraud".
The Bush administration has passed laws which seriously limit freedoms in complete contravention of the US Constitution. While they claim it was a temporary measure, Bush and his handlers are demanding that it be made permanent.
Habeus Corpus, that tenet of law which safeguards individual freedoms against arbitrary and lawless state actions, has been suspended, supposedly for specific activities, but the Dept. of State, in reporting on any other country, would identify that as an abominable abuse of power leading to a police state.
The Bush administration has engaged in what it calls "extraordinary rendition". Twisted vocabulary does not hide the fact that rendition without a request for extradition is illegal under international law. In that the Bush administration rarely adheres to international law where it is not convenient to them, they are fully aware that the rendition described by Rice is also a violation of US law - even with the Patriot Act in place. In 1998, Congress passed legislation that it is:
the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture, regardless of whether the person is physically present in the United States.
If the Dept. of State were assessing the rendition activities of the current administration as that of another country they would place it under the heading of Disappearances. In the view of State, it is indicative of a totalitarian, repressive and lawless regime.
The Bush administration has gutted the Voters' Rights Bill, an act which, if the Dept. of State was permitted to view from the exterior, it would describe as a deliberate move to remove a basic democratic right. This, in a country which describes itself as the greatest democracy in the world.
The Bush administration, when faced with a natural catastrophe in New Orleans, failed to respond with appropriate speed and resources to mitigate the after effects of disaster. Instead of exercising firm leadership and control, the federal government vacillated and turned down offers of assistance from foreign countries. Resultant actions which isolated huge segments of New Orleans' population would have been assessed by the Dept. of State as "Intentional neglect by the state" of a distinct ethnic grouping if it had been reporting on any other country.
When provided with the opportunity to engage the international community in meaningful dialogue, Bush sent a rabid dog, in the form of John Bolton, to represent the US to the United Nations. The Dept. of State would view such an appointment by a regional power as "dangerous".
China has rejected all criticism by the US of her human rights standard as a hypocritical double standard. Four years ago, China would have had to face the condemnation of the world. Now, China simply points at the behaviour of the US and ignores comment. The world says nothing, because China is absolutely correct.
December 10th was International Human Rights Day. The US Department of State had a great deal to say about human rights abuses in countries around the world. Amnesty International had more to say about human rights abuses in the USA. The world paid no attention to the US statement, but they were listening to Amnesty International.
So, Mr. Bush, what is the difference between a Soviet gulag and an American gulag, since both are now fact?
Update: Today, the Bush administration denied the existence of American gulags. The American foreign policy department of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies isn't so sure.