Amnesty International's latest report didn't denounce conditions for U.S. troops captured and held in detention facilities in Iraq. That's because, as far as anyone knows, there are no camps for American prisoners of war in Iraq.
According to Pentagon sources, there is only one U.S. soldier listed as missing-captured in Iraq. Sgt. Keith Maupin, 21, has been missing since April 2004.
Terrorists in Iraq don't take prisoners. They fight to kill. Larry Greer, spokesman for the Pentagon's POW/MIA office, noted that while there is no way of knowing how the terrorists would treat U.S. detainees, it is clear how they treat hostages: "Their treatment appears to be torture followed by execution."
So Amnesty International cannot refer to a POW camp run by Iraqi and foreign insurgents fighting the U.S.-led coalition as it does to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay -- as a "gulag of our times, entrenching the notion that people can be detained without any recourse to the law." The dead don't talk.
I do not believe that Amnesty International is indifferent to the carnage committed by what it calls "armed groups opposed to the presence of U.S.-led forces in Iraq." The group's 2005 report does cite "gross human-rights abuses which caused thousands of civilian casualties." It also reports that insurgents have engaged in kidnapping for ransom and, "Some kidnap victims, including children, were killed."
I do believe, however, that Amnesty is too easy on terrorists in Iraq, and too hard on the U.S. effort.
Note how Amnesty's language -- "armed groups opposed to the presence of U.S.-led forces in Iraq" -- cleanses the aim of the terrorists. Men who blow up mosques, kill children and butcher Iraqi police and military trainees are fighting more than coalition troops. They are fighting to keep Iraq from being free.
The Washington Post editorial page, among others, scolded Amnesty for comparing Guantanamo Bay to the Soviet "gulag." There is, after all, a big difference between thousands of concentration camps housing more than 20 million people over decades and a detention camp that houses some 500 captured enemy combatants. A more apt comparison would be Stalin's gulag to the prisons of Saddam Hussein.
I don't like bashing Amnesty International, which for years has done important work that shined the light on ruthless, bloody tyrants. But the group's leaders have wandered off the path if they think that President Bush is the planet's big bad guy. This is a man who has sent troops to risk their lives protecting U.S. interests, but also to free Afghans and Iraqis from tyrants. And Amnesty doesn't care.
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