If you want to see exhibit A in how the administration and their conservative henchmen manage to spin the press, check out the imbroglio over Amnesty International’s 2005 Report, which accuses the US of "atrocious human rights violations" and says in it’s forward,"When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a license to others to commit abuse with impunity and audacity."
A Secretary General Irene Khan, in releasing the report, referred to Guantanamo Bay as "the gulag of our times..."
Now, accusations such as these, delivered by a respected and venerable organization such as Amnesty International are serious business.
So how did the administration and the conservative spin machine respond? Call for immediate impartial investigations? Reaffirm the US commitment to the Rule of Law? Denounce practices which violate human rights?
Of course not.
As Matthew Rothschild points out, they chose to shoot the messenger and change the subject. Just as they did with Paul O’Neill, Richard Clarke, General Shinseki, General Zinni, Hans Blix, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, Newsweek, and anyone else that questions their misguided war of error.
Atcheson then reviews the administration's attack on Newsweek over its report about Koran desecration at Guantanamo Bay and then continues his discussion on Amnesty.
Enter the Amnesty International Report highlighting this administration’s egregious human rights violations. Within hours, conservatives worked themselves up into a patriotic lather and quickly turned the discussion into a debate about neutrality, impartiality, and a semantic argument over the use of the word "gulag."
As usual, the mainstream press took the hook and ignored the real story: the tragic metamorphosis of the US from a "shining city on a hill" – a beacon from which the light of liberty, justice, and freedom blazed out upon the world – to a country whose recent behavior places it among the world’s international thugs.
And so now, the press coverage focuses on the "gulag" statement, and not on the immoral and illegal actions of the US. It focuses on whether Amnesty International has lost it’s "neutrality," or, even more absurdly, on whether Gitmo, Bagram Air Base, and our various rendition partners actually constitute a gulag comparable to the Soviet Union’s.
Why does this keep happening with our press? The real story being lost? Once more, it's the same thing that happened with the Dan Rather report on Bush going AWOL from the National Guard. The problem with that story was not its accuracy but its sourcing. And yet the mainstream press completely ignored the content and gave Bush a pass on having simply not shown up for duty. How that could have happened continues to boggle my mind.
Which issue is more important – whether America’s human rights record has indeed become atrocious, or whether Amnesty International is guilty of hyperbole? If the mainstream media is any guide, Amnesty’s inapt metaphor wins hands down.
But Mr. Bush's illegal activities have resulted in an exponential increase in the number of Muslims who hate America, loss of our credibility and prestige abroad, loss of potential allies in the real war on terror -- and ultimately loss of the most powerful tactic we have in that war, winning the battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims.
Meanwhile, Ms. Khan's overstatement has resulted in ... what? World-wide attention to the full scale erosion of the rule of law under the Bush administration.
The bottom line? Under Mr. Bush, the US has joined the bad guys; we've crossed a line and we are behaving like international thugs. Under Mr. Bush our shining beacon is turning into cheap and tawdry neon sign proclaiming, "We’re not the worst."
It’s all part of a continuing trend with this administration. Aside from condoning torture and committing war crimes, the President and his administration rejected the international court and the land mine treaty, dropped out of Kyoto, scuttled the ABM treaty, undermined the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, eviscerated the treaties banning biological and chemical weapons, and militarized space.
Sure, "gulag" is a loaded term, and Stalin’s crimes were far worse than ours, but why is that the story?
Rather than debating – if not celebrating – the fact that we're not the worst international thugs ever to walk the planet, while calling Ms. Khan to task over semantics, why isn’t the press drawing needed attention to the fact that we've crossed that line, extinguished our beacon and joined the dark side?
When is our press going to grow some spine and start reporting the real story? I'm sorry to say that I'm not optimistic. Fortunately there's the internet. I will continue to get my news from international sources because I simply can't trust the propaganda machine that passes for the news media in this country.