Q Thank you, sir. Mr. President, recently, Amnesty International said you have established "a new gulag" of prisons around the world [ed.: that's actually not what Amnesty International said at all], beyond the reach of the law and decency. I'd like your reaction to that, and also your assessment of how it came to this, that that is a view not just held by extremists and anti-Americans, but by groups that have allied themselves with the United States government in the past -- and what the strategic impact is that in many places of the world, the United States these days, under your leadership, is no longer seen as the good guy.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm aware of the Amnesty International report, and it's absurd. It's an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that is -- promotes freedom around the world. When there's accusations made about certain actions by our people, they're fully investigated in a transparent way. It's just an absurd allegation.
In terms of the detainees, we've had thousands of people detained. We've investigated every single complaint against the detainees. It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of -- and the allegations -- by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble -- that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report. It just is. And, you know -- yes, sir.
You know what the best part of that answer is? "It just is." "It was an absurd report. It just is."
The report, which you've probably all seen by now, is 300-plus pages as printed. It contains numerous and copiously documented accounts of abuse. Perhaps they're all true; perhaps some were fabricated by detainees. But they cannot all be, because the stories are too similar; some were related by lawyers of the detainees, and some by the FBI itself. What does President Bush say to Amnesty International's careful, painstaking work?
It was an absurd report. It just is.
If there is a better metaphor for the current political climate I don't know what it is. With no evidence or attempted articulation of anything at all, the President asserts, in the face of a mountain of evidence, that he is right and they are wrong.
Let's be very clear about this. The president didn't criticize Amnesty International's choice of words (the "gulag" thing; and in fact, this was just one person, not the organization), as many of our right-wing friends have done. He didn't say that their comparison was "absurd," that their words were inappropriate or ill thought-out. No, it's the report itself that is absurd.
I feel like I say this a lot; but I think the admin has crossed a line here. Even a cursory glance at the report will reveal to any reasonable, unreasonable, or semi-conscious person that it is not "absurd." Maybe you don't agree with its conclusions. Maybe you think that not every detainee is telling the truth. Maybe you even think that most of it is flawed (though, to think that, you'd have to have really thought about it and carefully weighed all the evidence). But it is not "absurd."
Only a person that is attempting an intentional and malicious deception, a person of deep cynicism about his audience, who is counting on the people who are listening to him to be so brain dead that they can't think beyond a talking point at a press conference, could make such a statement.
For President Bush to deny reports by his own FBI about the human rights abuses engaged in under the banner of his "freedom is on the march" wars is moral cowardice and hypocrisy of the highest (lowest?) order.