Last week, as George W. Bush began a tour of Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Zambia to raise awareness about cervical and breast cancer in Africa, Amnesty International chose the moment to demand those countries arrest Bush “for crimes under international law.” Yes, that’s right. Amnesty wants the former U.S. president arrested. The group issued a statement declaring:
Amnesty International considers that there is enough evidence in the public domain, from U.S. authorities and from George W. Bush himself, to trigger requirements for Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Zambia to investigate his alleged involvement in and responsibility for torture, and to secure his presence during the investigation.
“All countries to which George W. Bush travels have an obligation to bring him to justice for his role in torture,” said Matt Pollard, senior legal adviser…
Amnesty International has written to the Ministers of Justice in each of the respective countries to remind them about their obligations under international law and providing them with the supporting documentation making the case for the investigation of George W. Bush.
This is, quite simply, outrageous. And it is not the first time Amnesty has made such a call. Last October, when Bush traveled to British Columbia, the group demanded that Canada arrest him as well. At the time, Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney blasted Amnesty, declaring, “This kind of stunt helps explain why so many respected human rights advocates have abandoned Amnesty International.”
He is right. It is one thing for a fringe group like the Center for Constitutional Rights, or a rogue Spanish judge like Balthazar Garzon, to call for the arrest of a former American president. But Amnesty International seeks to be part of the fabric of decision-making in Washington—testifying in Congress, meeting with U.S. government officials, participating in policy discussions and debates. Demanding the arrest of a former American president takes them out of the political mainstream and places them in the fever swamps—and that should have consequences.
Representative Peter King (R-New York), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, declared in a statement that “If Amnesty International had any intellectual honesty, it would give President Bush a medal to honor him for liberating so many oppressed Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan and for assisting millions of AIDS victims in Africa.”
King should not hold his breath for Amnesty to do so. But he and other members of Congress should make clear that, because of its actions, Amnesty will henceforth be shunned by official Washington—no longer be invited to testify before congressional committees or participate in decision-making on Capitol Hill. Conservative groups concerned with freedom, democracy, and human rights should similarly refuse to work with Amnesty. The group should pay a steep reputational price for stupidity such as this. If Amnesty wants to behave like a left-wing fringe group, it should be treated as such.