IN OTHER WORDS: Stonewalling

In the effort to combat terrorism while holding onto the world’s good will, especially among Muslims, it was a grave mistake for the Bush administration to deny Geneva Convention rights to detainees at Guantanamo and other prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. That decision four years ago laid the groundwork for all the abuse of detainees, including the 31 deaths that the military has found were confirmed or suspected homicides. Now the administration has compounded the shame by denying access to prisoners by investigators from the UN Human Rights Commission. The decision will only strengthen the view of US critics that this country has placed itself above international law.

More than 500 detainees are still being held at Guantanamo. Just nine have been charged with any crimes. The Pentagon’s stone-walling will also weaken US ability in the future to enlist the commission in reporting on other nations’ human rights abuses. It said: “It is particularly disappointing that the US, which has consistently declared its commitment to the principles of independence and objectivity of the fact-finding mechanisms, was not in a position to accept these terms.” Reaffirming those principles by giving the investigators full access would allow the US to move back toward the moral high ground it has so senselessly abandoned.