Put Out An APB For George W. Bush, He's a Wanted Man

Last week, Amnesty International released a press statement urging the governments of Zambia, Tanzania, and Ethiopia to arrest former President George W. Bush during his visit to Africa. Bush was overseas to raise awareness of cervical and breast cancer. The press release states, “Amnesty International considers that there is enough evidence...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.”

Amnesty International has long been a critic of the Bush administration’s torture policies and prisoner detention at Guantanamo Bay, and Amnesty’s call for arrest is not new; it sent out a similar request to the Canadian government when Bush traveled to that country in October 2011. But the new public affairs strategy of calling out nations to arrest Bush is not only unrealistic — none of these countries would ever seriously consider this option — but also unnecessary. Amnesty would be better served by pursuing legal options in the United States.  

To Amnesty’s credit, the organization has a commendable record of standing firm on human rights issues regardless of politics. Amnesty believes that the U.S. government has repeatedly violated laws banning torture, and that “Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment must stop, and those responsible for authorizing and implementing it must be held accountable.” Even a former president of the U.S. is not immune to the law.

Amnesty called for Bush’s arrest overseas because the former president violated international laws that ban torture under the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture. But Amnesty also claims that Bush violated U.S. law as well. Therefore there is no need to make bizarre press statements requesting that foreign governments with minimal resources arrest a former U.S. president who is traveling overseas on a humanitarian mission. Amnesty International can make a perfectly legitimate case against the Bush administration’s torture policies by pursuing legal penalties right here at home (granted that this is by no means a black and white case as Amnesty claims). Bush doesn’t need to travel overseas to be held accountable for his decision making.

Amnesty International does great work as an advocate of human rights around the world. But the recent press release has done the organization harm by creating a sensationalist press story that has drawn criticism and negative attention from many sectors of the media. Even people like me who agree with Amnesty’s criticism of Bush’s torture policies arrest see the press release as an unnecessary distraction.

The negative press does more harm than good. This case is just another example of good intentions gone bad. Yes, Amnesty has a point. But the problem is the method. Amnesty International stumbled on this one.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Paul Oliver

Paul lives and works in the nation's capital where he enjoys an up-close view of politics. He writes most weeks in the World section.

MORE FROM

Amid new revelations, here’s what we’ve learned about the Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr.

The picture of Natalia Veselnitskaya is coming into clearer focus.

Republican Senator urges whoever leaked Russia/Sessions phone calls to release whole conversation

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants the person who leaked intelligence about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to come forward with more information.

Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort now to testify before Senate committee behind closed doors

Trump Jr. and Manafort have avoided a subpoena and will testify behind closed doors — for now.

Hope Hicks reportedly tried to rein Trump in during explosive ‘Times’ interview. It didn’t work.

The low-profile Trump Whisperer is one of the few in the president's orbit to enjoy job security.

Scaramucci once asked Obama if he’d be softer on Wall Street. It didn’t end well.

The exchange came during a CNBC town hall on the financial crisis, two years into Obama’s presidency.

Trump blasts Hilary Clinton, Comey and ‘Amazon Washington Post’ in tweet storm

He also defended Don Jr. and called Democrats "obstructionists" with "no ideas."

Amid new revelations, here’s what we’ve learned about the Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr.

The picture of Natalia Veselnitskaya is coming into clearer focus.

Republican Senator urges whoever leaked Russia/Sessions phone calls to release whole conversation

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants the person who leaked intelligence about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to come forward with more information.

Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort now to testify before Senate committee behind closed doors

Trump Jr. and Manafort have avoided a subpoena and will testify behind closed doors — for now.

Hope Hicks reportedly tried to rein Trump in during explosive ‘Times’ interview. It didn’t work.

The low-profile Trump Whisperer is one of the few in the president's orbit to enjoy job security.

Scaramucci once asked Obama if he’d be softer on Wall Street. It didn’t end well.

The exchange came during a CNBC town hall on the financial crisis, two years into Obama’s presidency.

Trump blasts Hilary Clinton, Comey and ‘Amazon Washington Post’ in tweet storm

He also defended Don Jr. and called Democrats "obstructionists" with "no ideas."