Bush Tarnishes Medal of Freedom by Bestowing It on Uribe

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The Progressive

Bush Tarnishes Medal of Freedom by Bestowing It on Uribe

Bush keeps outdoing himself on his way out the door.

On Tuesday, he gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Alvaro Uribe, the head of Colombia.

Uribe has had close ties with rightwing paramilitary squads. And his government is a notorious human rights abuser.

"In recent years there has been a substantial rise in the number of extrajudicial killings of civilians attributed to the Colombian Army," says Human Rights Watch.

"Army members apparently take civilians from their homes or workplaces, kill them, and then dress them up to claim they were combatants killed in action."

Colombia also has the dubious distinction of leading the world in the murders of trade unionists. More than 2,600 labor leaders have been slain down there in the last couple of decades, and more than 400 while Uribe has been president, according to Human Rights Watch.

Virtually none of the murderers have been brought to justice.

Bush's support for Colombia is typical of U.S. foreign policy. Bill Clinton before him lavished aid on the Colombian government, despite knowledge of that government's bloody hands.

"The CIA and senior U.S. diplomats were aware as early as 1994 that U.S.-backed Colombian security forces engaged in ‘death squad tactics,' cooperated with drug-running paramilitary groups, and encouraged a ‘body count syndrome,' " said the National Security Archive, which recently posted documents backing up this point.

"Personally, I have a hard time figuring out who is more audacious, President Bush for giving the human rights award, or President Uribe for receiving it," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

This is the same medal that Bill Clinton awarded to Nelson Mandela. (Bush previously gave the medal to former CIA director George Tenet and Paul Bremer, the bungling viceroy of Iraq.)

When he gave Uribe the award, Bush said, "President Uribe has reawakened the hopes of his countrymen and shown a model of leadership to a watching world. . . . The future will always be bright in a country that produces such men as President Alvaro Uribe."

One last Orwellian award, courtesy of our shameless President.

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild is senior editor of The Progressive magazine.

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