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Rights group: U.S. arguments resemble terrorists'

Human Rights Watch faults Bush administration over terror war

From Brad Wright

Two guards escort an inmate, while other inmates stay in their cells in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Navy Base, Cuba.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Human rights advocates raised a warning flag Tuesday on the Bush administration's approach to the war on terrorism.

Human Rights Watch said the administration is using the same argument as terrorists -- that the ends justify the means -- to achieve its goals, and faulted the United States' treatment of combat prisoners and its handling of criminal suspects. The group also pointed to civilian deaths in U.S. combat operations overseas.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, explained the comparison.

"If the people running the war on terrorism try to argue that their ends justify their means, that's going to be buying into the same warped logic used" by the terrorists on September 11, 2001, he said. "That would seal the doom of the war on terror."

The State Department disagreed with the organization's accusations.

Roth also said President Bush's support of Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, provides backing for Musharraf's human-rights abuses

"Not surprisingly," Roth said, "anti-American political parties were the big winners in Pakistan's recent parliamentary elections."

Roth also said the Bush administration has:

• Wrongfully refused to apply the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War to Afghanistan detainees

• Misused the legal concept of enemy combatants to detain criminal suspects in the United States

• Used "stress and duress" interrogation techniques on prisoners overseas

• Misused immigration laws to deny rights to criminal suspects in the United States

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said "the United States made very clear that we will treat detainees ... in a manner that's consistent with the Geneva Convention, even though we don't necessarily agree with all these groups or precisely how they're covered.

"So we have pledged that, and we have committed to that, and we will ensure that we do that -- that we do treat detainees [in a manner] consistent with the Geneva Convention."

Cluster bombs criticized

Human Rights Watch also questioned the Pentagon's use of cluster bombs to attack enemy troops.

Used extensively from the Vietnam War onward, cluster bombs are dropped from high altitude and, before reaching the ground, open to release up to 150 smaller bombs, known as "bomblets."

Roth said bomblets fail to explode relatively often and remain on the ground where unsuspecting civilians might set them off.

Roth said he believes cluster bombs are being used less often near populated areas of Afghanistan than in previous conflicts, such as NATO's air campaign against Serbia.

"We hope that the Bush administration will make it clear to the world that cluster bombs will not be used at all near populated areas, and that they won't be used anyplace until the initial failure rate can be resolved," he said.

Roth said accidents involving unexploded cluster bombs caused about one-fourth of civilian deaths in the NATO-led Balkans campaign.

A spokesman for U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida, said targets are evaluated carefully before cluster bombs are used.

Cluster bombs are painted bright yellow in the hope that people on the ground can see unexploded ordnance and avoid it, the spokesman said.

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