The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Amnesty International used to be a human rights organization. They protested torture and murder by governments. My impression of their activities in the 80s and 90s is that AI would hold the West to higher standards, and did not consider extenuating circumstances (i.e., El Salvador and Guatemala were reacting to Soviet-backed insurgencies -- no one ever raised a hue and cry about Yugoslav anti-Nazi atrocities). But such considerations aside, Amnesty was even-handed in that it would complain of abuse by anyone, Western, Communist, or Third World.

That was then, and this is now. Amnesty has sold its soul to the blame-America-first crowd. Here's Winds of Change on the subject:

The strongest case against Amnesty International, however, would have to include this - Amnesty openly admitting the complete abdication of its principles to the public. This report comes from the left-wing Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:

"Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch criticized the British government for a report on Saddam’s use of torture and summary executions. The two groups usually welcome such documentation of human rights violations, but they criticized the British government for using the report as propaganda to justify an attack on Iraq."In other words, if attention is drawn to human rights in political contexts we don't like, we condemn the raising of human rights issues.

I'm no longer a member of Amnesty... I was, but quit a couple of years ago despite my ongoing support for their mission. If you're a member, I'd encourage you to follow suit. A "human rights" organization that condemns the raising of human rights issues, for any reason, has lost all claim to legitimacy. It is, in fact, a political fraud.

Christopher Archangelli reviewed Amnesty's 2002 global report for Front Page Magazine:

Upon more careful scrutiny it is obvious Amnesty’s report is nothing but a lengthy attack on the United States and the Administration’s war on terror. While countries such as Cuba and Libya are mentioned only in the context of their respective reports on human rights abuses, the United States is mentioned countless times across the entire report for alleged complicity in many abuses across the globe. The U.S. is soundly criticized in numerous reports for its stance on the death penalty (part of the “axis of executioners,” with China and Iran), for its supposedly ill treatment of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and its opposition to the International Criminal Court. And each time Amnesty mentions one of the above points they also quickly conclude that the behavior of the United States actually caused the rest of the world to behave abusively. Other countries it seemed, according to William Schulz, were wont to “use the excuse (that) the United States itself does not respect international law." And Irene Khan had something to say about the leadership of the U.S. as it supposedly “undermined its own moral authority to speak out against human rights violations in other parts of the world” because “while claiming to bring justice to victims in Iraq, the United States has actively sought to undermine the International Criminal Court, the mechanism for universal justice.” To the politically motivated leaders of Amnesty International, current U.S. policy can have no justification and in fact will only lead the rest of the world to gross misbehavior.

One can’t but help wonder if all of this vitriol aimed at the United States doesn’t have something to do with a profound sense of failure on the part of Amnesty International. After all, for years Amnesty International attempted with words, reports, monitors, and “official state visits” to end suffering in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, but they were completely ineffectual. Indeed, the situation deteriorated year after year. Then the U.S. and its “cowboy” president come along and ended the torture, rape, and mass executions in a matter of months. Along the way the U.S. even made the world more secure from future terrorism. According to the State Department incidents of terror decreased from 355 in 2001 to 199 in 2002. Again, Amnesty had nothing to do with it. All they could claim was that “security” was now the cause of more suffering. Or as the sage Irene Khan reminded us, “It is vital that we resist the manipulation of fear and challenge the narrow focus of the security agenda.”

Here's the latest evidence of Amnesty's declining interest in actual human rights:

Amnesty International, the human rights organization best known for its campaigns against torture and the death penalty, on Tuesday launched a new campaign against racial profiling.

How nice to hear that there are no more dissidents being beaten to death in Iran, or driven off their land in Zimbabwe, or under house arrest in Burma.


Susie McAllister testified that in January, 2002, she witnessed SFPD officers throw her 13-year-old daughter to the ground, handcuff her, and hold a gun to her head.

``I screamed to the officer and asked why my daughter was being held. One officer told me that if I moved, they would shoot me,'' said McAllister, who was so outraged she formed a neighborhood group called `Parents Fighting for Justice.' ``Our lives have been ruined, and these officers still patrol our streets.''

Remember when Amnesty was concerned with people who actually did have their lives ruined? Say, a person who spent 20 years in jail in Cuba? Free clue: If a person is free to organize a group with a concerned name, that person is probably not in the the top quintile of the world's oppressed.

Racial profiling of African Americans and Latinos has been so widely discussed and the term ``Driving while black'' refers to police indiscriminately stopping black drivers. But since Sept. 11, many critics say the practice has expanded to include anyone who is Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent, and the term ``studying while Middle Eastern'' or ``flying while South Asian,'' have popped up in the vernacular as well.

This is really offensive. While police harassment is nothing compared to what millions of people have suffered from oppressive governments, it is a violation of civil rights. But what is this "flying while South Asian" bullshit? Amnesty is simply pandering to its donor base.

Amnesty's decline was sad, but probably inevitable. Amnesty's product was an aura of nobility conferred upon its supporters. Whenever I heard someone mention that they donated to Amnesty International or participated in one of its campaigns, it was always with an air of self-congratulation. Now it's time for Amnesty to cash in on this goodwill.



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