This will be my last word on Amnesty International, unless the leaders of this organizational throw out another rhetorical Molotov cocktail like that "gulag of our times" nonsense. I'll be touching on several issues that struck chords, and I believe it's worthwhile to finish off with an appeal to conservatives to change this organization from within.
In Tokyo last week, Irene Khan, the head of Amnesty International, defended her use of the word "gulag":
"We wanted to send a strong message that ... (the detention centers) are actually undermining human rights in a very dramatic way."
Not only did she fully stand by her statements, she went further:
"Our answer is very simple ... open up the detention centers, allow us and others to visit them," she told reporters. "Transparency is the best antidote to misinformation or incorrect facts."
On this I half agree. First, the International Committee of the Red Cross already has access to detainees (or at least the non-ghost kind). If there are other independent and impartial human rights groups out there who seek access, then let them in. Sadly, Amnesty International has lost its claim to impartiality because of the hostile statements made by its leaders. As for transparency, I fully agree with Ms. Khan. There should be as much transparency as possible, but not just with the United States. The other nations of the world should be just as transparent. Not only that, Amnesty International could use a lot more transparency. Sadly, too many of their disclosures are well short of the openness preached by the secretary general.
AI provides no information on who its major contributors are, therefore we don't know which people are the most influential and how those contributions affect priorities. Guidestar recently moved most of its data behind a paid-subscriber firewall, but when I looked a few weeks ago at the IRS Form 990s for 2002 and 2003, there was no information on individual donors (the organization is London-based, and I don't know if their financial disclosures are any better on the other side of the pond). We also don't how much of the donations are earmarked for certain countries or projects. Where is the transparency that Ms. Khan finds so important? Certainly not with her organization. This is just about all AI has to say about its financing:
Amnesty International is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion. It does not support or oppose any government or political system, nor does it necessarily support the views of the victims whose rights it seeks to protect. To ensure its independence, it does not seek or accept money from governments or political parties for its work in documenting and campaigning against human rights abuses. Its funding depends on the contributions of its worldwide membership and fundraising activities.
Transparency is also lacking in its gathering and reporting. A former chair of the Israeli section of Amnesty International wrote this:
An outsider who reads it would certainly presume that it reflects the research that the organization carried out throughout the precedent year. This assumption is inaccurate.
AI lacks staff and financial resources to research 149 countries on the same level. Therefore, AI employs a hierarchy according to which it allocates its resources. Thus, the report includes entries on countries which were intensively researched and visited by AI's staff, alongside states that were not. The second category contains two types of states: (1) those where human rights violations are grave, routine, and which usually deny access to researchers; and (2) countries in which human rights violations are rare and are properly addressed by local nongovernmental organizations and governmental agencies. However, AI does not make this distinction or share its research methodology with the public. Transparency, which AI rightfully demands from governments, is not employed in its own publications. Thus, the considerations that led AI to research one country intensively, and other superficially, are vague and open to interpretation.
This is a group in dire need of some perspective, and the first thing they should do is institute a rating system for each of the 149 countries it covers, with significant ratings downgrades when denied access. If they're unable to quantify (using reasonably objective measures) which countries are the biggest to smallest human rights violators, by what basis do they allocate their resources? How can they uphold their vision of a "world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards", when they do not have objective bases to judge in the first place?
Does Amnesty International report on how much money they spend on each of the 149 countries they cover? No. Again, where is the transparency that Ms. Khan so dearly covets from others? All we really have are the words in her foreward and the organization's output. Judging by the 2005 news releases, Amnesty International spends much more effort on the United States than Cuba, by a factor of 15 (75 articles on the USA, 5 on Cuba). Is the United States really a fifteen-times-worse human rights violator than Cuba? Apparently yes in Amnesty International's cocooned world, betraying a view that is plainly whacked. Anne Applebaum finishes her latest piece with this:
Amnesty, by misusing language, by discarding its former neutrality, and by handing the administration an easy way to brush off "ridiculous" accusations, also deprives itself of what should be its best ally. The United States, as the world's largest and most powerful democracy, remains, for all its flaws, the world's best hope for the promotion of human rights. If Amnesty still believes in its stated mission, its leaders should push American democratic institutions to influence U.S. policy for the good of the world, and not attack the American government for the satisfaction of their own political faction.
Instead of anti-Americanism, they should be allies with us. Instead of antagonism, AI should be working with us on that Bushian vision thing for worldwide freedom and democracy. But instead of comity, we get emnity. Using the Freedom House list as a basis, how does Amnesty International report on the eight most oppressive governments on the planet?
- Cuba, where Amnesty International has not been allowed since 1988. Where is the clamor for access? As noted, five articles were written in 2005 on the island prison.
- North Korea, where the movements of human rights groups were "severely restricted." No additional articles were written by AI on North Korea in 2005.
Not counting genocidal Sudan, there were more articles which take to task the greatest liberator on earth than for the seven greatest deniers of human rights in the world. Make it a double for perspective, please. Consider the core values of Amnesty International.
Amnesty International forms a global community of human rights defenders with the principles of international solidarity, effective action for the individual victim, global coverage, the universality and indivisibility of human rights, impartiality and independence, and democracy and mutual respect.
So where's the universality? The impartiality? The democracy? The mutual respect? How are references to gulags and pinocheted US leaders impartial and mutually respectful? It should be all too clear that their human rights train is off the rails.
This is a small issue but the chord has been struck. Its mission:
AI is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion. It does not support or oppose any government or political system, nor does it support or oppose the views of the victims whose rights it seeks to protect. It is concerned solely with the impartial protection of human rights.
No one is disputing that William Schulz (AIUSA executive director) and Chips Pitts III (AIUSA board chairman) can spend their money as they choose, but when they send money that expressly favors a Kerry government over a Bush government, or when they give cash to a candidate with a certain political ideology such as Ted Kennedy, their impartiality is rightfully called into question. Their actions violate the spirit of neutrality and it damages the credibility of this group.
If we don't who the big donors are, surely there is no inkling on who the members of this organization are. But the big question is this: At what point do the views of its members defeat the purpose of its vision and its core mission? According to its FAQ:
Amnesty International is a democratic, self governing movement. It answers only to its own worldwide membership.
But what happens when groups of AI members share this view about America:
Unfortunately the Election was stolen once again. Amerikkka is not a Democracy. That is why I do not consider my self a citizen anymore. Amerikkka is a Corporate entity, ergo a facsist state. The election was stolen through electronic vote rigging, voter suppressment, Mass Media distortion and a citizenry that is full of Hate and Fear. Amerikkka needs to be shunned. Its a rogue state that does not belong among civilized Nations.
One does not need to fool all the people all the time to maintain power. A poll taken in mid-2004 had 25% of respondents believing that WMD was found in Iraq. These are the Bush usefools who will believe anything from their demi-god. The other approx. 20% who support Bush do so because of the infantile response of Hate and Fear generated by the U.S. supported 9-1-1 attack. This was the needed "Pearl Harbor Event" mentioned in "Project for a New American Century". Couple this with a few votes stolen, and vote suppress efforts and wham bam another four years of disaster.
What we can do about Bush's Culture of Death? As a person committed to only peaceful change I have decided to become a 5th columnist. To wit: anytime you meet [an] American tell them how you feel, and then walk away. Shun them. If they want lodging refuse. Do not take U.S. dollars for anything. This money was made through the most vile deeds. Petition your own government to Isolate Amerikka anyway possible, demand that the War Criminals be held accountable, boycott Amerikkkan products. Petition the UN Human Rights Commission to investigate the Amerikkkan Empire use of Torture and send them the AI report. Do anything and everything short of violence, protest outside Amerikkan Embassies, protest Bush or Cabinet officials, send letters to your local paper especially when a U.S. official is about to visit. On the positive, any time a Nation stands up to Amerikka (like Venezuela), your government official says or does something you approve of send a letter of support. Keep on bitchen and blogging, but get busy. NOW.
To further inform all how twisted Bush and his usefools are I tell you what I saw on TV a few days ago. There was the irreverant Benny Hinn on his knees w/4 others reciting a prayer from Daniel. Except get this he said for the viewers reading along to change the word Israel and insert America! He read from the Bible and changed the Word. During the runup to The Amerikkkan-Iraq War he would keep up a steady drumbeat for War. During his Sunday service he would rail against the "Whore of Babylon", "pray for the troops" and other crap. To these people Slavery is Freedom, War is Peace and Jesus is a God of Death and Destruction. They are truly sick twisted people. And reliable intell. reports that they do have WMD! Incontrovertible! Its a slam dunk!
During the many demonstrations that I have been honored to participate in we often chant "The Whole World is Watching". If so the World better damn well do something. The village you save could be yours.
your fellow Human
P.S. We here at AI plead with all to support our efforts. Many of our personel brave very hostile and violent situations to document atrocities. Print the report and disburse freely especially among your Government officials, then they cannot deny having been informed. Finally Please visit AI today to see how you can help. Somewhere, Someone is yearning for your comforting word.
Emphases and minor spelling corrections and formatting changes mine. I don't believe "Human" is a conservative Redstater trying to sound like a DU lunatic. After all, the writer is also a regular commenter at a place called Warblogging. It cannot be confirmed whether "Human" is an employee or member of AI, but he talks as if he is one, and if he is...whew. The point is this. Have enough of Human's views permeated this organization that it is no longer impartial and is now objectively anti-American? I don't know the answer, but that is one reason why the statements of Khan and Schulz concern me.
If Amnesty International is truly a democratic organization, then what this group needs is not shunning and derision and dismissal. Rather, it needs more members who can steer it back to its historical mission. This leads me to the question in the title of this post: Should conservatives beat 'em by joining 'em? To me, the answer is yes, and that's why I joined Amnesty International today. That's right. I am now a member in good standing. The executive director of Amnesty International USA, William Schulz, sent me a nice and friendly e-mail thanking me for joining his group and for providing financial support.
I ask all conservatives to join me in joining Amnesty International. With enough of voices, we can advocate for change and move this group away from the fringes. We can press the International Council to revisit its priorities, to establish a fair rating system for the countries it covers, to open its finances and to more openly disclose how it reports on countries and how much they spend covering those countries. Who's with me?
(cross-posted at Redstate)