Monday, June 6, 2005


Last Sunday, on the flight back to San Francisco, I read the following editorial in The Wall Street Journal (subscription needed but i'm posting the whole thing):

Amnesty's 'Gulag'
May 26, 2005

"Gulag" is the Russian acronym made famous by Alexander Solzhenitsyn to describe the vast network of Soviet slave labor camps in which millions died. It is thus one more sign of the moral degradation of Amnesty International that the pressure group is now calling the U.S. detention facility for Taliban and al Qaeda suspects at Guantanamo Bay "the gulag of our time."

At a press conference yesterday releasing its annual human rights report, William Schultz, the executive director of Amnesty's U.S. branch, called the U.S. a "leading purveyor and practitioner" of torture. He urged foreign governments to investigate and arrest U.S. officials. "The apparent high-level architects of torture should think twice before planning their next vacation to places like Acapulco or the French Riviera," he said, "because they may find themselves under arrest as Augusto Pinochet famously did in London in 1998." The "apparent" is a nice touch, perhaps an unconscious bow to the fact that multiple probes and courts martial have found no evidence that the U.S. condones or encourages torture.

"Our list," as Mr. Orwell -- er, Mr. Schultz -- puts it, is too long to print in full. But it includes Donald Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith and William Haynes at Defense; Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, Jack Goldsmith, and Patrick Philbin from Justice; Tim Flanigan, just nominated to be Deputy Attorney General; George Tenet, former head of the CIA; and Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.

It's old news that Amnesty International is a highly politicized pressure group, but these latest accusations amount to pro-al Qaeda propaganda. A "human rights" group that can't distinguish between Stalin's death camps and detention centers for terrorists who kill civilians can't be taken seriously.

I was upset, annoyed, and slightly embarrassed. Embarrassed because I helped build Amnesty at my high school during its second year of formation as an officer (shoutout to my friend Yael for dragging me in), and I continued to donate to the organization for several years after college. Annoyed since while it is a left-leaning organization (increasely farther left over the past decade) it does have some good programs and drives for the human rights struggle, but basically lost years of credibility and masses of potential moderate and some conservative support with William Schultz's ridiculous and radical statements about our nation. Upset that any organization would use such extreme words and false statements to achieve publicity and its end-goals.

NOW they back off:

Amnesty International, which set off a storm by calling the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay "the gulag of our times," backed away from the label Sunday.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had ripped as "reprehensible" the description, made last month when the human rights group's secretary general, Irene Khan, issued its annual report.

Amnesty International was comparing American jails for prisoners in the war on terror with the "gulag" operated by the former Soviet Union. The Soviets maintained an extensive system of prison camps, many in remote Siberia.
(full article)

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