Marquette Warrior: Amnesty International: Attempted Damage Control

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Amnesty International: Attempted Damage Control

Amnesty International has, quite properly, gotten a lot of flack for calling the American terrorist detention camp at Guantanamo Bay the “gulag of our time.”

In an attempt at damage control, an Amnesty staffer phoned Pavel Litvinov, a veteran of the real gulag, and asked for support. Litvinovn revealed the incident in the Washington Post.
Several days ago I received a telephone call from an old friend who is a longtime Amnesty International staffer. He asked me whether I, as a former Soviet “prisoner of conscience” adopted by Amnesty, would support the statement by Amnesty’s executive director, Irene Khan, that the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba is the “gulag of our time.”

“Don’t you think that there’s an enormous difference?” I asked him.

“Sure,” he said, “but after all, it attracts attention to the problem of Guantanamo detainees.”
Translation: we don’t mind making extreme and inflammatory statements if it serves our political agenda.

Litvinov goes on to say:
There is ample reason for Amnesty to be critical of certain U.S. actions. But by using hyperbole and muddling the difference between repressive regimes and the imperfections of democracy, Amnesty’s spokesmen put its authority at risk. U.S. human rights violations seem almost trifling in comparison with those committed by Cuba, South Korea, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.
The partisan politicization of Amnesty is part of a broader polarization and radicalization of American liberals.

Once a non-partisan do gooder organization that worked to free “prisoners of conscience,” Amnesty has been caught up in the reality that to appeal to its liberal base it has to become more and more overtly political, and more and more hostile to American policy — at least for as long as a Republican is President.

The necessary consequence: Amnesty becomes just another liberal interest group with no moral authority.


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