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June 15, 2005

Hitchens on Terrorist-Coddlers

Great stuff:

About Amnesty International's disgraceful performance, however, I can tell as well as ask. I was at one point quite close to its London headquarters, and I used to both carry and return messages for the organization when I went as a reporter to screwed-up countries. The founding statutes were quite clear: An Amnesty local was to adopt three "prisoners of conscience," one from either side of the Cold War and one from a "neutral" state. Letters were to be written to the relevant governments and to newspapers in free countries. Though physical torture and capital punishment were opposed in all cases, no overt political position was to be taken. (I remember there was quite a row when an Amnesty "country report" on Argentina went so far as to describe a guerrilla raid as "daring.") By adhering to these rules, AI became a credible worldwide group to which even the most repressive governments sometimes had to pay attention. All honor to its founder Peter Benenson, who died earlier this year.

And now look. I think it is fairly safe to say that not one detainee in Guantanamo is there because of an expression of opinion. (And those whose "opinion" is that all infidels must die are not exactly prisoners of conscience.) Morally neutral on this point, apparently, Amnesty nonetheless finds its voice by describing the prison itself as "the gulag of our times." No need to waste words here: Not everyone in the gulag was a "prisoner of conscience," either. But if an organization that ostensibly protects the rights of prisoners is unaware of the nature of a colossal system of forced labor and arbitrary detention—replete with physical torture, starvation, and brutal execution—then the moral compass has become disordered beyond repair. This is not even neutrality between the fireman and the fire. It surely expresses a covert sympathy with the aims and objectives of jihad and an overt, if witless and sinister, hatred of the United States. If only this were the only symptom of that tendency.

Thanks to NickS.



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posted by Ace at 03:22 PM

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