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Monday, May 30, 2005

A Memorial Day reminder of why it's important to study history

Guantanamo has become the gulag [of] our times ....

— "Amnesty International Report 2005," a speech by Amnesty International's Secretary General Irene Khan at the Foreign Press Association in London, as quoted by today's Washington Post.

Amnesty International's website informs us that Ms. Khan "studied law at the University of Manchester and Harvard Law School, specialising in public international law and human rights." I respectfully submit that she should have studied more history. Now, there are indeed some reasonable parallels to Soviet gulags and police-state practices that can be found on the island of Cuba. But, shamefully, they've gone on for decades before 9/11, and they're found in that other so-called "workers' paradise" that's outside the fences of the American base there.

Only someone completely ignorant of history — including even the most general history of the brutal Soviet regime that, over decades, systematically murdered millions of people — could possibly say something so incredibly, embarrassingly stupid. But hey, why did she bother to give a whole speech and publish a report, when she could have made her same devastating point even more clearly with a two-word poster? Ms. Khan's historical allusion amounts to "Bush = Stalin." She adds, "Ironic that this should happen as we mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz." Well, heck, Ms. Khan, flesh your point out fully, show off that Harvard education, and go up to four words! "Bush = Stalin = Hitler = Satan." That still fits on your average poster board, and is equally valid. You can add some latex masks, or those keen giant puppets, maybe burn an American flag — and get much better international MSM coverage! Energize your base, baby, to see those contributions stream in!

But there was more to Ms. Khan's review of the past year, as it turns out. She also asserted that "the US government and its allies who lead the 'War on Terror' continue to persist with politically convenient but ineffective strategies." Methinks this displays an insufficient appreciation of American citizens' recent history (during the past three years) of being able to stand inside skyscrapers without having the floors fall out from underneath them. Personally, I count each year's absence of passenger jets smashing into our buildings as a simple but fairly important indicator of those strategies' effectiveness, anyone's politics notwithstanding.

But it's important in a report like this one to identify clearly the villains of the world, and Ms. Khan bravely names names:

In 2004, far from any sign of principled leadership, we saw a new and dangerous agenda in the making, rewriting the rules of human rights, discrediting the institutions of international cooperation and usurping the language of justice and freedom to promote policies that create fear and insecurity.

The US is leading this agenda, with the UK, European states, Australia and other states following.

No signs of principled leadership. None! Because, after all, Dubya and his coalition of the coerced, bought, and bribed have been too busy enslaving multitudes and seizing oil reserves. Gosh, it's a good thing the world has the principled leaders of international institutions like Amnesty International and the United Nations keeping people from going feet-first into the limb chipper-shredders! Where would we be without real heroes like Ms. Khan and Kofi Annan? I, for one, can only sleep soundly because of my  knowledge that I'm being protected by the sharp points of their rhetorical spears. Let's give thanks for their courage and sacrifice on this Memorial Day, shall we?

Lest I leave the impression that Ms. Khan's report was entirely negative, I should note that among "positive developments [that] gave us hope and energy" during the past year, Ms. Khan pointed to "massive popular mobilization for change in Spain, Georgia, Ukraine and elsewhere." Parse that carefully: Which one of these is not the same? And what prominent examples have been conveniently lumped into "elsewhere"? (Hint No. 1: One of the listed examples involved the election of a hard-left regime in a stable democracy; the defeat of a political party identified with support of America and its other allies in the Global War on Terror is, apparently, exactly equivalent in the eyes of AI to the overthrow of despots. Hint No. 2: Two rather prominent elements of the "elsewhere" involved historic free elections brought to their people as a direct result of the courage and sacrifices of the American military — you know, those folks who wear the same uniforms you see patroling the "gulags of our times" at Gitmo — and they were made possible in part by the relocation from those countries of the very folks now being guarded inside Gitmo. But neither of those events made AI's "highlights" reel for the past year's human rights victories.)

Ms. Khan concludes:

People are hungry for justice and freedom, not just elections but respect for human rights, the rule of law, a free media and a diverse civil society. The challenge of the human rights movement in 2005 is to harness the power of civil society to push government to deliver on their promises.

Well, duh. From elections, the others may flow, and have done so repeatedly throughout history. And with due respect to Ms. Khan, the "politically convenient but ineffective strategies" of America and its allies likely had more to do with the free elections and popular mobilizations for change in the past year than anything (or everything, cumulatively) that Amnesty International has done throughout its entire organizational history.

Ms. Khan doesn't need to be sent to a re-education camp. She simply needs an education.

Posted by Beldar at 03:57 PM in Global War on Terror | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to A Memorial Day reminder of why it's important to study history and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» Historically Illiterate Amnesty International from Sierra Faith

Tracked on May 31, 2005 5:09:13 AM

» ACLU Treason from Stop The ACLU

Tracked on May 31, 2005 7:55:53 PM


(1) vnjagvet made the following comment | May 30, 2005 8:57:19 PM | Permalink


Thanks for the eloquent and well delivered blow against the oh, so intellectual elitist supporters of the professional bashers of the most idealistic nation in the world.

You and I have no truck with mistreatment of prisoners. Neither do the civilian or military leaders of our troops in Afghanistan, Iraq or Guantanamo Bay.

There is no intellectually honest way for AI and their supporters to decry the relatively isolated and unsanctioned abuse of prisoners and ignore without any approbation the resort by the so called "insurgents'" to indiscriminate use of suicide person bombs and car bombs against not military targets, but against purely civilian targets as their primary tactic.

Thanks for exposing this hypocracy.

(2) Neo made the following comment | May 31, 2005 12:17:06 AM | Permalink

Perhaps we can get Ms. Khan and Amnesty International some new office space near the top of the reconstructed World Trade Center. This could possibly give them a first hand look at the "Brothers" of these tortured souls who might come to visit them there.

As an alternative, I thought that we might turn over all the prisoners at Gitmo to Ms. Khan and Amnesty to hold, but this would probably truly constitute torture. My last alternative would be to station a representative of Ms. Khan and Amnesty at Gitmo, among the prisoners, but we'd probably wake up one morning to hear bad news from Gitmo, and a shameful lesson for Ms. Khan and Amnesty.

(3) Rob made the following comment | May 31, 2005 5:47:34 AM | Permalink

Nothing speaks so eloquently of the tragedy of the destruction of the general education requirements which included survey courses in both Western civilization and national history for the generations which entered American and other English-speaking colleges and universities before the 1970s, as the utter ignorance of history which makes almost every historical allusion uttered by modern leftists so risible.

(4) SemiPundit made the following comment | May 31, 2005 4:43:40 PM | Permalink

What in particular made Guantanamo Bay a good choice for a detention site?

(5) Mark L made the following comment | Jun 1, 2005 5:38:59 PM | Permalink

"What in particular made Guantanamo Bay a good choice for a detention site?"

It is not on US soil and different legal rules apply to military prisoners held outside the US.

(6) AlanDownunder made the following comment | Jun 2, 2005 7:51:23 AM | Permalink

Nice to see someone recognise that the Amnesty contribution to hyperbole is worse than the US contribution to torture.

(7) SemiPundit made the following comment | Jun 3, 2005 8:54:46 AM | Permalink

Why shouldn't we hold such prisoners on U.S. soil, and why do we need different legal rules for them?

(8) Bad Cat Robot made the following comment | Jun 5, 2005 10:04:22 AM | Permalink

The question you should be asking, SemiPundit, is if we are "rewriting the rules" why would the location have any importance? Could it possibly be that we *do* follow the rules?

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