Thursday, June 09, 2005

Gulag Expert Criticizes Amnesty

Amnesty International has done great good and provided a vital service to the world over its many decades of existence. But the group’s recent statement that the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay is “the gulag of our times” revealed a disturbing anti-American bias that, as we noted at the time, will jeopardize the organization’s ability to stop the truly abhorrent human rights abuses of our day.

The excellent, center-left Washington Post columnist and Soviet gulag expert, Anne Applebaum addressed this very issue in her recent column:

Like the Cold War, the war on terrorism is an ideological war, one that we will "win" when our opponents give up and join us, just like the East Germans who streamed over the Berlin Wall. But if the young people of the Arab world are to reject radical Islam and climb that wall, they will have to admire what they see on the other side. Almost never before have we so badly needed neutral, credible, human rights advocates who can investigate the U.S. detention policy in context, remembering that we live in a system whose courts, legislature and media can all effect change.

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.

Applebaum is right. Is Amnesty listening?


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