Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Stay Free

I've never been a fan of Amnesty International. Every time you find yourself agreeing with their stand on genuine human rights abuses, like Burma, they come out and say something stupid like Guantanamo Bay becoming the "Gulag of our times". It makes you feel like shaking them and screaming "Cop on!" in their faces until they start to cry. All they have managed to do with this nonsense is let the American administration off the hook with regard to detainee abuse. A litany of reports details the real and continuing physical and psychological abuse of muslim detainees by American forces and their proxies - as outlined regularly by Andrew Sullivan - yet the debate has moved to, and is stuck at, Amnesty's use of the term "Gulag".

Because of the ridiculous "Gulag" analogy people like the loveable Mark Steyn are able to belittle prisoner abuse and make a laugh of those who genuinely see such abuse as eroding the moral high-ground America undoubtedly holds with regard to Islamo-fascist terrorism. He's able to state (in today's Irish Times) that "...the world divides into those who feel the atrocities at Gitmo "must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime-Pol Pot or others" (as the Tribune's hometown senator, Dick Durbin of Illinois, charged the other day), and the rest of us, for whom the more we hear the specifics of the "atrocities" the funnier they are." Well, Markie, I'm in neither camp for a start.

From there he's able to state that "There's certainly a discussion to be had about how to categorise these people. As things stand, they're not covered by the Geneva Conventions - they're unlawful combatants, captured fighting in civilian clothes rather than uniform. As a point of "international law", their fate is a matter entirely between Washington and the state of which they're citizens (Saudi Arabia, mostly)." That is simply wrong. They have not, by any means, all been "captured fighting in civilian clothes". We don't know how or why they have been detained, which is a large part of the point.

However we can certainly say that a number of those captured (a large number I'll guess, but neither I nor anyone else knows, obviously) have been captured far from any battle zone, which means they are suspected of commiting crimes, not being unlawful combatants. But we don't know, because they're being interned indefinitely without being charged with any crime and their details are unavailable. If America believes it has a right to intern people indefinitely without charge and "pressurise" them into revealing information, if America really wants to be that country, well there's probably bugger all the rest of the world can do about it until they finally overstretch themselves taking on North Korea or Iran or Syria.

But, in the meantime, if anyone believes that a universal approach to the principles of human rights doesn't mean burying our moral compasses in the ass of ridiculous equivalencies, they should try to deal with fact and ignore the shrill rubbish that Amnesty comes out with, which often does more harm than good.
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