Thursday, June 02, 2005

Amnesty International's bait-and-switch

Amnesty International has held a press conference attempting to defend their recent report and its offensive use of the term "gulag" to describe the detention center at Gitmo. I found 2 parts of their press conference to be particularly illuminating and AI isn't looking very good in the light. First, the use of the term gulag was absolutely a politically calculated usage and not truly descriptive of the situation there:

::::::::Khan rejected a suggestion that Amnesty's use of the emotive term "gulag" had turned the debate into one over semantics, and distracted attention from the situation in the detention centers.

"What we wanted to do was to send a strong message that ... this sort of network of detention centers that has been created as part of this war on terrorism is actually undermining human rights in a dramatic way which can only evoke some of the worst features of human rights scandals of the past," she said.
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Got that? They used the term for dramatic effect, with no concern whatsoever for an accurate description of what's going on. By equating the conditions at Gitmo - where prisoners are well fed, allowed their free worship of their religion, and - oh, by the way - not taken out randomly and shot dead with the horrific reality of the Soviet-era gulag, they cheapen the plight of the people who met their grisly ends at the hands of the Soviet gulag guards. They put these illegal combatants into the same category as the innocents who were hauled out of their homes in the night never to return to their families again. That's not even close to being the fair, human-rights oriented people AI claims to be. John Podhoretz in the New York Post stacks up the 2 for comparison:

:::::::: Number of prisoners at Gitmo: approximately 600.

Number of prisoners in the Gulag: as many as 25 million, according to the peerless Gulag historian Anne Applebaum.

Number of camps at Gitmo: 1

Number of camps in the Gulag: At least 476, according to Applebaum.

Political purpose of Gulag: The suppression of internal dissent inside a totalitarian state.

Political purpose of Gitmo: The suppression of an international terrorist group that had attacked the United States, killing 3,000 people while attempting to decapitate the national government through the hijack of airplanes.

Financial purpose of Gulag: Providing totalitarian economy with millions of slave laborers.

Financial purpose of Gitmo: None.

Seizure of Gulag prisoners: From apartments, homes, street corners inside the Soviet Union.

Seizure of Gitmo prisoners: From battlefield sites in Afghanistan in the midst of war.
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None of that matters to AI, however. The dramatic effect is their only concern. As is their response to the charge that their claims are completely baseless. Their defense? They want to have access to the facility they claim they know enough about to render the judgement that it's a gulag.

::::::::“The administration’s response has been that our report is absurd, that our allegations have no basis, and our answer is very simple: if that is so, open up these detention centers, allow us and others to visit them,” Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Zubaida Khan told a news conference.

“Transparency is the best antidote to misinformation and incorrect facts,” said Khan, who is here to meet with Japanese officials.
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So imagine that someone out there - you don't know this guy from Adam - claims you're growing pot in your basement and announces that to the media. You deny it and demand that he back up his absurd allegation. He gives a big, smarmy smile to the cameras that are rolling (at his request, natch) and says that if that's the case, you need to open up your house and let him, his buddies, and a bunch of cameras into your home so they can poke around at will. That's his proof? He makes baseless allegations and the onus is on you to prove him wrong? This is precisely what AI is doing here. They've shouted these unsupported claims from the mountaintops - knowing full well how they'll be received by America's enemies - and when they're called out to prove it, they say it's the government's responsibility to prove otherwise.

From an argumentational standpoint, the burden of proof is on the accuser, not the accused, and AI would agree with that stance were we talking about an individual detained at Gitmo. But when we're talking about the people running Gitmo, suddenly they turn around and say the reverse. Double-standard, anyone? Besides, anyone who can't see what's coming is either not paying attention or is of the same ilk that these AI people are. Even if they're given carte blanche to the Gitmo facilities and they don't find anything to support their claims, they'll just do what CBS and Newsweek have done. They'll say that just because they can't prove anything, that doesn't mean it's not really happening. The "fake but accurate" meme will ride again and they'll keep making the accusations. Of course, that supposes that none of the detainees, several of whom are absolutely terrorists that were engaged against our troops in Afghanistan, will make claims of abuse while AI's cameras are running. That supposition is as likely to be true as it is that pigs are flying in flocks over Kansas right now. As has been reliably reported now for years it's in the Al Qaeda training manual to make such allegations to the western media regardless of the treatment. They'll do it again, too, because it's working so well.

AI's "defense", both of their claims and their misuse of the term gulag, would be laughable if the damage they were doing weren't so severe. They clearly don't care that we have troops in the field attempting to help a lot of people who are happy to receive that help; troops that will now face an enemy emboldened by what they perceive as mounting discontent back home. If we just keep it up a little longer, they'll say, we can do it. We can make the Americans turn tail and run.

Then, they'll come over here and try to finish the job. Thanks, AI. Really compassionate of you.

Hat Tip: LGF