February 17, 2007

Compass lost..

There's another good one from Nick Cohen, Liberals are now the appeasers of hate:

....Five years ago, if you could have asked journalists, diplomats, academics and the victims of oppression themselves who they would have trusted above all others to stay sober in a crisis, my guess is that they would have nominated Amnesty International. Peter Benenson, one of the great Englishmen of the 20th century, set it up as a rigorously, almost ascetically, impartial body.

At first, Amnesty dealt only with prisoners of conscience who espoused non-violence. It didn't matter which side they were on in the Cold War, or any other war, because Amnesty didn't concern itself with politics.

Its reputation couldn't survive the aftermath of 9/11. The first sign that it was losing its compass came when Blair cited Amnesty International's reports on Iraq in a dossier on his reasons for going to war. In September 2002, he urged MPs to "read about the routine butchering of political opponents; the prison 'cleansing' regimes in which thousands die; the torture chambers and hideous penalties supervised by him and his family and detailed by Amnesty International. Read it all again and again. I defy anyone to say that this cruel and sadistic dictator should be allowed any possibility of getting his hands on more chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons."

Faced with the prospect of Blair removing the regime it had denounced for 34 of its 41 years, Amnesty cracked.
Blair's description of the terror in Iraq was "opportunistic and selective", it snapped. Strictly speaking, Amnesty should have kept its mouth shut. All that should have mattered to its leaders was whether Blair was quoting their reports accurately - which he was: Blair was "selective" only in that he underplayed the scale of the terror. Amnesty couldn't admit that because the crisis was pushing it away from the necessary impartiality of any human rights worker or judge into a sly political posturing with echoes of the '30s. If it took sides in the war, Amnesty's history would have forced it to come out for a democratic Iraq.

But support for Bush, however limited, would have appalled its members. Equally, it couldn't support the Saddamists and Islamists. So in true Virginia Woolf style, Amnesty, along with a large segment of liberal opinion, pretended that both sides were equally bad and the US and Britain were moral equivalents of totalitarian movements and states.

Human Rights Watch, which had made its name as a rival to Amnesty with its investigations into Saddam's Iraq, tied its tongue in knots as it tried to find a way to oppose the war to overthrow him. Kenneth Roth, its director, came up with a canting formula that there was no humanitarian purpose to the war because, although there had been mass slaughter, ethnic cleansing and environmental destruction over 35 years, "no such slaughter was then ongoing or imminent" at the precise moment in 2003 when the war began. His lawyerly point was that although the Baathists were still killing, they were killing at a slower rate than in the past; the numbers of rapes and the intensity of the persecution of ethnic minorities were not up to their previous speed and nothing could be done until Saddam pulled his socks up and improved the strike rate....
(Thanks to Orrin Judd) I previously mentioned Cohen's great piece about being raised "on the Left."

Posted by John Weidner at February 17, 2007 6:39 AM
Weblog by John Weidner