June 09, 2005
Amnesty International vs. The American Gulag
by Jason Miller
Amnesty International came to be in 1961 as a result of a year long media campaign initiated by Peter Benenson, a British attorney. He sparked a year long publicity campaign by The Observer, a British newspaper. The effort influenced people to launch protests against the detention of prisoners of conscience. From these humble beginnings, Amnesty has grown to a world-wide organization with more than a million members. Acting on bedrock principles of independence and impartiality, the group now champions the rights of prisoners of social conscience, people facing torture and the death penalty, and individuals who have "disappeared" for political reasons. Amnesty won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 and in 1978 received a United Nations Human Rights Award. Over the years, they have achieved a sterling reputation as an activist organization shining the light of humanity on the ugly violations of individual human rights throughout the world.
George W. Bush:
"We know that it’s a repressive regime…Anyone who has read Amnesty International or any of the human rights organizations about how the regime of Saddam Hussein treats his people…"
"…It seems to me a careful reading of Amnesty International or the record of Saddam Hussein, having used chemical weapons on his own people as well as his neighbors, and the viciousness of that regime, which is well known and documented by human rights organizations, ought not to be surprised."
The simple fact is that Amnesty International has an established reputation as an independent watchdog of human rights around the world. They have not exhibited a pattern of targeting specific countries to further a political agenda. Rumsfeld's statements provide evidence that the Bush administration recognized Amnesty's authority on the matter of human rights abuse when it suited their purposes. Now that Amnesty has trained their cross-hairs on them, they are lashing out like cornered animals. America's leaders deride or attempt to discredit virtually every organization or individual that has the audacity to challenge them. Smells like tyranny to me.
In 1974 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (a man who knew a bit about tyranny, Stalin and the Gulag Archipelago) might as well have been talking about the Bush administration when he said:
"Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence. Any man who has once proclaimed violence as his method is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle."
Fear lies beneath their ire
Bush and his cohorts are sweating. Amnesty has them in an angry, defensive mode because they are afraid. Why do they fear? They know the allegations are true. They also recognize that even the leaders of the mighty United States are subject to international law. The international court of public opinion has already found them guilty, which does not bode well for the Neocons. Gandhi’s perpetuation of a large civil disobedience movement in colonial India swayed world opinion to the degree that the British finally relented and left India a sovereign nation. The Bush regime comprehends that the movement against their corrupt abuses of power is gaining momentum both domestically and abroad, and they are feeling the heat.
As Joseph Kay and Barry Grey asserted:
"The statements made by Amnesty International are, in fact, only mild expressions of the deep-seated feelings of hundreds of millions of people around the world, including many millions within the United States. The position taken by the US media in response to Amnesty’s charges will only further discredit an institution that already stands condemned in the eyes of the world. The US media is waist deep in blood, filth and lies. It has been instrumental in promoting and defending the policies of the most reactionary government in American history and is irreversibly implicated in its crimes."
Amnesty leveled specific and credible charges against the administration in this open letter to George Bush on 5/7/04. They went even further with recent statements by William Schulz:
"If those investigations support prosecution, the governments should arrest any official who enters their territory and begin legal proceedings against them,"
While Amnesty commented that the Gulag analogy is not direct, there are distinct parallels between Stalin's infamous "Gulag Archipelago" and the American Gulags. The American system of confinement for detainees in the seemingly boundless and endless "war on terror" consists of an "archipelago" of at least 24 keeps, some of which are clandestine. According to Human Rights First, at least 108 prisoners have died in US Gulags, including 63 outside of Abu Gharib. They also validate through a CIA source that at least 100 "ghost detainees" exist, meaning the administration keeps them from the "prying eyes" of the monitors of the International Red Cross. The US now detains 11,000 prisoners in the American Gulag and, until recent rulings by the American judiciary, has given them no opportunity to prove their innocence. Torture, disappearances, murder, secrecy, and paucity of justice..... Sounds like a track record that would fill Joseph Stalin with pride!
Bush and his fellow Neocons lack the spiritual vision to realize that they are grossly abusing the awesome power they wield. Consumed by self-absorption and a compulsion to continue the morally repugnant policy of Manifest Destiny, they fail to realize that America's ways are not superior to the ways of the rest of the world. Sadly, America’s rulers believe they are justified in using invasion, occupation and torture to impose "democracy, capitalism and Christianity" on other nations, just as their predecessors did with Native Americans. Amnesty International has given them a painful reminder of their immoral, illegal acts, and of the limitations of their power. They also reminded the Neocons that the world does not share their zeal for American "democracy". As evidenced by its response, America’s elite ruling class is most displeased.
Jason S. Miller is a 38 year old free-lance activist writer with a degree in liberal arts. He is a husband and a father to three boys, and he earns his living as an account representative at a finance company. His affiliations include the ACLU and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Jason welcome responses at email@example.com.
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