Gulag sillyness

Rule of thumb: any article which says something as silly as "Amnesty International was founded in part to serve as a watchdog of Communist human-rights abuse" is a waste of ink/bandwidth. No, it was founded to serve as a watchdog of human-rights abuse. You’re just projecting ‘Communist’ in there because you’re a right-wing American and therefore obsessed with Commies fluoridating your drinking water…

The rest of the article criticises Amnesty for suggesting that Guantanamo Bay is in any way comparable to the Gulag. Apparently, because the prisoners at the former are only 600 in number, aren’t local and aren’t used as slave labour, the other similarities Don’t Exist.

Two particularly quality bits: a) the ‘contrast’ of "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". The latter can, of course, be paraphrased as "from apartments, home, street corners inside Afghanistan, where they lived". b) "No one argues that the vast majority of those imprisoned there were al-Qaeda personnel". Now, I *think* he’s incorrectly using "argues" to mean "denies", in which case he’s talking out of his arse. If he’s using it correctly, he’s probably a little closer to the truth (clue: Taliban != AQ)…

Unre(a)d Eric has a rather different take on the article from mine. He seems to think that Amnesty are displaying "stunning naivety" about terrorists while pouring "scorn, cyncism and vitriol" on their own governments. *I’m* guilty of the latter, for sure; Amnesty aren’t (and what’s this about no longer being "willing to criticise all governments on an equal basis"? Amnesty’s reports on China, Burma etc could hardly be described as glowing praise…)

The "naivety" is another story altogether. In Amnesty’s case, it’s not even relevant. Its job is to alert people of human rights abuses, not to assess whether the human rights abuses can be justified in the context of the threat facing the government in question – the latter is rightly left to society to decide in retrospect.

When it comes to actually deciding, unless those who accuse people who get sniffy about internment without trial, torture, murder, etc of ‘naivety’ actually have access to secret files of dozens of almost-successful Al Qaeda plots to destroy us all, they’ve got no grounds for their charges.

On the basis of the evidence publicly available, plus conversations with a few people who know more than that, Islamist terrorism appears highly unlikely to have a significant impact on what happens in the West. My conclusion, therefore, is that the worst thing we can do is undermine our own freedom for fear of the bogeyman. And as the ricin plot saga shows, my view tends to be supported by the unspun evidence…

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3 thoughts on “Gulag sillyness

  1. Don’t you see, it doesn’t help that Amnesty criticizes China or Burma in some other report – they have to add an appendix to this report, stating that America gets a free pass because China is really much worse.

  2. As with so many of these ‘pro-war left’ assaults on liberal institutions, there seems to be a presumption that it must be the institution whose politics has changed, rather than its interlocutor. "I remember back in [insert date, usually about a decade ago], [insert name of liberal institution here] was a paragon of intelligence, insight, wit, and fashionable clothing. But since [insert recent event which had an effect on interlocutor's political views, usually 9/11 or Iraq at the moment], [liberal institution] has sunk into apologia/ignorance/reaction. Why oh why can’t [liberal institution] be as principled as me, Nick Cohen, David Aaronovitch and some fucktard weblog authors?"

  3. I’m going to create an archive of such templates, I think – perhaps with a random generator attached (clearly, this will also include Jimmy Doyle’s one from yesterday…)

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