Et Tu, A.I.?
I have been a fan of the band U2 for more than 20 years. I have seen Bono in the flesh sans sunglasses and sporting a ginormous mullet. I have been a fan so long that I have seen the Edge without a hat. It was through my fandom that I was introduced to Amnesty International. The band has long been a vocal supporter of the human rights organization and has encouraged young people attending their concerts to become involved with the group. As a young, idealistic high schooler, it was very appealing to me, especially since they claimed to be a politically-disinterested organization. Their plank of neither supporting nor condemning any particular form of government gibed with my conservative beliefs, and was refreshing since so many of my liberal friends seemed to equate "human rights" with "I hate Ronald Reagan."
Amnesty International (A.I.) is based upon a simple premise: publicize the plight of prisoners who are jailed for their political views. Their aim has been to bring to the world's attention governments who torture and persecute their citizens. The more attention that can be drawn to governments being heavy-handed in squelching free speech and human rights, they reason, the faster this sort of thing will end. It is a noble aim and they have done an awful lot of good over the years. Icons like Nelson Mandela might still be imprisoned today had Amnesty International not championed their causes.
But now, they seem to be just another interest group that has lost its focus and is heading into irrelevance and marginalization.
Their slide from standard bearer for prisoners of conscience to agitators for leftist causes started shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when they compared the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to a Soviet Gulag. A.I. continued to lose it focus by endorsing abortion rights for women, condemning passage of the PATRIOT Act, criticizing the US Immigration and Naturalization Service for detaining illegal aliens, and signing onto a document essentially blaming US foreign policy for the 9/11 attacks (citing the US's failure to promote fundamental rights around the world as a reason for the attacks).
Finally, A.I. officially passed over into the Land of Irrelevance this month when they suspended the head of their Gender Unit, Gita Saghal. Her transgression? She criticized A.I.'s alliance with Cage Prisoners, Cage Prisoners describes itself as a London-based human rights organization, but its director Moazzam Begg is an enthusastic defender of the Taliban and the group's been a champion of many accused al Qaeda terrorists. The most notable of these is Anwar al Awlaki - who has been associated with three of the 9/11 hijackers, was in regular communication with the Fort Hood shooter, and most recently was spiritual adviser to the underwear bomber. In between all that he issued a fatwa calling for the murder of the Dutch cartoonist who dared to depict Muhammad in print.
How did A.I. defend itself against charges that it was allying with a Taliban-loving radical fundamentalist? The only was a good knee-jerk leftist organization can: they blamed George Bush and his anti-terrorism policies.
Sahgal has been trying to get her organization to distance itself from this group for some time but has been repeatedly rebuffed. Finally, she made her concerns public during an interview with a British newspaper. For that, Amnesty International relieved her of her duties. Clearly, A.I. have lost their moral compass and need to return to their roots before they drift too far to the left and loses all credibility. People like Gita Saghal, who stand up for what is right and suffer the consequences for doing so - are the very reason A.I. was founded. When faced with the choice of tossing aside a man who has devoted his life to radical Islam or a woman who has devoted her life giving a voice to political prisoners, they chose the latter, much to their shame.