I recently came across Sam Carson’s fantastic posts (available here) on the 2007 Amnesty International Report (available here). If you haven’t taken a look, it’s well worth the read.
In his post (actually it’s a series of posts) Sam draws attention to the sad criticism of Amnesty International by right-wing figures and organizations such as Alan Dershowitz, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and the U.S.-based Capital Research Center.
I’ve always found Dershowitz et al‘s claims that Amnesty International is biassed to be disingenuous at best and I think Sam’s done a great job bringing this issue to the fore.
Specifically, the intellectually dishonest position of Dershowitz et al needs to have a better airing amongst true progressives so that the absurdity of the right’s claims that Amnesty International is a “political organization” with a bone to pick against the US and is biassed against them by focussing on their human rights abuses — can be once and for all discredited.
This task of discrediting the right-wing’s claims that Amnesty International focusses unduly on the US should be fairly to demonstrate for anybody who has ever read AI’s reports for three reasons.
First, even if there was more material on human rights abuses in the US and the West, this does not negate the validity of actual findings of their reports. I don’t think anybody (even Dershowitz) goes so far as to claim that AI just makes this stuff up. So complaining that AI is a political tool with an axe to grind against the US is a little bit like a child who steals a chocolate bar from the corner store, gets caught and then complains that he got spanked when the boy down the street has done worse. The fact that the boy down the street has done worse has no impact whatsoever on whether or not the first child deserved what he got.
Second, the way Amnesty International has ALWAYS structured their reports — and, come to think about it, the way virtually all NGO reports are structured — is to lead with and emphasize places with the newest and biggest developments in human rights abuses and then, understandably, merely update information on already well-documented, long-standing human rights abuses like those in China or Columbia for instance.
So since the US is the one creating most of the new and interesting ways to infringe upon human rights since 2002, what the hell do they expect??
Lastly, as Noam Chomsky is fond of saying, ‘whenever you hear something said with great confidence, it’s always a good idea to check first and see whether it is true’. So, to recap, the claim by the right is that there is undue focus on the United States by Amnesty International and that the US is used as a ‘political punching bag’ by what constitutes an ultimately partisan organization.
If we take a look at the main body of the report (the country by country report) we see the following breakdown in the pages devoted to some key countries. Out of 242 total pages, Afghanistan takes up about 2 pages, Algeria approximately 3 pages, Bosnia and Herzegovina about 3 pages, China around 3 pages, and the United States — which supposedly has so much undue focus — is tied with Columbia in taking up approximately 4 pages each.
Wow, I guess Amnesty International must really have an axe to grind against the US, eh?
(Oh, and if you think that maybe America is focussed on unduly in other countries’ reports, you’re wrong again. The word “US” is mentioned approx. 150 times in the 242 page report — excluding the section devoted to the United States — but the vast majority of these occurances are attributable to either the phrase “US-led invasion of Iraq” or to occurances of figures for currency [GDP, foreign aid etc.] which are always given in US dollars.)
So who’s afraid of human rights? It appears the answer is the United States, Russia, China, the Congo and the Taliban and conservatives.
Well, I guess they keep good company.