Politics & Policy

Hey, Where Did Amnesty Go?

Telling, selective coverage.

A recently released Amnesty International report highlights the cold-blooded attacks, assassinations, suicide bombings, and civilian and aid-worker killings carried out by terrorists in Iraq.

It may seem pointless that Amnesty has to explain that “international humanitarian law strictly prohibits the intentional killing of people who are not taking an active part in the hostilities. It also prohibits torture or any form of inhuman treatment.”

Does anyone really doubt that this is a pure evil, which civilized people cannot tolerate?

Take, for instance, one mid-July suicide bombing in Baghdad. U.S. troops and the Iraqi children they were handing out candy and toys to were the target. Twenty-seven people were slaughtered, including 18 children. As the Associated Press reported: “Parents heard the shattering explosion and raced out to discover children’s mangled, bloodied bodies strewn on the street in the Shiite Muslim neighborhood.”

Of course, anyone reading this was horrified.

Or are they? Recently, MSNBC’s Monica Crowley got grief for daring, during a broadcast, to take on an Islamic scholar, who was not only advocating suicide bombing but admitting that he’d volunteer if he ever had “the opportunity.” Speaking on Syrian TV, Saddam Hussein apologist George Galloway, a member of Britain’s parliament, wants you to believe George W. Bush and Tony Blair are the real terrorists.

But it’s not just extremist scholars and dangerously nutty politicians with such myopic views. Amnesty International’s “In Cold Blood” report should be screamed from the rooftops, in part, frankly, to mitigate the mess Amnesty created when it decided to equate President Bush with Joseph Stalin by making the ludicrous contention that the enemy-combatant prison we have in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is “the gulag of our times.”

We in the United States actually respect human rights. There are lapses–which are investigated and prosecuted as they absolutely should be. But we’re still coming from the “life, liberty …” mindset, as are our closest allies.

What better irony have we seen of late than the failed subway bomber in England, who when arrested in Notting Hill declared, “I have rights.” Terrorist though he may be, Ramzi Mohammed got it.

It’s a message I’m not sure we all really understand. Consider, for instance, how many of us have not had to really give serious thought to what Saddam Hussein did to people when Iraq was his to tyrannize. One torture tape discovered in Iraq showed fedayeen (Hussein’s military) gleefully slicing off a tongue; whipping a prisoner so badly that the Roman beating scene from Mel Gibson’s The Passion was a preschool timeout by comparison; severing a man’s hand…you get the idea. Yes, these were brought to you by Saddam Hussein, the man who is getting a trial in the liberated Iraq, complete with legal representation; the same “butcher of Baghdad,” who has been held under the watchful visiting eyes of international human-rights monitors.

Why do I relive all of this, besides to kill your appetite for the day? Because this month in Basra, a writer who I was fortunate enough to publish, Steven Vincent, was murdered by these same bad guys who regularly murder “in cold blood.” Vincent was killed because he did something they couldn’t tolerate–he told the truth, what he saw on the ground there.

But that’s what the enemy we are fighting in the war on terror does. Sometimes they do it with a specific target in mind for a particular purpose. Sometimes the kill is just to send a message–”leave us alone to tyrannize and terrorize”–punctuated with dead bodies. Regard for human rights, or even basic humanity, is simply not there.

Despite his monstrous acts against his own people, Hussein (who gets all the Doritos he wants in prison) knows that. If he didn’t, if Saddam thought we wouldn’t respect his rights and be as ruthless as he, do you think he’d have surrendered as quietly as he did?

I wonder if our own media elite understand this.

If they did, wouldn’t Amnesty International’s report on the Iraqi terrorists be at least as well-covered as their criticisms of American treatment of detainees at Gitmo? Wouldn’t we all know that, as Amnesty reports, that the bad guys in Iraq say that “every Iraqi or foreigner who works with the coalition is a target. Ministries, mercenaries, translators, businessmen, cooks or maids, it doesn’t matter the degree of collaboration.” Wouldn’t there be some collective sense of perspective?

Describing the foreign jihadist fighters who kill in Iraq, Amnesty writes, “those who order or commit such atrocities place themselves totally beyond the pale of acceptable behaviour. There is no honour (or) heroism in blowing up people going to pray or murdering a terrified hostage. Those carrying out such acts are criminals, nothing less, whose actions undermine any claim they may have to be pursuing a legitimate cause.”

Those who are lethally anxious to stop democracy (and who, by the way, want most of us–you and I–dead) from happening are different than us. Intentionally or not, that becomes clear from reading this recent Amnesty report, even if you’re not hearing too much about it.

(c) 2005, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.


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