Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The death of Amnesty International?

Did Amnesty International die today?

And, if so, will anyone miss it?

I don't think so.

Amnesty started to hold people accountable -- governments and groups.  By the 70s, when it was first showing up on most people's radars (a decade after the organization began) there was a special need for a body who would call out abusive governments, who would shine a light on political prisoners.

That reputation led many to flock to the organization.  Some to help raise awareness and money -- Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman, U2, Sting, etc.  Some to try to use the organization -- which was always up to be used and co-opted -- to improve their own image (see Nike for one example).

Today, Amnesty International is in the news.

They issued a lengthy press release which opens:

Fresh evidence uncovered by Amnesty International indicates that members of the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) have launched a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq, carrying out war crimes, including mass summary killings and abductions, against ethnic and religious minorities. 
A new briefing, Ethnic cleansing on historic scale: the Islamic State’s systematic targeting of minorities in northern Iraq, published today presents a series of hair-raising accounts from survivors of massacres who describe how dozens of men and boys in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq were rounded up by Islamic State fighters, bundled into pick-up trucks and taken to village outskirts to be massacred in groups or shot individually. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of women and children, along with scores of men, from the Yezidi minority have also been abducted since the Islamic State took control of the area. 
"The massacres and abductions being carried out by the Islamic State provide harrowing new evidence that a wave of ethnic cleansing against minorities is sweeping across northern Iraq,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser currently in northern in Iraq. 
“The Islamic State is carrying out despicable crimes and has transformed rural areas of Sinjar into blood-soaked killing fields in its brutal campaign to obliterate all trace of non- Arabs and non-Sunni Muslims.” 

The press is running with it, of course.  Fresh evidence!  Uncovered by Amnesty!  Which has no office in Iraq.  Oops, that part's not in the release or in the press.  And they have no one on the ground in Iraq.  That's not there either -- not in the press nor in the press release.

This release is big news.


I don't doubt that the Islamic State is committing acts of violence.  Brutal ones, inhumane.

I don't doubt it.

They're largely in response to the setting on fire of Sunnis -- Sunnis set on fire, burned alive, by the Iraqi military.  Videos have been on the net for months of that.  The Iraqi soldiers standing around laughing and joking as people are burned alive -- some of the Sunnis may be with the Islamic State, some may not be.

And Amnesty never, ever issued an alert on that.

They did issue a weak-ass statement (so weak that I told Amnesty friend we wouldn't run it) on a recent attack on Sunnis.  Strangely, the press didn't run with that statement.

Why do you suppose that was?

Why do you suppose today you'll find people repeating the Amnesty International statement all over the net, media outlets can't get enough of it?

Maybe because it helps sell war on Iraq and Syria?

Maybe because the same trashy impulse that let Amnesty allow vile corporations to wash their image with a few dollars tossed Amnesty's way is now promoting war?

As someone who donates to Amnesty, who knows Amnesty USA and Amnesty UK board members, I know how difficult it is to get Amnesty to do a damn thing -- even when it's their job.

When Iraq's LGBTQ community was being assassinated, it was like pulling teeth to get Amnesty to respond.  When they finally did it really was too late.

But, look, here they are able to respond in such a way that their response can be -- and will be -- used to sell war.

Let's all pretend it's a coincidence.

For the last two years especially, Amnesty has repeatedly and willingly looked the other way as human rights abuses took place in Iraq -- human rights abuses carried out by a government.

Amnesty is supposed to exist to call those out.

They refused to do so.

And if you pressed hard enough, and I certainly did, you would be told, "We don't have an Iraq office."

Didn't stop them from joining the effort today to sell war, did it?

Amnesty International might not have died today, but maybe it should have.

It's clearly no longer able to perform the job they raise money for.

Most supporters wouldn't give it a damn dime if their slogan was, "Amnesty International: Promoting War for Empire."

(To be clear, the Islamic State should be called out.  This isn't objecting to that.  This is objecting to whitewashing a situation so that only one side is being called out.  That is how you sell war and Amnesty knows that.  They're not chumps, they are active participants in selling war.  Human Rights Watch has called out the Islamic State repeatedly.  Unlike Amnesty International, they've also called out the Iraqi government repeatedly.)

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