Roger L. Simon

What Happened to Amnesty

Reading Austin Bay’s fisking of Amnesty International, I was reminded how disturbed I was by the comparison a leader of that organization I once admired made between American activities at Guantanamo and the Soviet Gulag. President Bush dismissed this as “absurd,” but it is more than that. It borders on the psychologically dysfunctional. Many millions of people died in Stalin’s Gulag, thought by some to have been even more lethal than Hitler’s death camps. To have any equivalence the United States would have had to deliberately exterminate the population of Cuba – or at least make a serious attempt.

So why did Amnesty make such an insane (word choice deliberate) accusation? That is what is perplexing me. Why are some people, in this case an important human rights organization, incapable of rational discourse? The answers are depressing, I think, and lie at the intersection of psychoanalysis and greed. What America has tried to do in Afghanistan and Iraq provokes rage in many people because they feel their own personas threatened. At the same time, organizations like Amnesty believe their fund-raising goals are best achieved through making outrageous statements – a dangerous combination.