We've been Khaned – in this case Irene Khan, secretary-general of Amnesty International. In a line that will probably not rank with "Give me liberty or give me death," Ms. Khan informed us, during a speech to the Foreign Press Association, that "Guantanamo has become the gulag of our times…"
My, my. Even a few souls in the "human rights community" have balked at comparing a tiny camp in Cuba, housing guys who'd lop Khan's head off if she tried to drive a car in the old country, with the Soviet Union's real gulag, where millions died. But the line garnered Amnesty the kind of notice money can't buy. For AI, it's been a bonanza.
Of course, we've been here before.
For example, at the end of World War II, news spread through Eastern Europe that the Western allies were treating DP's – displaced persons – with some kindness. The result was a steady stream of people into DP camps in the Western zones of occupied Germany. The camps were strained well beyond capacity. Food at first was only at a subsistence level.
The supreme allied commander at the time was Dwight D. Eisenhower. In his book, "Crusade in Europe," Eisenhower described what happened next:
"As usual, individuals with no responsibility in the matter, their humanitarian impulses outraged by conditions that were frequently beyond help, began carrying to America tales of indifference, negligence, and callousness on the part of the troops. Generally these stories were lies. The thousands of men assigned to the job of rescuing the DPs and organizing relief for them were Americans. They were given every facility and assistance the Army could provide, and they were genuinely concerned in doing their utmost for these unfortunate of the earth. But because perfection could not be achieved some so-called investigators saw a golden chance for personal publicity. They did so at the expense of great numbers of Americans who labored night and day to alleviate the average lot of people who had suffered so much that they seemed at times beyond suffering."
Can you imagine, can you just imagine, what Irene Khan would have done with those camps? We can see her rushing to some press conference to announce, "the DP camp has become the Auschwitz of our times."
Indeed, Ms. Khan does not disappoint today. In her "gulag" speech she recounted some other human rights abuses, then intoned, "Ironic that this should happen as we mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz." They always get that name in, don't they?
In fact, there are other gems in Ms. Khan's speech that exceed even the "gulag" outrage. They show that, while AI does make good points about rights abuses in many countries, it has a special contempt for the United States and its allies, and generally hews to the leftist line. Consider this from the Khan address:
In 2004, far from any sign of principled leadership, we saw a new and dangerous agenda in the making, rewriting the rules of human rights, discrediting the institutions of international cooperation and usurping the language of justice and freedom to promote policies that create fear and insecurity.
"The US is leading this agenda, with the UK, European states, Australia and other states following."
Those white boys are certainly evil, aren't they? But are you surprised, after what they did to the DP's in 1945? They never learn, do they?
And Ms. Khan then topped it off: "By peddling the politics of fear and division, this new agenda has also encouraged intolerance, racism, and xenophobia."
Now wait one second. Here we are, a country that goes into collective agony because a few insensitive soldiers mishandled the Quran in a prison camp, and we're peddling division and encouraging intolerance? After the attacks of September 11th, 2001, it was George Bush who reached out to Islam, with understanding and respect. Not too many hands reached back, and some that did were lobbing grenades.
There was not a single reference in Irene Khan's speech to the hatred that spews from parts of the Muslim world every day, directed at Christians, Jews, and other infidels, especially infidels with zip codes in New York or Tel Aviv. She certainly knows of this, and knows what the poison does to the chances for peace, and the growth of human rights.
But maybe we shouldn't be surprised by her omission. The Hudson Institute's Anne Bayefsky, in a recent article, recalled an incident at the infamous UN World Conference Against Racism, in Durban, in August of 2001. The conference was degenerating into an orgy of Israel bashing and anti-Semitism. Ms. Bayefsky writes that "despite the rhetoric of 'inclusiveness,' the Amnesty International chief sat on her hands when a motion to delete the voices of Jewish victims of racism was put to the vote and adopted. Every Jewish non-governmental organization from around the world walked out. Amnesty and company stayed."
Apparently, Ms. Khan felt at home with the crowd that remained. And, apparently, she still does.