Patriotism was, in Samuel Johnson’s 18th century world, ‘the last refuge of a scoundrel.’ Johnson did not say patriotism was scandalous, but charged corrupt public figures with using patriotism to excuse their crimes. It appears, early in the 21st century, that ‘human rights’ will be the last refuge of modern scoundrels who twist the truth to suit their political agenda. Amnesty International’s bizarre statements calling America ‘the leading purveyor and practitioner of torture’ and threatening leading Americans with arrest for war crimes if they travel abroad lean that way.
These statements by William Schultz, AI US executive director, are just the latest in a trend. Amnesty has been pushing the envelope of propriety for a long time. It has developed a deserved reputation as a hard-left, anti-American institution more concerned with promotion of its own political agenda than with succor for the oppressed. Its not as if the world suddenly has a dearth of oppressed people for whom AI could legitimately speak. But rather, the organization has cynically ignored those hapless souls in order to aim its venom at America. And make not mistake, Amnesty’s accusations are the most loathsome and despicable imaginable. Especially offensive is Amnesty’s calling the terrorist prison in Guantanamo an American ‘gulag.’
As the Wall Street Journal notes, compared to the Soviet gulag in which millions died, "this is just one more sign of the moral degradation of Amnesty International." It is worse than lack of principle or judgment to use a highly charged word like ‘gulag’ recklessly; a word with such a terrible connotation. It is an intentional distortion of fact. Furthermore, Amnesty’s failure to speak up when such a word fully applies is an immoral, criminal omission for an organization that professes in holier-than-thou terms to be speaking for those with no voice.
In contrast to its incessant attacks on America, for at least the past 10 years Amnesty has give a pass to the world’s worst human rights violator: Kim Jong Il’s North Korea. In 1995 a story broke in the Los Angeles Times about the extent of North Korea’s death camps and the extraordinarily large percentage of the population that was imprisoned in them. (At any given time Kim Jong Il holds an estimated 300,000 prisoners out of a population of approximately 22 million.) Prisoners are sentenced without trial, executions are frequent, human beings are subject to experimentations with poison gasses, slave labor is common, there is no medical attention for the prisoners, and starvation is rampant. Prisoners are worked, often to death, in so-called ‘economic zones’ under slave conditions, and are forced to do extraordinarily heavy labor in mines, roads, and tunnels without proper equipment or adequate food. They die unmourned and lie in unmarked graves.
The LA Times story was based on testimony from two North Korean defectors – both later testified before Congress about their experiences in a real gulag, Kim Jong Il’s prison. One defector, Kang Chol Hwan, authored a book, Aquariums of Pyongyang, that fully described his horrific personal experiences and ultimate escape from the hellhole of North Korea.
Significant in the Times story was a brief note that both of these defectors had described their experiences to Amnesty International. To the shock of those who knew the full story, Amnesty categorically rejected their sworn testimony on the grounds that it was "untrustworthy." How can AI have arrived at such a stunning verdict? Because both Kang and the other defector were then living in South Korea. Amnesty had had South Korea in its sights for years even though the military government had collapsed in 1987 – a full eight years previously – and democracy was blooming there. Such an arbitrary decision to ignore Kim Jong Il’s concentration camps was not unique to this occasion.
Over the next few years a succession of witnesses and escapees including the noted Doctors Without Borders member, Dr. Norbert Vollertsen, testified in several venues about the government-sponsored horrors taking place in North Korea. Vollertsen even brought a series of shocking photos with him showing starving children in striped prison uniforms terrifyingly similar to photos of Nazi death camps. Amnesty ignored and dismissed Dr. Vollertsen’s reports.
Similarly, testimony from Sun Ok Lee, herself a former Party member in North Korea, falsely accused and sentenced to six years in forced labor camps. One would think that her autobiography, Eyes of the Tailless Animals: Prison Memoirs of a North Korean Woman, along with reams of Congressional testimony detailing her brutal experiences would be sufficient to get at least an expression of interest from Amnesty, but it has not been so.
A bit of background may show some of the reasons why Amnesty International is willing to expose nits in the eye of the United States but overlook logs in communist dictatorships abroad. The US executive director of AI, William Schultz, has been with the organization for several years. He was influential in rejecting the 1995 North Korean defector’s testimony. Schultz is also reported to be affiliated with groups such as the Unitarian Universalist Association that was extreme in its condemnation of South Korea during the 1970s and 1980s but mute in any judgment about the brutality occurring north of the DMZ in the evil twin, North Korea. Many of his colleagues have visited North Korea, celebrating such occasions as Kim Il Sung’s birthday and enthusiastically participating in seminars on the ‘Juche Ideology.’
The blatant hypocrisy displayed by Amnesty International and William Schultz is absolutely unacceptable. To ignore completely as Amnesty has done the hapless situation in North Korea in a real gulag and of escaped refugees who are forcibly repatriated back to North Korea from China to certain imprisonment or execution, is reprehensible and inexcusable. This immoral stance is exacerbated by the crocodile tears the organization sheds over detained terrorists bent on mass killing of innocent held in a detention center.
The Journal summed it perfectly: ‘A "human rights" group that can’t distinguish between…death camps and detention centers for terrorists who kill civilians can’t be taken that seriously." A pox on Amnesty International for abrogating its responsibility to the suffering people of the world in order to further its hard left political agenda. We have seen more than enough hypocrisy and anti-Americanism from Amnesty for us to take counter action: as a start AI ought to have its IRS status investigated for improper behavior by a so-called educational, charitable group. Concomitantly American media needs immediately to pull all Amnesty public service announcement fundraising appeals off the air. Our charity can better go to organizations like the Defense Forum Foundation and the North Korea Freedom Coalition that are legitimately working to free the oppressed peoples of North Korea.