Liberals of good will were stunned when Amnesty International compared U.S. detention of terrorists with the Soviet gulag. The Washington Post’s editors found it “sad” that “a solid, trustworthy institution [had] los[t] its bearings and join[ed] in the partisan fracas that nowadays passes for political discourse.” Bush administration critic Michael O’Hanlon echoed this sentiment. Showing less good will, but some discernment, E.J. Dionne found Amnesty International’s gulag metaphor “outrageous,” and wondered why the group would employ rhetoric that made it “so easy” for Bush to blow off its conclusions.
Now we have the answer — it was a publicity stunt. As the Washington Times notes, Amnesty International’s Executive Director William Schulz basically admitted as much on “Fox News Sunday.” Unable to defend his gulag analogy, Schulz instead observed that if his group hadn’t asserted that analogy, he wouldn’t “be on this station, on this program today.” To which Chris Wallace responded, “So you’re saying if you make irresponsible charges, that’s good for your cause?”
At one level it is. Dana Milbank (further down the “good will” scale than even Dionne) chortled that Schulz, in effect, is laughing his way to the bank, with traffic on Amnesty International’s web site up sixfold, donations quintupled and new memberships doubled. However, as the co-proprietor of a web site, I know that the trick isn’t getting “em” to visit, it’s keeping “em” coming back. So Amnesty International will have to follow its own tough act. Perhaps it next can compare our prosecution of the war on terror with the actions of the Khmer Rouge as Rutgers professor Alex Hinton ludicrously attempted to do.
Not that long ago, Amnesty International represented the gold standard on the issue of human rights abuses. It has now forfeited that position apparently in order to get on television, obtain a temporary spike in contributions, and (of course) scratch the anti-Bush itch of its leaders, including Kerry campaign contributor Schulz.
The left’s march through our institutions continues. The NAACP, the ACLU, the New York Times, and academia come to mind. But the perennial problem is this — once captured, these institutions lose most of their value as outposts for the cause.
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