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RE: [casi] How much time should we spend attacking AI?

Dear all,
        It must be possible to have a balanced discussion about AI without
being accused of spending more time tearing it apart than focussing on Bush et
al. I restarted AI on the campus i am associated with, partly in order to draw
attention to sanctions to a broader spectrum of people, and have shown John
Pilger's film as an AI event. Glenn's comment, with all due respect, surely is
unfair: " I am sure Blair, Bush, Hussein and all the rest would be very happy
to see good people devoting large parts of their time and energy to
Amnesty International." Absolutely, it is as important to be critical of AI
re: sanctions as it is of Bush et al. AI is an incredibly important global
grassroots movement which scores many victories. The fact that it is run
on a shoe string budget with volunteers such as myself and Glenn should not
detract from the importance of its role as a key actor on the world stage. I
have no doubt that, had AI harnessed its awesome energies to direct public
attention to the genocide of sanctions, many lives would have been saved. The
importance of economic rights is recognised by AI, and so it could have
directed more attention to the sanctions, also the world debt and other
genocidal instruments. But let's say it chose not too. Insofar as realpolitik
concerned, the AI leadership must be aware that by downplaying sanctions from
the equation of rights in Iraq it is defacto buttressing the arguments used by
the US/UK to maintain sanctions -- in other words, it is taking sides. What
Bush et al are happy about is not our critiques of AI, but the fact that they
can now use an AI report for their own propaganda purposes without being
accused of genocide. At the UN Commission on Human Rights, the US plays a big
role in the resolutions condemning the violations of rights, in Iraq, the
reason being, it is one of the justifications for maintaining sanctions (I am
pretty sure that one of the Security Council resolutions says that Iraq has to
stop violations of rights as a pre-requisite for lifting sanctions against
Iraq.) AI, the UN Commission on Human Rights is where we get our arguments
let's not give up opportunities here so quickly.
        Philippa Winkler

>===== Original Message From Katy Connell <> =====
>Hello all. Glenn here.
>As someone who has been actively trying to change Amnesty's policy on
>sanctions since 1998, I would like to concur with Bert's comments.
>I am sure Blair, Bush, Hussein and all the rest would be very happy to see
>good people devoting large parts of their time and energy to criticising
>Amnesty International.
>Whilst constructive criticism of Amnesty is valid, in an anti-sanctions
>discussion I think we should spend more of our time and energy criticising
>those *imposing* the sanctions, rather than those who may or may not be
>*opposing* sanctions as much as we'd like.
>I am the first to criticise Amnesty when I feel it is not doing something it
>should, and I have been doing so for some years. However, I have been trying
>to do this constructively, as part of an effort to achieve change within the
>organisation -- an organisation that, as Berts says, does enormously good
>work on issues that do matter to many many human beings.
>Amnesty's traditional focus has been on civil and political rights. Its
>mandate has been getting wider and wider over 40 years, with constant
>pressure to expand and 'do everything'. Increasingly, the membership has
>been pushing for work on economic, social and cultural rights to receive
>more attention (these definitions overlap in many places).
>Importantly though: Amnesty is not god. It is not omnipresent. It cannot see
>and know everything. It does not have unlimited resources to report on
>everything that may constitute a human rights abuse. It exists on donations
>and volunteer fundraising, and has a relatively small number of paid staff.
>All staff, paid and voluntary, and local group volunteers, spend their time
>working hard on important human rights work, trying all the time to satisfy
>those outside and inside who constantly want them to do more.
>Amnesty, overstretched already, is now working on how it will incorporate
>some degree of Economic, Social and Cultural rights issues (including
>sanctions) into its work.
>This is an organisation of good, hard-working people, with limited time and
>money and scope, trying to act against huge forces that abuse human rights.
>It may not do so perfectly or completely, but essentially it is on the side
>of oppressed people, and against oppressors.
>That's mostly what I wanted to say. I'll respond to a couple of specific
>points below.
>All the best,
>>Yet apparently it failed to mention this grassroots-driven decision
>>to link violations of these rights to the humanitarian
>>disaster of sanctions, in its report on Iraq. In other words, it ignored
>>mandate of its own membership.
>Some country sections voted to work on sanctions. Some didn't. Even if they
>did, that does not mean it is possible to do so within constraints of
>mandate, money, time, expertise etc.
>However, now, in its 2-yearly international meeting it has indeed taken on
>board the 'mandate of its own membership' and is now looking at how to work
>on the issue more actively.
>>This has to be put together with the fact that AI by and large
>>does not adopt US political prisoners,
>That is not true. In fact, Amnesty has just finished an 18 month campaign
>focusing specifically on human rights abuses in the United States, and works
>very hard on death penalty cases there, eg Mumia Abu Jamal.
>>AI did not condemn the Jenin attack as a massacre. So clearly
>>there is a blind spot in the leadership of AI where US/Israeli
>>policies are concerned
>Amnesty was one of the very first organisations to send investigative teams
>into the camp. It concluded that many innocent people had been killed and
>that indiscriminate and disproportionate force had been used. However, it
>realises the inadequacy of its resources in times like this, and has
>repeatedly called for a full-scale UN investigation. It has sent many
>delegations to Israel over the last 18 months, and repeatedly criticised
>sales of US arms to Israel. It has been frequently criticised by pro-Israeli
>groups as showing bias toward Palestinians: UK chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks
>called groups like Amnesty "murderous" for reporting what they saw,
>presumably because he thought this meant they were trying to justify
>Palestinain atrocities.
>Regarding sources:
>>Regarding Iraq, the report repeats itself year after year and has nothing
>>say but the same information without any documents.
>>Yes I agree with Hasan that most of data are biased on reports given by
>>Iraqis who seek asylum in the west
>I would suggest that if you want to know about Amnesty's sources, contact
>Amnesty. Only then can you make informed judgments about where Amnesty gets
>its information. However, putting out vulnerable sources' names and
>addresses on the Internet would probably be a rather irresponsible thing for
>them to do.
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