Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The right words

I don’t always agree with Anne Applebaum. But she knows gulags, and her column today on Amnesty International’s application of the term to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo is on the mark. It’s only one little word, but it is a significant one.

AI is among the world’s few honest brokers when it comes to policing basic human liberties and the outrages committed by corrupt regimes. Its credibility derives from its unblinking focus on crimes that many are trying to conceal, and the cold facts and witness narratives of its investigations. But that credibility also depends on a sense of historical judgment and proportionality. AI’s outrage at U.S. abuses is certainly understandable – I share it and wish more Americans did. But sounding off like Howard Dean is only going to hurt the cause, branding AI as part of the anti-Bush cabal, and thus easily dismissable by those in power and half the U.S. population.

Of course, the horse is probably out of the barn on that one already. One episode of 24 this season featured a lawyer working for a group called "Amnesty Global" who gets a call from the terrorist-in-chief, then shows up with a court order (signed by one of those activist judges) to liberate a terrorist lackey with information that could save the world. Fortunately for the world, Jack Bauer extra-judicially abuses him into giving up the relevant information.