William Schultz, the director of Amnesty International USA makes a strong and convincing argument that the left has ignored the real threat to human rights in the world.
In his new book, “Tainted Legacy: 9/11 and the Ruin of Human Rights,” Schulz argues that rising global terrorism requires the left “to rethink some of our most sacred assumptions.” A vigorous defense of human and civil liberties, while essential to spreading democracy worldwide, is not enough to stop terrorists from blowing up airplanes or shopping malls, he says. And that presents the left with a problem, because some of the tools needed to fight terror, such as stricter border controls or beefed up intelligence work — and, perhaps, war against states that support terrorists — chafe against traditional leftist values.
I don’t agree with everything Schultz says, but his arguments are powerful. He’s right in pointing out that the debate over Iraq from the left had nothing to do with the Iraqi people – it was all about American power. Dominique de Villepin or Ted Kennedy didn’t give a damn about what was going on in Iraq – they were more interested in undermining the Bush Administration.
There’s something callous about such a position, as it elevates petty political concerns above very real issues of human rights. Those who see Israel or the United States as bigger threats to world peace are making an argument that countries that are democracies are somehow more threatening than Saddam Hussein’s brutal Ba’athist dictatorship, the living hell that is North Korea where people are forced to resort to cannibalism to survive, the horrendous regime that terrorises Burma, or even the totalitarian regime of Castro’s Cuba. Such an argument is beyond ignorant, it speaks of a complete abandonment of reason and common sense in favor of a base and disgusting form of hatred and prejudice.
Fortunately Mr. Schultz is actively defending Amnesty’s mission of human rights by continuing to focus on places where there are real human rights abuses going on, such as the horrendous condition of prisoners in Russian jails, the oppression in Burma, and the horrors of constant tribal warfare that has decimated Africa. While Schultz and I disagree on many things from the efficacy of the PATRIOT Act to forming an international consensus on Iraq, he is completely right in noting than an expansion of human rights is critical towards acheiving peace not only in Iraq but across the globe as well.