Amnesty International: Imperialist Tool
By Prof. Francis A. Boyle
23 October, 2012
Dear Amnesty Friends:
I am in receipt of the response by three members of the AIUSA Middle East Coordination Group to my message that was entitled “NGOs As Western Tools.” You will note that they never denied any of the basic facts set forth in my original message. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and murdered 20,000 Arabs/Muslims with the full support of the United States, both Amnesty International and AIUSA said absolutely nothing at all despite vigorous efforts by AIUSA Members to get them both to say and to do anything. When it became clear that AIUSA was not going to say or do anything about Israel’s wholesale slaughter of Arabs/Muslims in Lebanon because of the marked pro-Israel bias by the AIUSA Staff, Board, and Funders, I called the Irish Nobel Peace Prize Winner Sean MacBride at his home in Dublin and asked him to intervene with AI/London. What little AI/London said and did about 20,000 Arabs/Muslims in Lebanon murdered by Israel with the full support of the United States was due to Sean MacBride.
MacBride then convinced the then AI Secretary General to appoint me a Consultant to Amnesty International on the human rights situation in the Middle East. In that capacity, I attended the founding meeting of what would become the AIUSA Middle East Coordination Group. In other words, I was one of the founders of the AIUSA Mid-East Co-Group, some of whose members are now defending its work. At that founding meeting I said quite emphatically that Amnesty International and AIUSA would have absolutely no credibility whatsoever in the Middle East unless they dealt forthrightly and vigorously with violations of the human rights of Arabs and Muslims by Israel, and, in particular, Israeli atrocities against the People of Lebanon and the Palestinian People. Soon thereafter, I found out that the Members of the AIUSA Mid-East Co-Group had been instructed to have nothing more to do with me by a direct order coming from the AIUSA Board of Directors.
It is fair to say that Amnesty International has quite recently released some reports dealing with Israeli violations of human rights of the Palestinian People and the Lebanese People. But Israel has been consistently murdering, torturing and destroying the Palestinian People since at least the time when the occupation of their lands began in 1967–and with the full support of the United States Government. And only now has Amnesty International got around to condemning it. Almost a decade ago while on the AIUSA Board, I tried to get AI/London and AIUSA to act on the basis of the infamous Landau Report whereby the Israeli Government officially sanctioned torture against Palestinians. Over a decade ago while on the AIUSA Board, I pointed out that this made Israel the only state in the world to officially sanction torture. It is nice to see that a decade later Amnesty International has finally agreed with me and said something about it.
Likewise, Israel has been rampaging around Lebanon with the full support of the United States to the grave detriment of the Lebanese People and Palestinians living there since at least the time when Israel first invaded Lebanon in 1978. The primary reason why Amnesty International has put out these latest reports condemning Israeli human rights violations in Lebanon and against the Palestinian People after decades of silence is because there are now several other human rights organizations which have acted against Israel when AI/London and AIUSA refused to act because of their marked pro-Israel bias. When it comes to protecting the human rights of Palestinians, Lebanese, Arabs/Muslims from atrocities by Israel, the United States, and Britain, AI/London and AIUSA have always been too little, too late, and on purpose.
While on the AIUSA Board I once saw the itinerary drawn up by AIUSA for the visit to the United States by the then AI Secretary General coming from London. On the list was almost every major pro-Israel group in New York and Washington and about one Arab Group. Given their standard operating procedures, I am confident the pro-Israel groups threatened the AI Secretary General that they would have their members withhold or reduce their contributions to AI and AIUSA if AI/London did not reign in its pathetic, pitiful, and meager criticisms of Israel. While I was on the AIUSA Board, AIUSA paid about 20% of the budget for AI/London. He who pays the piper calls the tune.
You will also note that the three AIUSA Mid-East Co-Group members’ response to my original message said absolutely nothing at all about the scandalous Kuwaiti Dead Babies Report and Campaign that both Amnesty International and AIUSA used for the purpose of promoting war against Iraq. As a Member of the AIUSA Board, I received a pre-publication copy of the Dead Babies Report. I read it immediately and quite carefully. First, this report contained technical errors that should have precluded its publication. Second, even if all these sensational allegations had been true, it was clear that publication of this report at that critical moment in time (December 1990) would only be used by the United States and Britain to monger for war against Iraq. I expressed these opinions in the strongest terms possible and that this report should not be published because it was inaccurate; or that if for some reason it were to be published, it must be accompanied by an errata sheet. Amnesty International published the Dead Babies Report anyway despite my vigorous objections, and launched their Disinformation Campaign against Iraq. From this episode I could only conclude that AI/London deliberately intended the Dead-Babies Report and Campaign to be used in order to tip the balance in favor of war against Iraq.
This is exactly what happened. In January of 1991 the United States Senate voted in favor of war against Iraq by only five or six votes. Several Senators publicly stated that the AI/AIUSA Dead Babies Report and Campaign had influenced their votes in favor of war against Iraq. That genocidal war waged by the United States, the United Kingdom and France, inter alia, during the months of January and February 1991, killed at a minimum 200,000 Iraqis, half of whom were civilians. Amnesty International shall always have the blood of the Iraqi People on its hands!
Once it became clear that there never were any dead babies in Kuwait as alleged by Amnesty International, AI/London proceeded to engage in a massive coverup of the truth. For all I know, the same people at AI/London who waged this Dead-Babies Disinformation Campaign against Iraq are still at AI/London producing more disinformation against Arab/Muslim states in the Middle East in order to further the political and economic interests of the United States, Britain, and Israel. Because of its Dead-Babies Disinformation Campaign against Iraq and its ensuing coverup, Amnesty International will never have any credibility in the Middle East!
During the past eight years, about 1.5 million People in Iraq have died as a result of genocidal sanctions imposed upon them primarily at the behest of the United States and Britain, including in that number about 500,000 dead Iraqi children. While on the AIUSA Board of Directors, I tried to get them and AI/London to do something about this genocidal embargo against the People of Iraq, and especially against the Iraqi Children. Both AI/London and AIUSA adamantly refused to act despite the grievous harm that their Dead-Babies Disinformation Campaign had inflicted upon the People of Iraq. It was clear to me at the time that there was no way AI/London and AIUSA were going to take on Britain and the United States on behalf of the completely innocent People of Iraq.
Now we are told that there is something in the AI Mandate that precludes AI action against such genocidal economic embargoes. Of course this is nonsense. While I served on the AIUSA Board, one of our Board Chairs personally put me in charge of handling Mandate issues for the AIUSA Board. I know all about the Mandate. It was my responsibility.
Generally put, when AI/London and AIUSA want to take action on a matter because it will bring them publicity, money, members, and “influence,” they pay no attention whatsoever to their so-called Mandate. Likewise, when AI/London and AIUSA decide for political or economic reasons that they will not work on human rights problem, they trot out their so-called Mandate to justify non-action.
The same type of bogus argument was used by AI/London and AIUSA to prevent the organizations and their memberships from taking any effective action against the criminal apartheid regime in South Africa that had been oppressing millions of Black People for decades. To the best of my knowledge, Amnesty International is the only human rights organization in the entire world to have refused to condemn apartheid and work against it. The spurious argument made here was that Amnesty International could take no position on a type of government. But the truth of the matter was that Amnesty International is headquartered in London, and AIUSA is headquartered in New York and Washington. The biggest political supporters of the criminal apartheid regime in South Africa were the governments of Britain, the United States, and Israel. Likewise, the biggest sources of economic investments in the criminal apartheid regime in South Africa came from Britain and the United States. Once again, he who pays the piper calls the tune.
There was no way AI/London and AIUSA were ever going to work against the political and economic interests of Britain, the United States, and Israel operating together in support of the criminal apartheid regime in South Africa. So AI/London and AIUSA concocted this spurious rationale for non-action. The same is being done today by AI/London and AIUSA to justify their non-action in light of the genocidal economic embargo imposed now primarily by the United States and Britain against the People of Iraq. There is no way AI/London and AIUSA will ever act against the political and economic interests of the United States, Britain, and Israel in the Middle East, and certainly not on behalf of the People of Iraq, whose blood AI and AIUSA now have on their hands.
Notice too how this latest specious justification for AI non-action fits in quite neatly with the strategic objectives of the United States around the world. Right now the United States Government is primarily responsible for imposing genocidal economic sanctions against the People of Iraq, the People of Cuba, and the People of North Korea. Amnesty International will do nothing at all about it. In other words, by their deliberate non-action AI and AIUSA are supporting the genocidal policies of the United States, Britain and Israel against these Third World countries–just as AI and AIUSA supported the criminal apartheid regime in South Africa by their deliberate non-action. If you want to do effective human rights work in opposition to the imperial, colonial and genocidal policies of the United States, Britain, or Israel, there is no point working with Amnesty International or AIUSA. You will simply be wasting your time, your efforts, your resources, and your enthusiasm.
Permit me to further substantiate this assertion that Amnesty International and AIUSA are imperialist tools by reference to other areas of the world. It is well known that AI/London has done little effective work to help Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland. As Sean MacBride once said: Amnesty International will never treat Irish Catholics fairly so long as it is headquartered in London. The long and sordid history of AI/London non-action in the face of genocidal violations of the most fundamental human rights of Irish Catholics living in Northern Ireland by Britain is well known among Irish Americans and Irish People living in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and around the world. For example, a letter by a former AI Secretary-General sabotaged public support for the defense of Joe Doherty here in the United States. Just recently, it required a massive internet campaign to force AI/London to do anything at all to save the life of Loinnir McAliskey and to obtain the freedom of Roisin McAliskey.
Let me now move from the British colony in Northern Ireland to the American colony in Puerto Rico. While I was still on the AIUSA Board, a fellow Board Member asked me to draft a resolution for adoption by the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of AIUSA calling for a comprehensive AI Campaign against human rights violations by the United States in Puerto Rico. This resolution passed the AIUSA/AGM overwhelmingly, and without any dissent that I could detect. I was then invited by Amnesty International/Puerto Rico to give the Keynote Address at their Annual General Meeting in San Juan on the subject of the right of Puerto Rican political prisoners in American jails to be treated as prisoners of war. Immediately thereafter, AI/London and AIUSA applied massive pressure on AI/Puerto Rico to prevent this speech. AI/Puerto Rico refused to cave in.
I went down to Puerto Rico to attend their AGM, gave the Keynote Address, and also investigated U.S. human rights violations in Puerto Rico, including torture, summary executions and disappearances. Upon my return home, AIUSA attempted to stiff me out of my expenses despite the fact that I was attending the AI/Puerto Rico AGM in my official capacity as an invited AIUSA Board Member. Perhaps I missed it due to the press of other duties at the time, but I am not aware of any comprehensive Amnesty International Campaign against U.S. human rights abuses in Puerto Rico as overwhelmingly called for by the AIUSA/AGM.
Finally, let me say a few words about the deliberate non-action of AI/London and AIUSA on behalf of indigenous peoples living in the United States and its imperial ally, Canada. Back when I was on the AIUSA Board, AI/London decided to launch an international campaign on behalf of indigenous peoples. As usual, I received a pre-publication copy of the campaign material. On reading it, I immediately noticed that almost nothing was to be done to help the indigenous peoples living in the United States and Canada. I protested this to AI/London and AIUSA, and demanded that the indigenous peoples living in the United States and Canada be added as an integral part of this campaign. To the best of my knowledge, this was never done. I leave it to the indigenous peoples living in the United States and Canada to decide for themselves how helpful AI/London and AIUSA have been to them.
I will not belabor the obvious any longer in this brief Memorandum. But based upon my over sixteen years of experience having dealt with AI/London and AIUSA at the highest levels, it is clear to me that both organizations manifest a consistent pattern and practice of following the lines of the foreign policies of the United States, Britain, and Israel. You can certainly see this in all of AI’s non-work with respect to the Middle East, Northern Ireland, Puerto Rico, South Africa, indigenous peoples living in North America, etc. Effectively, Amnesty International and AIUSA function as tools for the imperialist, colonial and genocidal policies of the United States, Britain, and Israel.
There are many people of good will and good faith working at the grassroots level of Amnesty International and AIUSA who genuinely believe that they are doing meaningful and effective work to protect human rights around the world. But at the top of these two organizations you will find a self-perpetuating clique of co-opted Elites who deliberately shape and direct the work of AI and AIUSA so as to either affirmatively support, or else not seriously undercut, the imperial, colonial, and genocidal policies of the United States, Britain, and Israel. The Leadership Elites of AI/London and AIUSA have always considered themselves to be the so-called “loyal opposition” to the imperial, colonial, and genocidal policies of the United States, Britain and Israel. I would ask the people at the grassroots of AI and AIUSA whether you want to continue being part of the “loyal opposition” to imperialism, colonialism and genocide perpetrated by the United States, Britain and Israel? It is not for me to tell those people of good faith and good will currently working with AI/London and AIUSA what to do. But I have found other organizations to work with and support.
Francis A. Boyle, Professor of International Law, Board of Directors, Amnesty International USA (1988-92), Co-Founder AIUSA Middle East Coordination Group, Consultant to Amnesty International on the Middle East
July 31, 1998
Cover Image: Courtesy of WrongKindofGreen.