The Wall Street Journal
It's good to see that Amnesty International has had to backtrack from its comparison of Guantanamo Bay to the Soviet "gulag." Less than two weeks after making that analogy, Amnesty's U.S. boss issued what amounted to a full retraction on "Fox News Sunday" this weekend.
"Clearly, this is not an exact or a literal analogy," said William Schulz. "In size and in duration, there are not similarities between U.S. detention facilities and the gulag. ... People are not being starved in those facilities. They're not being subjected to forced labor." Thanks for clearing that up.
And what about Mr. Schulz's description of Donald Rumsfeld and others as "apparent high-level architects of torture" who ought to be arrested and prosecuted? He was asked by host Chris Wallace, "Do you have any evidence whatsoever that he ever approved beating of prisoners, ever approved starving of prisoners, the kinds of things we normally think of as torture?"
Mr. Schulz's response: "It would be fascinating to find out. I have no idea. ..." In other words, Mr. Rumsfeld and the other U.S. officials Mr. Schulz maligned could probably now win a libel suit in many jurisdictions, were they inclined to press the issue. Natan Sharanksy -- a man who actually spent time as a Soviet political prisoner -- described Amnesty's gulag analogy as "typical, unfortunately," for a group that refuses to distinguish "between democracies where there are sometimes serious violations of human rights and dictatorships where no human rights exist at all."
But before leaving this episode, we'd like to remind readers of the case of Ahmed Hikmat Shakir. On Nov. 19, 2001, Amnesty issued one of its "URGENT ACTION" reports on his behalf: "Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of Iraqi citizen Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, who is being held by the Jordanian General Intelligence Department. ... He is held incommunicado detention and is at risk of torture or ill-treatment." Pressure from Amnesty and Saddam Hussein's Iraq worked; Mr. Shakir was released and hasn't been seen since.
Mr. Shakir is believed to be an al-Qaida operative who abetted the USS Cole bombing and 9-11 plots, among others. Along with 9-11 hijackers Khalid al Midhar and Nawaf al Hazmi, he was present at the January 2000 al-Qaida summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was working there as an airport "greeter" -- a job obtained for him by the Iraqi embassy. When he was arrested in Qatar not long after 9-11, he had telephone numbers for the safe houses of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers. He was inexplicably released by the Qataris and promptly arrested again in Jordan as he attempted to return to Iraq.
There remains a dispute about whether this is the same Ahmed Hikmat Shakir that records discovered after the Iraq war list as a lieutenant colonel in the Saddam Fedayeen -- the 9-11 Commission believes these are two different people -- and whether Mr. Shakir thus represents an Iraqi government connection to 9-11.
But there is no doubt that the Hussein regime, whatever its reasons, was eager to have the al-Qaida Shakir return to Iraq. It was aided and abetted to this end by Amnesty International.
We don't recount this story to suggest Amnesty was actively in league with Saddam. But it shows that, even after 9-11, Amnesty still didn't think terrorism was a big deal.
In its eagerness to suggest that every detainee with a Muslim name is some kind of political prisoner, and by extension to smear America and its allies, Amnesty has given the concept of "aid and comfort" to the enemy an all-too-literal meaning.