Friday, January 4, 2008

Amnesty International Shows It's Stripes

Essentially, there are two methods by which to mount ideological opposition. The first is to openly and explicitly announce your disagreement with that which you oppose, spelling out the nature and reasons for your disagreement clearly and concisely, then offering your counter-arguments.

The second method is through the "back door". Your true intentions are never stated explicitly. Instead, you use a series of statements that don't directly attack your opponent but instead rely on vague implications or insinuations, out-of-context or non-contextual comparisons, guilt-by-association, and other such tools to plant in a reader's mind negative connotations about that which you are attacking without any real ideological "meat" to digest. Often this type of "argumentation" comes camouflaged behind some public issue which serves as a cover for your true agenda, which is to smear an opponent.

The second, dishonest method is what was used in this hit piece against the United States.

Hiding behind the "human rights" banner, Amnesty International poses as an impartial advocate of justice for all humanity. But impartiality and moral equivalence are two entirely different things. A statement in an op-ed in the New Jersey Star Ledger titled Jersey joins a human rights campaign by Jeffrey Laurenti (an obvious AI supporter) is about as outrageous an example of moral equivalence as one can imagine.

"Acidly, it [Amnesty International] noted that 91 percent of these executions took place in just six countries -- China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and the United States -- a veritable axis of death."

A statement of this nature reveals a basic hostility to freedom and justice. To equate America, where the death penalty is administered under the most rigorous standards of due process including a long set of appeals and only for the most heinous of crimes, with states that execute people for exercising their most basic human rights is to make a mockery of that term. Indeed, to equate America, the first and most moral country in history because it is explicitly based on the individual's right to his own life, with tyranny on any level is essentially an attack on reason, individual rights and representative government because those three principles represent the Enlightenment ideas upon which America was founded.

Mr. Laurenti attributes that statement to Amnesty International, but it is not a quote so one must conclude that he ascribes to its meaning and thus cannot be given a pass. A man of his stature, it must be assumed, knows exactly what he is saying.

Elsewhere in the article, Mr. Laurenti equates Medieval Church-sanctioned murder with American capital punishment. "The Vatican, which once blessed executions to combat heresy", he writes, "has become a vigorous advocate of abolition worldwide, consistent with its pro-life ethic"(emphasis added). Thus, Mr. Laurenti declares, the rape-murderer of a child in 21st century America is no different morally from a medieval man daring to challenge Church dogma! Both are equally worthy of having their lives spared! Translation; America equates with the Church tyranny of the Dark and Middle Ages.

Here is another example of an implied equating of America with tyranny;

"In the same period that Americans were re-embracing the death penalty, campaigns for its abolition gathered momentum in Europe and Latin America. Britain eliminated capital punishment, except for treason, in 1971. Canada abolished it in 1976, France in 1981. One of the first measures adopted by countries emerging from right-wing or Communist dictatorships was elimination of the death penalty: Italy in 1947, Portugal in 1976, Argentina in 1984, Czechoslovakia and Hungary in 1990." (emphasis added)

Translation; America is a quasi-dictatorship. What other implication can one draw from such a statement? Why is the fact that Italy, Portugal, Argentina, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary were former dictatorships before abolishing capital punishment even relevant to this issue? Why refer to the Medieval Church's execution of dissidents?

No answers of any kind to those questions emerge in this piece. No context of any kind is provided. In fact, no case what-so-ever is advanced for why AI opposes capital punishment, except for vague references to "human rights". (For a moral defense of capital punishment, see my previous post on this issue) No reasons for why America's death penalty statutes should be abolished are given except that other nations have done it.

Just what are the "human rights" that AI is dedicated to upholding? How do these "human rights" relate to the issue of capital punishment? In what way does each of the ruling authorities mentioned apply it's death penalty statutes? How do they differ? For what types of crimes? In what way does smearing the United States through implication as no better than the worst tyrannies both past and present make their case against the death penalty? Again, no answers are given, and no context what-so-ever is provided. All we are left with is the implied charge that "America has the death penalty. So do the world's tyrannies. Therefore, America is tyranny."

Since AI basically skirts the death penalty issue here, one must focus on it's concept of "human rights" for a better understanding of the purpose and meaning of this article. In search of a clue to AI's human rights agenda, I turned to it's website. According to it's own Statute, no direct answer is given. By way of definition, there is only this; Amnesty International’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments (which go unnamed).

The only relevant passage in the Universal Declaration which it sights is Article 5, which reads "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." This statement is at the heart of the death penalty debate, and is open to wide interpretation. An article purportedly advocating a position on capital punishment must address the issue of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Yet nowhere in this essay is Article 5 touched on.

Since this article doesn't address the very issue it is supposed to be addressing, what could the author's purpose be? Lets look more deeply into the basis of Amnesty International's purpose.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948. It is a rambling, contradictory document. The first line of it's Preamble reads; "Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." (emphasis added)

How are "inalienable rights" defined? Americans, at least those with a proper understanding of the principle, would not recognize the UDHR definition. For example:

Article 23. the right "to protection against unemployment."
and to "equal pay for equal work."
and to " the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection."

Article 24. "Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay."

Article 25. "(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care...etc, etc, etc,.

Article 26. "(1) Everyone has the right to education... which "shall be free" and "compulsory."[?]
"(2) Education shall be directed to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.[as defined here, which means socialist indoctrination]

Article 27 "(1) Everyone has the right... to share in scientific advancement and its benefits."

Articles 23 through 27, which AI ascribes to, represent the obliteration of the very concept of rights. The above "rights" refer to products and services produced by someone. The "right" to food, clothing, housing, medical care and an education...provided by whom? The right to protection against unemployment...guaranteed by whom? The rights to equal pay for equal work and reasonable limitation of working hours...determined by whom? In a free society, people deal with one another voluntarily and by mutual consent to mutual advantage. No one can have a "right" to the product of someone else's work except that which is acquired through the free and voluntary exchange of values...i.e., trade. The "rights" enumerated above cannot be guaranteed except by governmental force because, as Ayn Rand eloquently explains;

"Since Man has inalienable individual rights, this means that the same rights are held, individually, by every man, by all men, at all times. Therefore, the rights of one man cannot and must not violate the rights of another.

"If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor.

"Any alleged 'right' of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right.

"No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as "the right to enslave."
(From Individual Rights in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.)

Ensuring the "rights" enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can only be achieved by imposing "an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude" on some men for the unearned benefit of another. Why? Because the object of those "rights" are man-made, not found free in nature. Voluntary trade is essentially the only legitimate method of acquiring the product of another man's work (leaving aside charity or inheritance).

Amnesty International, in other words, advocates socialism. Socialism is the political implementation of collectivism, the doctrine that holds that the individual is secondary and subordinate to the primary unit of value which is the group...i.e., "society", the "public", the "people", etc. Since the "group" is not an entity of any kind but merely an aggregation of individuals, someone must represent the group. Who? The state. The individual, then, being only a component of the group, belongs to it's representative...the state, which can dispose of the product of his labor in any way it deems necessary to fulfill the "rights" it guarantees to "the people".

It necessarily follows, then, that the concept of the inalienable rights of the individual, properly understood and as stated in the American Declaration of Independence, is an obstacle to socialists and must be discredited. Therefore, America, the nation of inalienable individual rights, must be discredited to pave the way for socialism. Leftist organizations like AI, though, do not usually attack America on direct philosophical grounds. Instead, they rely on "hit" pieces like the Laurenti article, which uses the death penalty issue as window dressing.

AI does commendable work exposing and opposing political repression. But, in classic leftist fashion, it advocates economic repression. But economic freedom and political freedom are corollaries. Political freedom rests on the foundation of economic freedom. A man who can have his property legally seized to satisfy someone else's "right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family" is not free, economically or politically. A man whose "rights" are not an inalienable endowment of nature but rather an arbitrary creation of the state does not possess rights but privileges which can be revoked at any time to satisfy the privileges of others. To be economically free means to possess the exclusive right to dispose of the product of one's productive efforts.

Socialism, upon which rests AI's reason for being, is tyranny. Whether fully (communism, fascism, or national socialism), or partially (welfare statism) implemented, it is in essence a tribal social system based on the forced subservience of the individual to the rulers.

The only opposite, the antitheses, philosophically, morally, and practically to socialism is capitalism (which doesn't exist anywhere today except in bits and pieces). If Amnesty International were a true advocate of human rights, it would advocate Capitalism, the only politico-economic social system that upholds and guarantees both political and economic human rights.

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