The Blog

Calling It Like They See It

Amnesty International looks at the war in Iraq and sees atrocities on both sides. Of course some atrocities are worse than others . . .

6:00 AM, Apr 3, 2003 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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LAST SUNDAY on "Meet the Press," Tim Russert confronted Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed Al-Douri, with evidence of Iraqi human-rights abuses documented by Amnesty International. Asked for comment, Al-Douri demurred, saying, "Amnesty International is not reliable for me. . . . They are a part of the war propaganda of United States and Britain. They are not neutral so I cannot accept their witnesses, what they are saying."

Whatever you think of Al-Douri's comments, he's right about one thing: Amnesty International certainly isn't neutral. They are quite biased--against the United States.

A visit to Amnesty International USA's website reveals this astonishing headline: "Iraq: Fear of War Crimes By Both Sides." The accompanying March 26 press release spends five paragraphs castigating coalition forces for "war crimes" on account of the U.S. effort to take Iraq's state-run television station off the air. Claudio Cordone, a senior director for international law at Amnesty International, says, "The bombing of a television station simply because it is being used for purposes of propaganda is unacceptable."

One supposes that reasonable people could disagree on whether or not Iraqi TV constituted a real threat and deserved to be targeted. But Amnesty International goes further. Cordone accuses the United States of accepting the doctrine of "total war." This despite mountains of evidence that coalition commanders have planned every single aspect of the war around the pillar of protecting civilians.

You would think that if bombing Iraqi TV gets Cordone that fired up, he would be in a state of apoplexy about what the Iraqi military has done: shooting and hanging civilians; using hospitals, mosques, and homes to hide soldiers; executing and abusing prisoners of war. You would, of course, be wrong.

After five paragraphs excoriating the United States, Amnesty International spends exactly four sentences on Saddam Hussein's regime. Their denunciation reads in full:

Iraqi forces are reported to have deliberately shelled civilians in Basra and to placing [sic] military objectives in close proximity to civilians and civilian objects. There have also been reports of Iraqis dressed in civilian clothes in order to allow surprise attacks on coalition troops.

"Any direct attack on civilians is a war crime. Those who blur the distinction between combatants and civilians undermine the very foundations of humanitarian law," said Claudio Cordone.

Other recent Amnesty International press releases are similar in tone. One bemoaned the coalition's use of cluster bombs. Another started, promisingly enough, by taking Iraqi soldiers to task for using fake surrenders to stage ambushes on coalition troops. The group's executive director, William F. Schulz, managed to call these tactics "perfidy." (Whoa, Bill! Take it easy on the invective!) But a few sentences later, Amnesty International returns to form, attacking the United States for the March 31 incident in which seven Iraqi women and children were killed when their vehicle stormed a coalition checkpoint.

In a final bit of posturing, Amnesty International urges people to write President Bush, even going so far as to provide a handy, pre-fab letter. And this isn't just moral equivalence--they don't suggest any way for individuals to pressure the Iraqi regime.

All of which suggests that Mohammed Al-Douri should engage Amnesty International. He's unlikely to find a more sympathetic foe.

Jonathan V. Last is online editor of The Weekly Standard.