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Asking Amnesty International to Oppose War

Asking Amnesty International to Oppose War

by David Swanson
May 7, 2013

Some human rights groups, especially Amnesty International, seem to have forgotten an important human right: peace. A petition has been launched to remind them.

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These organizations are not the warmongers. They do tremendously great work addressing some of the symptoms of warmaking, including imprisonment and torture. But, because they avoid taking any position on war, and because of an apparent bias in favor of U.S. military intervention, they sometimes find themselves effectively promoting war and all the horrors that come with it. At Nuremberg to initiate a war of aggression was called the supreme international crime "encompassing the evil of the whole." Yet human rights groups are often on the wrong side of the fundamental question of war.

Amnesty International (AI) promoted the babies-taken-from-incubators hoax that helped launch the 1991 war on Iraq. AI has upheld the pretense that the US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan is about women's rights. And now Amnesty International is highlighting warmaking in Syria's civil war by one side only:

"Our team of researchers on the ground found evidence that government forces bombed entire neighborhoods and targeted residential areas with long-range surface-to-surface missiles," said an AI fundraising email on April 29th that made no mention of abuses committed by Syrian rebels supported by the U.S. and its allies.

This one-sided treatment by a group supposedly dedicated to all humans fuels the fires of a wider war from which the people of Syria can only suffer.

The email continued: "Amnesty has a strong track record of using our on-the-ground findings to pressure governments and the United Nations Security Council to hold those responsible for the slaughter of civilians accountable."

Does it? When the United States kills civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya, AI's silence has often been deafening. Shouldn't a human rights group press for an end to the killing of all humans by all parties?

While many good individuals who work for human rights groups like AI oppose wars, these organizations officially ignore President Eisenhower's warning and a half-century of evidence regarding the power of the military industrial complex -- and they ignore the criminality of war under the U.S. Constitution, the U.N. Charter, the Kellogg-Briand Pact and other laws.

These groups accept the existence of war (when not encouraging it) and then focus on specific crimes and abuses within the larger war-making enterprise. They promote the idea that human rights are governed by two sets of laws, one in peace and another weaker set in war. Voices for the human right to peace are missing and badly needed, as "humanitarianism" and "the right to protect" are used as excuses for war and intervention.

Amnesty International opposes imprisonment without trial and other abuses unless they adhere to the "laws of war," which is why AI is not opposing the outrageous charges leveled against Bradley Manning. Killing is opposed unless it adheres to the "laws of war." Under this standard, we pretend not to know whether blowing families up with drones is legal or not as long as the memos purporting to legalize it are kept hidden.

Groups like Amnesty oppose particular weapons, including the development of fully autonomous weapons (drones that fly themselves). No one in their right mind would oppose that step. But surely the human right not to be blown up does not vanish if the button is pushed by a person instead of an autonomous robot. Other organizations are pushing to ban all weaponized drones from the world.

Human rights groups should join the peace movement in targeting war and militarism itself, rather than just some of its symptoms. Amnesty International and all groups favoring human rights should be asked to oppose a U.S. escalation of war on Syria.


David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at and and works for He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and Facebook.

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