A senior official at Amnesty International, Gita Sahgal, has gone public and has openly accused the human rights organization of collaborating with terrorist suspects. In the Sunday Times, Richard Kerbaj writes that Sahgal has taken this step because she feels that Amnesty has ignored warnings about the involvement of a prominent British Islamist, Moazzam Begg, in Amnesty’s “Counter Terror with Justice” campaign:
“I believe the campaign fundamentally damages Amnesty International’s integrity and, more importantly, constitutes a threat to human rights,” Sahgal wrote in an email to the organisation’s leaders on January 30. “To be appearing on platforms with Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban, whom we treat as a human rights defender, is a gross error of judgment.”
Gita Sahgal has been suspended from her post at Amnesty.
The Islamist tactic of embarrassing and isolating human rights organizations by methods that include infiltration and false propaganda is not a new one. In Eastern Europe organizations like Prague Watchdog, which monitors human rights in Russia’s North Caucasus, have long tolerated the unauthorized appropriation of their material by jihadist websites which republish it without attribution, and try forcibly to establish an association in this way. While Prague Watchdog has not yet been infiltrated, it is the object of virulent attacks by sites like Kavkaz Center, which seek to weaken its influence and harm its reputation.
A recent U.S. intelligence assessment points to the high level of support for Al Qaeda among Britain’s Muslims and expresses concern that the U.K. now presents a major security threat to the West. Con Coughlin in the Telegraph has the details.
It’s interesting to see the waves of hyperbolic indignation that are currently sweeping sections of the Western liberal media in connection with the banning from the United Kingdom of Dutch MP Geert Wilders. In the Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash compares the UK to East Germany and Burma, and writes that in Britain civil liberty is “facing death by a thousand cuts”. In the FT, Larry Siedentop argues that for civil liberty to work in the UK, it must be extended universally, as an absolute principle, for otherwise the Muslim migrants will see themselves as discriminated against.
These are blind and wrongheaded arguments, which above all make the victim into the culprit. For it’s precisely the aim of demagogues like Wilders to undermine civil liberty and increase social and inter-ethnic tension. The British authorities were therefore quite justified in excluding him. A central tenet of our Western democracy is that free speech is not an absolute and universal right, but a privilege that must be earned by responsible speech and behaviour. Critics of the Home Secretary’s decision refer to a “moral decline” in British political life which they claim is evidenced by the Wilders banning, and they particularly point to what they say is a similar “decline” in the United States.
The fact that the United States and United Kingdom are conducting a courageous and difficult fight against a surge of international terrorism sponsored at least in part by despotic rogue states that include Iran, Syria and Russia seems to escape the advocates of this spurious notion of liberty. Personally, I see the moral decline in those critics of the U.S. and Israel who are currently generating dangerous currents of Western public opinion that are redolent of the 1930s.
At LGF, a further report on a prolonged dispute between U.S. web sites throws light on the Internet activity of pro-Putin and pro-Serb nationalist lobbyists who seek to exploit the Western public’s fears of terrorism in order to gain credibility for their views.
As an LGF commenters points out, perhaps one of the most succinct analyses of this phenomenon was given by a former lieutenant colonel in the Soviet KGB, who in 2007 wrote, among other things:
Americans generally believe that Russia is afraid of Islamic terrorism as much as the U.S.A. They are reminded of the war in Chechnya, the hostage crisis at the Beslan School in 2004 and at the Moscow Theater in 2002, and of the apartment house blasts in Moscow in 1999, where over 200 people were killed. It is clear that Russians are also targets of terrorism today.
But in all these events, the participation of the FSB, Federal Security Service, inheritor to the KGB, is also clear. Their involvement in the Moscow blasts has been proven by lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin, a former FSB Colonel. For this he was illegally imprisoned, and is now suffering torture and deprivation of medical assistance, from which he is not likely to survive.
A key distinction between Russian and American attitudes towards Islamic terrorism is that while for America terrorism is largely seen as an exterior menace, Russia uses terrorism as an object as a tool of the state for manipulation in and outside the home country. Islamic terrorism is only part of the world of terrorism. Long before Islamic terrorism became a global threat, the KGB had used terrorism to facilitate the victory of world Communism.
For some in the Middle East, the images of Russian tanks rolling into Georgia in defiance of U.S. opposition have revived warm memories of the Cold War.Syrian President Bashar al-Assad flew last week to Moscow, where he endorsed Russia’s offensive in Georgia and, according to Russian officials, sought additional Russian weapon systems.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s influential son, echoed the delight expressed in much of the Arab news media. “What happened in Georgia is a good sign, one that means America is no longer the sole world power setting the rules of the game,” the younger Gaddafi was quoted as telling the Russian daily Kommersant. “There is a balance in the world now. Russia is resurging, which is good for us, for the entire Middle East.”
In Turkey, an American and European ally that obtains more than two-thirds of its natural gas from Russia, the reaction was more complex. Turks watched as the United States, NATO and a divided European Union hesitated in the face of Russian military assertiveness, leaving them more doubtful than they already were about depending on the West to secure U.S.-backed alternative oil and gas supply lines.
The possibility that Islamist movements in Europe and probably also further afield to some extent work in harmony with the Putin/Medvedev schemes in the field of military and foreign policy is evidenced by an interesting statement by the Finnish Islamic Party (Suomenislamilainenpuolue), which aims to represent the interests of Finland’s small Muslim minority. The statement condemns the “aggressive acts of the Georgian leadership” and gives the party’s full support to Russia. It also makes a savage attack on the president and government of Estonia, and demands that President Saakashvili be put on trial for war crimes. Although Finland’s Muslims are mostly Tatars, and have little time for fundamentalist ideology, the document is a curious and revealing indicator of the sort of sources where the Kremlin may really be deriving support in today’s world. The fact that the Hamas organization was the first to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia may not be a coincidence.
That some voices in Finland may be helping to foment a movement which they call a “Russian Intifada” among Estonia’s Russian-speaking minority is shown by this blog, which is dedicated to the subject.
There has long been a noted connection between the Kremlin and Islamist groupings, and it is no secret that, as Alexander Litvinenko pointed out before he was brutally murdered in London, Al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri trained at a Federal Security Service (the former Russian KGB) base in Dagestan in 1998.
According to Zakayev, al Qaeda is “a global provocation, designed to clash the Islamic world with the Western world, thus weakening both sides as much as possible. Those who capitalize on that are Russia, China and their allies in the totalitarian camp.” Zakayev is almost certainly correct.
For those who curse the United States and Israel, who embrace various conspiracy theories, I offer this caveat. Do you want Russia and China to dominate the world? Would you trust the heirs of Mao Zedong and the disciples of Felix Dzerzhinsky to keep the peace, to maintain freedom, to further global prosperity? Do you want the legacy of Ivan the Terrible and the first Ch’in Emperor?
Although one wonders whether the presence of the Guantánamo Bay Prison did not, in fact, deter other 9/11s that might have occurred in its absence, the points raised by Jeremy Putley in his Online Review discussion of the issues do give one pause for thought. In particular, one remembers Bush’s endorsement of Putin…
Of course, the United States is not the only country that uses torture. It is endemic in the Russian penal system, and in China’s; both the largest country in the world and the most populous torture their own citizens. But the conduct of the US is the saddest case of a nation corrupted, because it is no longer that “shining city on a hill” that once represented a standard for the world to emulate; and because it is the US leadership itself that has seen fit to depart so radically from America’s core values.
On the evidence provided by Andy Worthington and the other authoritative books referred to here, the judgment has to be that the US over-reacted to the events of 9/11. Quite apart from the perverse decision to go to war in Iraq, what other verdict could there be, considering its adoption of torture as a method of punishment, and torture as a technique for the gathering of faulty intelligence?