Amnesty International leader: left must join war on terror

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Nov 15 06:02:02 MST 2003

Why the antiwar left must confront terrorism
The director of Amnesty International USA warns that the left must confront
terror with the same zeal that it battles Bush -- or risk irrelevance.

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By Mark Follman,

Nov. 15, 2003  |  More than two years into the Bush administration's
lurching war on terror, William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty
International USA, is aiming some of his sharpest criticism not at the
White House, but at the American political left. His message: Take on the
terror threat, or risk irrelevance.

War protesters of various stripes, alongside anti-globalization and human
rights activists, have staged several large rallies nationwide this year,
channeling their anger at the Bush administration through slogans like "No
blood for oil," "End the imperialist occupation" and "Regime change begins
at home." But in an interview with Salon, Schulz said that the political
left has thus far botched a key mission. "There's been a failure to give
the necessary attention, analysis and strategizing to the effort to counter
terrorism and protect our fundamental right to security," he said. "It's a
serious problem."

In his new book, "Tainted Legacy: 9/11 and the Ruin of Human Rights,"
Schulz argues that rising global terrorism requires the left "to rethink
some of our most sacred assumptions." A vigorous defense of human and civil
liberties, while essential to spreading democracy worldwide, is not enough
to stop terrorists from blowing up airplanes or shopping malls, he says.
And that presents the left with a problem, because some of the tools needed
to fight terror, such as stricter border controls or beefed up intelligence
work -- and, perhaps, war against states that support terrorists -- chafe
against traditional leftist values.

But protecting America's borders as well as its treasured freedoms is a
daunting task. There is ample reason to decry (as Amnesty has) the deeply
invasive potential of the PATRIOT Act, the secretive rounding up and
prolonged detention of more than 1,200 Arabs and Muslims nationwide, and
the alleged coercion -- some would call it torture -- of terror suspects by
the U.S. government. Of equal concern is Washington's current distaste for
multilateral diplomacy, which puts crucial alliances at risk at a time of
mounting global turmoil. But it's not enough, Schulz says, to launch
defiant rhetoric at a barreling, unilateralist Bush administration, even
when its policies threaten to bulldoze the very cornerstones of democracy.

He raises some hard questions: If there's reason to believe the New York
City subway is a prime terrorist target, should we really object to
surveillance cameras in the name of privacy rights, especially if use of
the evidence they obtain is limited? If democratic elections would bring a
radical Islamist government to power in Pakistan that might distribute
nuclear weapons to terrorists, should we still call for democracy there
over military rule?


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