23 May 2007

Amnesty International? More Like A**holes International

Sorry for the intemperate language, but while I've always harbored a soft spot for Amnesty International despite its being wrong at lest half the time, they've finally veered off into total demagogic crazyland. I'm sure they still get it right occasionally, if only on the stopped clock scale of things, but their latest pronouncement equating Australia's democratically elected Prime Minister John Howard with mass murdering despots like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Sudan's Omar Al-Bashir not only stands truth and logic on its head, it's an insult to the intelligence and decency of the millions of people who in good faith have supported Amnesty International with their contributions.

Honorable people can disagree about the merits of John Howard. The majority of my Australian friends don't like him and will vote against him in this year's elections. But note that word: "elections." There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that if the voting goes against him (as polls indicate is likely) Howard will do anything other than gracefully step aside and hand government over to his Labor opposition. There's never been a hint of the rigged ballots and stormtrooper tactics of intimidation employed by the African strongmen, let alone the systematic racial oppression and (at least in Bashir's case, though some would argue in Mugabe's as well) genocide.

So how did Howard get on this list? It might help you to understand where AI is coming from if I point out that George Bush was also lumped in with the tyrants while numerous sub-Saharan and Middle Eastern dictators, not to mention the leaders of Cuba or China, neither of which has held a free election many decades, were conspicuously absent from this denunciation.

Another case, then, of teenage hormonal communism and/or anarchism in which Dad is denounced as a fascist for not providing Junior with his own Gold Card? More or less, though given its long, and at one time more respectable history, one might expect a higher standard of discourse from an organization with nearly five decades and an annual income in excess of $60 million behind it.

Amnesty's case against Howard, such as it is, revolves around the popular misconception that he is a xenophobe who has transformed a once-liberal Australia into a hotbed of anti-immigrant sentiment. The facts speak otherwise: during his 11 years in office, Australia has consistently accepted new immigrants at a rate 60 to 100% higher than under the supposedly more "open" and "tolerant" administration of his Labor predecessor. There has been a similar increase in the number of Muslim immigrants, despite the constant chorus from the hard left accusing Howard of being an Islam-basher.

Just what did Howard do, then, to incur the wrath of the Amnesty demagogues and truth-manglers? Most likely it was his largely successful effort to transform Australia's immigration system from a shambolic free-for-all into the sort of merit-based system that is currently being proposed here in the USA. Howard contended that the boatloads of "asylum seekers" regularly arriving on Australian shores were in fact largely economic migrants, and as such shouldn't be given preference over those attempting to emigrate to Australia by legal means.

His remedy, announcing that future boatloads of refugees could no longer expect to gain automatic Australian residence or even access to the Australian mainland, aroused strong feelings on both sides of the issue, but the results seem to have supported Howard's argument: since his new policy was instituted, the flow of (take your pick) illegal immigrants/asylum seekers has virtually dried up. Howard's supporters point out with some justification that if the refugees were genuine asylum seekers and as desperate as they claim to be, the inability to reach Australian soil would not put them off: they would be happy to find sanctuary anywhere away from their home country. But such has not been the case.

Howard gets similarly skewered for his alleged mistreatment of indigenous people, but what he has in fact done is try to reverse several decades of failed policies that, by providing them with welfare benefits and the "freedom" to destroy themselves and their communities with rampant alcoholism, petrol-sniffing and sexual abuse, all in the name of "cultural autonomy," were essentially killing the aborigines with benevolent neglect. Howard has been branded as a racist and even (by some in the more hysterical left) a "genocidal maniac" for suggesting such obvious programs as requiring native peoples to send their children to school, bring them for regular medical checkups, and practice basic hygiene in return for their continued participation in welfare programs.

And however one feels about Bush, and whatever other failings you can charge him with, it's ludicrous to make accusations of racism or xenophobia against the president of the country which is and historically has been the world's single greatest destination for immigrants and refugees of all sorts. Or, for that matter, the country which arguably is the most integrated and provides greater opportunities for people of all colors, religions and ethnicities than anywhere else on earth.

I can't say that I'll never contribute to Amnesty International again because, to be honest, I never have done so in the past. But I have attended benefits and seriously considered making donations on occasion, neither of which I can see myself doing in the future now that the lunatics and hatemongers have clearly taken control of the asylum.

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