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Nick Cohen
Thursday 5th November 2009
The Decline of Amnesty International

Although largely forgotten, the Bosnian War remains the defining conflict of our age, reshaping what it means to be left or right wing. The sight of Europe standing by while Serbs slaughtered the Bosnian Muslims was a major recruiting tool for Islamo-fascism. The supposedly centre-right Major government disgraced itself by anticipating Michael Moore and degenerating into ever more bizarre anti-Americanism and the left, which claims to be against Islamphobia, was just as bad. (I cover the confusions and betrayals of the time in my book What's Left?) As I and many others noted the most devious apologist for crimes against humanity was Noam Chomsky. It is a sign of the decadence of Amnesty International, an organization which professes to oppose crimes against humanity, that it has invited the professor to deliver a lecture in Ireland.

   My colleague Ed Vulliamy, whose honest coverage of Bosnia infuriated Chomsky and his crew, delineates in detail Amnesty's shame.

 I have been contacted by a number of people regarding Amnesty International's invitation to Professor Noam Chomsky to lecture in Northern Ireland.

The communications I have received regard Prof. Chomsky's role in revisionism in the story of the concentration camps in northwestern Bosnia in 1992, which it was my accursed honour to discover.

As everyone interested knows, a campaign was mounted to try and de-bunk the story of these murderous camps as a fake - ergo, to deny and/or justify them - the dichotomy between these position still puzzles me.

The horror of what happened at Omarska and Trnopolje has been borne out by painful history, innumerable trials at the Hague, and - most importantly by far - searing testimony from the survivors and the bereaved. These were places of extermination, torture, killing, rape and, literally "concentration" prior to enforced deportation, of people purely on grounds of ethnicity.

Prof. Chomsky was not among those ("Novo" of Germany and "Living Marxism" in the UK) who first proposed the idea that these camps were a fake. He was not among those who tried unsuccessfully (they were beaten back in the High Court in London, by a libel case taken by ITN) to put up grotesque arguments about fences around the camps, which were rather like Fred Leuchter's questioning whether the thermal capacity of bricks was enough to contain the heat needed to burn Jews at Auschwitz. But Professor Chomsky said many things, from his ivory tower at MIT, to spur them on and give them the credibility and energy they required to spread their poisonous perversion and denials of these sufferings. Chomsky comes with academic pretensions, doing it all from a distance, and giving the revisionists his blessing. And the revisionists have revelled in his endorsement.

In an interview with the Guardian, Professor Chomsky paid me the kind compliment of calling me a good journalist, but added that on this occasion (the camps) I had "got it wrong". Got what wrong?!?! Got wrong what we saw that day, August 5th 1992 (I didn't see him there)? Got wrong the hundreds of thousands of families left bereaved, deported and scattered asunder? Got wrong the hundreds of testimonies I have gathered on murderous brutality? Got wrong the thousands whom I meet when I return to the commemorations? If I am making all this up, what are all the human remains found in mass graves around the camps and so painstakingly re-assembled by the International Commission for Missing Persons?

These people pretend neutrality over Bosnia, but are actually apologists for the Milosevic/Karadzic/Mladic plan, only too pathetic to admit it. And the one thing they never consider from their armchairs is the ghastly, searing, devastating impact of their game on the survivors and the bereaved. The pain they cause is immeasurable. This, along with the historical record, is my main concern. It is one thing to survive the camps, to lose one's family and friends - quite another to be told by a bunch of academics with a didactic agenda in support of the pogrom that those camps never existed. The LM/Novo/Chomsky argument that the story of the camps was somehow fake has been used in countless (unsuccessful) attempts to defend mass murderers in The Hague.

For decades I have lived under the impression that Amnesty International was opposed to everything these people stand for, and existed to defend exactly the kind of people who lost their lives, family and friends in the camps and at Srebrenica three years later, a massacre on which Chomsky has also cast doubt. I have clearly been deluded about Amnesty. For Amnesty International, of all people, to honour this man is to tear up whatever credibility they have estimably and admirably won over the decades, and to reduce all they say hitherto to didactic nonsense.

Why Amnesty wants to identify with and endorse this revisionist obscenity, I do not know. It is baffling and grotesque. By inviting Chomsky to give this lecture, Amnesty condemns itself to ridicule at best, hurtful malice at worst - Amnesty joins the revisionists in spitting on the graves of the dead. Which was not what the organisation was, as I understand, set up for. I have received a letter from an Amnesty official in Northern Ireland which reads rather like a letter from Tony Blair's office after it has been caught out cosying up to British Aerospace or lying over the war in Iraq - it is a piece of corporate gobbledygook, distancing Amnesty from Chomsky's views on Bosnia, or mealy-mouthedly conceding that they are disagreed with.

There is no concern at all with the victims, which is, I suppose, what one would expect from a bureaucrat. In any event, the letter goes nowhere towards addressing the revisionism, dispelling what will no doubt be a fawning, self-satisfied introduction in Belfast and rapturous applause for the man who gives such comfort to Messrs Karadzic and Mladic, and their death squads. How far would Amnesty go in inviting and honouring speakers whose views it does not necessarily share, in the miserable logic of this AI official in Belfast? A lecture by David Irving on Joseph Goebbels? Alistair Campbell on how Saddam really did have those WMD? The Chilean Secret Police or Colonel Oliver North on the communist threat in Latin America during the 70s and 80s? What about Karadzic himself on the "Jihadi" threat in Bosnia, and the succulence of 14-year-old girls kept in rape camps?

I think I am still a member of AI - if so, I resign. If not, thank God for that. And to think: I recently came close to taking a full time job as media director for AI. That was a close shave - what would I be writing now, in the press release: "Come and hear the great Professor Chomsky inform you all that the stories about the camps in Bosnia were a lie - that I was hallucinating that day, that the skeletons of the dead so meticulously re-assembled by the International Commission for Missing Persons are all plastic? That the dear friends I have in Bosnia, the USA, the UK and elsewhere who struggle to put back together lives that were broken by Omarska and Trnopolje are making it all up?

Some press release that would have been. Along with the owner of the site of the Omarska camp, the mighty Mittal Steel Corporation, Amnesty International would have crushed it pretty quick. How fitting that Chomsky and Mittal Steel find common cause. Yet how logical, and to me, obvious. After all, during the Bosnian war, it was the British Foreign Office, the CIA, the UN and great powers who, like the revisionists Chomsky champions, most eagerly opposed any attempt to stop the genocide that lasted, as it was encouraged by them and their allies in high politics to last, for three bloody years from 1992 until the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.

Yours, in disgust and despair,

Ed Vulliamy,
The Observer.

Hat tip Harry's Place

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November 26th, 2009
4:11 PM
'The sight of Europe standing by while Serbs slaughtered the Bosnian Muslims was a major recruiting tool for Islamo-fascism'- up to a point, Lord Copper. Plenty of western journalists oiled the wheels of this 'recruiting tool' with their 'committed' reporting of the war, not least Ed Vuillamy, who several years after its end was still proclaiming that 'hundreds of thousands' died in that conflict (when the actual, verified total of mortal casualities is just over 100,000).

Fabio P.Barbieri
November 21st, 2009
7:11 AM
Sometimes it pays to take things personally and judge groups according to their members. Back in 1994, I had a dreadful time with a person of whom I will say nothing more than that she would have made a saint feel murderous. And no, it was not a sentimental relationship or anything of the kind. We just lived in the same shared house. But that is a test of character; short of working together or having a relationship, there is no faster and more bruising way to find out all the bad things about someone. It turned out that this odious person, who was personally dedicated to the unhappiness and ruination of others (and whom I found out to have serious issues of her own which she was too cowardly to confront) was a devoted member of Amnesty International. Until then I had been sympathetic to the organization, but from then on I had a strong prejudice against it: if that, I felt, was the kind of member it attracted... And now Wien1938 tells us that the rotting of AI into an anti-American lobbying group became visible in the early nineties. Right! The person in question was also a keen reader of the New Internationalist - the archetype of a Blame-the-West-for-everything rag. So I had a little reason, beyond personal revulsion, to find her politics dubious.

November 16th, 2009
11:11 AM
excuse my naivete here, but this is a topic i don't have too much expertise it. chomsky's take on these camps is similar to his take on the cambodian auto-genocide, and similar to faurisson's holocaust denial, which is to systematically dismiss the evidence of witnesses and survivors. but of course he does this selectively. he dotes on every account, no matter how implausible from palestinian sources about israeli (not hamas or fatah) abuses. i understand his "motivation" in these other cases. what drives him to these positions in Bosnia

November 15th, 2009
1:11 PM
my site, the augean stables, is up and running and that link works fine. I just put up another post on the "human rights" ngos, this time on HRW's pathetic attempt to deflect substantive criticism.

November 8th, 2009
8:11 PM
You would of thought that people who write about the LM vs ITN court case would actually know what they are talking about. True LM lost the case, but it was not for false claims, the picture was not of a concentration camp, the judge agreed LM got it right. The issue was once again another absurd example of libel law in this country. The judge slapped down LM because he thought that someone reading it may think that LM were suggesting that the ITN lot were intentionally lying and set up the picture with the aim to decieve. Please stop bashing LM or its descendants over this case, they were right, but got screwed by the legal system.

November 5th, 2009
7:11 PM
Found it. This copy is located at the Augean Stables.

November 5th, 2009
7:11 PM
Apologies. Just discovered that site is now dead...searching for another copy.

November 5th, 2009
7:11 PM
This does not surprise me. AI have ben steadily politicised over the years since the early 1990s. They are now more an anti-American agenda group than interested in human rights. Read "The Human Rights Complex" at The agenda of the "human rights" industry is about on the victims but whom the perpetrator might be.

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About Nick Cohen

Nick Cohen is a columnist for the Observer and author of You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom (Fourth Estate) and What's Left? How The Left Lost Its Way (Harper Perennial). Living With Lies, a collection of his writing for Standpoint, is available as an ebook. 

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