Amnesty and its impartiality


9:10 am - February 12th 2010

by Conor Foley    


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The suspension of Gita Sahgal for allegedly briefing the Sunday Times against her employer, Amnesty International, follows the suspension a few months ago by a Human Rights Watch employee, Marc Garlasco, who was revealed to be a collector of Second World War memorabilia.

Perhaps predictably, some of the people who were most vociferous in calling for Garlasco’s suspension have been equally forthright in calling Sahgal’s reinstatement.

I do not know either Sahgal or Garlasco and I do not know all the circumstances surrounding their suspensions, but I do have some experience of operating disciplinary procedures in a human rights organisation.

I worked as a middle level manager in Amnesty International UK Section’s Campaign Department 10 years ago and a large part of my job involved personnel issues. I have absolutely no doubt that if a member of my staff had behaved as Sahgal is alleged to have done I would have had to take disciplinary action against her and this applies not just to Amnesty International, but to every management job in every organisation I have done before or since.

As even her friend and supporter, Rahila Gupta, admits here Sahgal was not a whistle-blower because she was not revealing activities that anyone was trying to conceal. She went to the media because she disagreed with a decision that Amnesty had taken to give a platform Moazzam Begg and to work with his organization Cageprisoners on behalf of people detained in Guantánamo Bay.

She must have done it knowing this would be used by journalists like Nick Cohen who is on record as supporting the torture of detainees in certain circumstances, as part of his ongoing campaign to denigrate the organization.

At a professional level I have more sympathy with Garlasco whose hobby, while slightly weird, had no bearing on his professional activities. However, I think that, on balance, Human Rights Watch were right to suspend him and both cases should provide a wake-up call to human rights organizations.

As Frances Crook notes, Amnesty used to operate a very strict ‘joint-platform’ policy in which it was reluctant ever to mount joint campaigns with other organizations. I remember that part of my recruitment process was an in-tray exercise that included telling Campaign Against the Arms Trade why we would not be signing a hypothetical letter to the Guardian with them condemning the sale of arms to Turkey.

I also remember the first report I wrote (with Keir Starmer) coming back full of paragraphs with red lines scored through them because, in by boss’s opinion, they had broken the ‘work on own country’ rule.

These procedures were awful for those of us who had to operate them. Getting out public statements was slow and cumbersome and we often appeared stand-offish and aloof to other organizations. Staff were also expected to observe considerable discretion in their personal lives; a friend of mine who worked as an Indonesia Researcher resigned her job because she fell in love with a resistance leader in East Timor.

It is on that basis that I think Human Rights Watch was right to suspend Garlasco but why I also think that Sahgal’s – on the face of it appalling – behaviour should not detract from her political argument. Her basic criticism of Amnesty is that it has allowed itself to be seen as too close to someone who has strong views on the position of women in society, which many people (myself included) find repugnant.

Begg has every right to hold whatever political views he wants and – as he points out – nearly everyone familiar with the situation in Afghanistan has concluded that ‘engagement and dialogue’ with the Taliban may be the only route to peace in the country.

But, as Southall Black Sisters have noted, ‘We know from experience around the world, including post war Iraq that women’s rights are the first to be traded in such political settlements’. Indeed Amnesty itself has warned of the danger of such a development in Afghanistan.

Some argue that Begg’s actions, for example, in developing dialogue with his former prison guards, could be used as a model for peace-building and that Amnesty should encourage this process. However, I think that misunderstands the basis of how human rights organisations should work in conflict and post-conflict situations.

Despite its name, Amnesty has played a leading role in opposing those who argue that human rights violators should be forgiven in the name of ‘peace and reconciliation’.

I think that the position that it has taken on the ‘justice and peace’ trade-off has sometimes been too dogmatic in places such as Northern Uganda. However, part of the reason why Amnesty International is so important is that it has been so uncompromising in defence of human rights above all other political considerations.

In its statement justifying the suspension of Sahgal, Amnesty made clear that it welcomed a ‘vigorous internal debate’ and my memories of the organisation are that those debates were very vigorous indeed. But one thing that has always held Amnesty together is a realisation that the organisation’s core purpose is bigger and more important than any of our factional considerations or ideological disagreements.

Amnesty is listened to and taken seriously at the highest and lowest levels because of its reputation as a neutral, impartial and independent organisation. It is capable of generating a deluge of letters, faxes, phone calls and emails that may save a life or stop someone from being tortured.

Those who seek to undermine that reputation – for whatever reason – had better be clear that their own ‘higher purpose’ justifies the suffering that will go unchallenged as a result.

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About the author
Conor Foley is a regular contributor and humanitarian aid worker who has worked for a variety of organisations including Liberty, Amnesty International and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He currently lives and works in Brazil and is a research fellow at the Human Rights Law Centre at the University of Nottingham. His books include Combating Torture: a manual for judges and prosecutors and A Guide to Property Law in Afghanistan. Also at: Guardian CIF
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Reader comments


Those who seek to undermine that reputation – for whatever reason – had better be clear that their own ‘higher purpose’ justifies the suffering that will go unchallenged as a result.

Absolutely.
Parading Begg around the place is badly undermining their reputation.
Rather different from criticising his treatment as one amongst many, which I assume we all do.

The Times leader is spot on today.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article7024113.ece

Assume that is what you meant?

Though SBS have got it slightly wrong.
It’s gay rights which go first.
Women’s follow shortly afterwards.

But that’s the way the “left” is going.
Wasn’t it Lindsay German who said that gay rights shouldn’t be a shibolleth?

You’re on the wrong side of this, Conor.

3. astateofdenmark

Amnesty are quite right to loudly, repeatedly and forcefully campaign against Guantanamo. It’s what they were set up for.

They are wrong to run a joint campaign with an individual, for the simple reason that it gives that individual credibility. Amnesty is a brand (whether it likes it or not) and it’s brand is valuable to those whose aims might not be the same as Amnesty’s.

It should stick to it’s core activity and return to studious independence. If it does, I might start donating again.

“Perhaps predictably,” a former Amnesty worker defends Amnesty when an opportunity to oppose American foreign policy comes up.

“Oppose American foreign policy” is my new favourite euphemism for “object to massive network of black prisons for the extrajudicial detention, torture and murder of the guilty, the innocent and persons unknown at the whim of unidentified and unaccountable officials, to which the Americans openly admit operating”.

It’s surely got to be up there with “terrorist suspect” and “surgical strike” in the lexicon of lunacy.

cjcjc: I am not sure this is exactly about ‘sides’ since I agree with your comment that anything which undermines Amnesty’s reputation for independence and impartiality damages its ability to campaign effectively against human rights abuses.

A large number of former Amnesty employees have worked in Afghanistan – getting shot at by the Taliban – so I really do not think you will find many closet supporters of it in the organisation. I am also sure that many of my former colleagues would have also agreed with the points that Sahgal made in her internal memos. Had she resigned from the organisation on a point of principle I wold have had a lot of sympathy for her. But she didn’t did she?

7. John Meredith

Conor, you seem to be saying that it is right for management to suspend any whistle blowing employee who speaks out against what they see as mal-prectice. Really? It is an odd position for anyone on the left to hold, certainly for any trades unionist. How would you react to the government suspending a teacher who wrote to the Times deploring current education policy?

I agree that we can expect management to behave like this, but I am surprised that you can defend it in principle.

“Amnesty is listened to and taken seriously at the highest and lowest levels because of its reputation as a neutral, impartial and independent organisation. ”

I would say that publicly resintstating Saghal and responding to her criticisms would be the best way to secure that. Amnesty’s reputation is evaporating at the moment. Preferring Begg’s worldview to Saghal’s will not look good for the organisation.

“Second World War memorabilia?”

Nice euphemism.

We all know you don’t mean ‘Air Raid Shelter’ signs and ration books, so why don’t you just say “Nazi paraphernalia”?

John: But her position would be closer to that of a senior civil servant in the ministry wouldn’t it? Had she, for example, behaved like Elizabeth Wilmhurst then, yes, I would have sympathy for her.

Brett: well what ‘euphemism’ would you use to describe someone’s hobby of collecting US and German military insignia and kit? (I do know the answer so please don’t bother to reply)

Sunny – can you please restore this article to its original wording.

10. Mike Killingworth

Well, human rights organisations have to make difficult choices. The classic case is ACLU’s decision to support the constitutional rights of the American Nazi party.

I am not convinced by Conor’s shroud-waving at the end of his piece: the reality is that outfits like ACLU or Amnesty from time to time have to take tough decisions in which both Yea and Nay are open to knock-down argument (the Begg case will do nicely) – philosophers & theologians call it “tolerating the intolerant” and if they haven’t come up with a decent answer why should human rights practitioners?

Yes Mike, I agree. This article has been edited without my knowledge or agreement and I have asked Sunny to restore the original wording.

I think that Amnesty was put in a position of having to take disciplinary action against a staff member – because she clearly committed a disciplinary offence. That does not mean that I think the points that she made internally were without merit.

12. John Meredith

“John: But her position would be closer to that of a senior civil servant in the ministry wouldn’t it? ”

No, civil servants are a very special class of employee. But even so, would you support the suspension of a senior civil servant who0 wroite an artricle for th Times claiming that the civil service had become ddangerosuly politicised? Again, I know that civil servant would likely be punished, but would you think that right?

“Brett: well what ‘euphemism’ would you use to describe someone’s hobby of collecting US and German military insignia and kit? (I do know the answer so please don’t bother to reply)”

I would agree with Brett that the best description would be ‘nazi memorabilia’, because that best described (to my mind) the collection. But even if you disgaree, I can’t see how you can think the cases are similar. Sagahl has been suspended for expressing critical opinion, not for being obsessed with nazism.

Not too much to disagree with there, although of course Sahgal insists she wasn’t given a hearing regarding her concerns about Begg and CP. If this is true – and I guess only she and AI know for sure – then I support her decision to go public on this. The only other option available is resignation, but why should she? To describe her behaviour as “appalling” when you have no knowledge of internal discussions that did/did not take place is way over the top.

Also:

She must have done it knowing this would be used by

is not a rational criticism, being as it is a variation on the ‘shoot the messenger’ theme. Those who blew the whistle on Abu Ghraib must have done so knowing this would lead to a backlash of sorts that in turn would mean a few extra dead soldiers and a step backwards in the efforts to bring some sort of normality to Iraq. So were they wrong to blow the lid on what was happening at Abu Ghraib?

Those who seek to undermine that reputation – for whatever reason – had better be clear that their own ‘higher purpose’ justifies the suffering that will go unchallenged as a result.

I don’t doubt that there are those jumping on this issue who would like nothing better than for AI to go to the wall, but there are plenty of us who are critical of the AI-Begg-CP dalliance because we don’t want to see AI’s credibility destroyed. What you say about the joint-platform policy rings true with a comment appearing on LC some days ago from a former AI employee:

As someone who used to work at Amnesty’s International Secretariat, (IS – where Gita Sahgal works), I can recognise a perspective to this story that is perhaps lost in the media narrative. AI is a very cautious, slow moving machine. There is a large amount of process, consultation and internal dialogue involved in any decision taken – under the guise of maintaining AI’s reputation. So listening to Gita on Radio 4 this morning, it seems she is questioning how Cagedprisioners came to be associated with AI (in any capacity), without any documentation of the decision process. At least in theory we were supposed to follow vetting policy on anyone we worked with, down to, say, event caterers.

Point being, ignorance of who and what Begg and CP are is not going to wash. The inescapable conclusion is that senior management in AI looked at both and determined that each was suitable as a campaign bed-fellow.

Those who are genuinely concerned about the undermining of AI’s reputation need to look in the direction of those within AI itself who saw nothing wrong in allying themselves with an organisation and person whose beliefs are antithetical to their.

” well what ‘euphemism’ would you use to describe someone’s hobby of collecting US and German military insignia and kit?”

Oh pleeese! Anyone interested already knows the background… the Nazi-inspired username on the discusion lists, etc, etc… Well, it’s a side issue, so let’s leave it there.

15. John Meredith

“I think that Amnesty was put in a position of having to take disciplinary action against a staff member – because she clearly committed a disciplinary offence. ”

It is a disciplinary offence to criticse Amnesty policy in public? Maybe you are right. But do you agree that this should be the case? Again, the obvious analogy is with a trade unionist who publicy criticised management strategy, would it be fair to suspend him or her? I am surprised to find people of the left who think it would be.

own.

I think I am broadly in agreement with Brownie here (also with Sunny’s post over at PP which I have just read). I accept his point about staying silent rather than speaking out – although I think a more honourable course would have been for her to resign.

The original wording of this article was a bit more nuanced and included the view that AI is treading dangerously close to the edge of somewhere I don’t think it should be with CP. The final couple of paras were, therefore, as much a criticism of AI’s management as Saghal.

To respond to John, I was a manager in a human rights organisation, which basically trades on its reputation and functions by getting clear simple messages across. I disagreed with the organisation on many occasions and I made my views known internally. But if every time anyone had a political disagreement with the agreed line they went and briefed against the organisation to the media then it would be impossible for it to function.

18. FlyingRodent

John: I heartily invite you to denounce your employers in the national press – in a Murdoch paper, no less – and see whether your boss decides to a) nod and listen to your concerns, b) give you a massive pay increase or c) suspend you.

Whether you agree with Sahgal’s comments or not, the idea that her suspension represents some kind of unbelievable, treacherous outrage is so patently ridiculous on its face that I have to wonder why anyone would attempt to push it as such in the first place.

And @Brett: I absolutely defy you to tell me that you genuinely believed Mark Garlasco was some kind of hideous Nazi and a threat to HRW’s objectivity.

19. John Meredith

“But if every time anyone had a political disagreement with the agreed line they went and briefed against the organisation to the media then it would be impossible for it to function.”

I think that Bertrand Russell dealt with this particular argument along the lines of : ‘and if everyone wanted to be a postman, where would we be? Still, let’s keep the postmen.’

Sahgal has not briefed the papers on every disagreement she has had with the organisation, she has, after long attempts to handle the matter internally, gobne to the papers with an issue that we all seem to agree is of huge importance for the future of Amnesty. Suspending her makes the organisation look defensive and vindictive and, much, much worse, hypocritical. It is time for them to cut their losses, show that they do not have the instincyts of a shabby corporation or govenrmnet ministry, reinstate Sahgal and deistance themselves from CagedPrisoners.

I can’t wait for the day that treacherous anti-Western organisations like Shamnesty are smashed to bits. Then finally the job of monitoring global human rights abuses can be handed over to people who really understand the issues, such as Nick Cohen and Morgoth out of Harry’s Place.

21. John Meredith

“John: I heartily invite you to denounce your employers in the national press – in a Murdoch paper, no less – and see whether your boss decides to a) nod and listen to your concerns, b) give you a massive pay increase or c) suspend you. ”

FlyingRodent, I have said that I am under no illusions that most organisations would persecute any employee who criticised them publicly. I have done enough Union work to have been witness to this. But we are arguing about whether this is RIGHT. Do you think it is? Should whistle blowers be vicitimised?

“The original wording of this article was a bit more nuanced and included the view that AI is treading dangerously close to the edge of somewhere I don’t think it should be with CP. The final couple of paras were, therefore, as much a criticism of AI’s management as Saghal.”

What did it originally say? And why did you remove the nuance?

23. John Meredith

“And @Brett: I absolutely defy you to tell me that you genuinely believed Mark Garlasco was some kind of hideous Nazi and a threat to HRW’s objectivity.”

The question with Garlasco was whether it was approriate for am man who used nazi nicknames online and collected nazi military paraphernalia should be the Israel/Pelestine specialist for a human rights organisation. I think most people think , um, no. But it is, one way or the other, a very different sort of thing.

John: Garlasco was not the Israel/Palestine researcher at HRW. He was recruited from the military to be their military advisor. I think his previous job had been at the Pentagon coordinating military strikes in Iraq or something.

I know lots of people from military backgrounds who have – what I consider a slightly weird – obsession with the Second World War and its various manifestations. He collected military memorabilia – some American and some German – and he chatted about this on-line using an ambiguous pseudonym. From a trade unionist point of view it is very difficult to argue why any of that should have led to his suspension and if he was ever dismissed he would have very clear grounds for suing HRW at an industrial tribunal. I still think HRW were right to suspend him, though, for the reasons I give above.

Saghal’s case is different because she clearly did commit a disciplinary offence – but for reasons which many of us have far more sympathy for.

I am basically in favour of human rights and humanitarian organisations maintaining their traditional police of strict neutrality – in fact I have written an entire book on the subject – and I think that this case should serve as a ‘wake-up call’ for Amnesty.

25. FlyingRodent

Should whistle blowers be vicitimised?

She isn’t being victimised – anyone who attacked their employer in the national press would get the same treatment. It is entirely reasonable behaviour for any employer to do this. Nor is she being “persecuted,” and she’s not a whistle-blower, since everything she’s talking about was done openly in public. This stuff would be obvious to a child, surely. Quite a slow child, at that.

a man who used nazi nicknames online and collected nazi military paraphernalia…

He didn’t use a nazi nickname – why pretend this is the case? And he’s a professional military analyst, i.e. a war nerd. War nerds are well-known for collecting all kinds of stuff that would strike most people as weird and unpleasant.

Nonetheless, I’ll repeat – did anyone seriously believe that Garlasco actually, literally a Nazi or a Nazi sympathiser? Oh, and while I’m at it…

…should be the Israel/Pelestine specialist for a human rights organisation.

Call me suspicious if you will, but I believe the issue at stake for HRW’s critics was, as it is so depressingly often is, more related to the “Israel/Palestine” “human rights” part than it was with the “Nazi” bit. Especially because Brett and his pals were nearly the only people in the general pile-on who weren’t openly mad right wing lunatics.

26. John Meredith

I don’t think we are disagreeing on much Conor, except perhaps whether Sahgal’s actions SHOULD be a disciplinary offence.

I agree, by the way, that Garlasco should not be suspended much less sacked, just that he should not be permitted to advise on the Israel/Palestine conflict which, if I remember rightly, was an important part of his duties. And he did show more than a slight predeliction for specifically nazi and nazi-era German military paraphernalia although he collected other things too.

So Conor, your position is that though Garlasco did nothing wrong and, from a trade unionist point of view, could sue for wrongful dismissal, you still think HRW “were right to suspend him”.

Interesting. Nuanced.

>> Perhaps predictably, some of the people who were most vociferous in calling for Garlasco’s suspension have been equally forthright in calling Sahgal’s reinstatement.

Well, yes… the allegations were that Garlasco’s self-confessed hobby was leeking into his position at HRW, and in conflict with HRW’s founding values.

The defense of Sahgal is that she spoke truth to power against AI partnering with an attested theocrat and supporter of violent jihad, in conflict with AI’s founding values.

The two positions are entirely consistent.

Or d’you think HRW and AI are simply two corporate entities, like Sainsbury’s facing a manager who briefs the press about its food wastage policies?

They can follow this path if they wish… it’s just that they then lack the authority to tell third parties what to do. I don’t listen to Sainsbury’s for advice on universal human rights.

PS There’s no allegedly about it. Sahgal did speak to The Times.

John: my hope is that both of them will get reinstated, but can you tell me how an organisation like Amnesty could possibly function if it did not take disciplinary action in cases like Saghal’s?

31. John Meredith

“She isn’t being victimised”

The perception is very much that she is. What else is her suspoension?

“– anyone who attacked their employer in the national press would get the same treatment.”

But nobody is implying that her victimisation is unique, just that it is wrong.

“It is entirely reasonable behaviour for any employer to do this.”

Really? In every case? Would you agree that it was approriate for an organisation to suspoend a trades unionist who criticied their policy in the press? For the police to suspoend a blogger who satrised police practice?

“Nor is she being “persecuted,” and she’s not a whistle-blower, since everything she’s talking about was done openly in public.”

But most people were not aware of it. She is, for all intents and purposes blowing the whistle. Still, from your point of view it can’t make any difference. It can’t, surely, be more reasonable to suspend an employee for criticising her employer over something already public than one who goes public with something hidden?

“He didn’t use a nazi nickname – why pretend this is the case? And he’s a professional military analyst, i.e. a war nerd. War nerds are well-known for collecting all kinds of stuff that would strike most people as weird and unpleasant.”

We won’t agree on this, but, thankfully, HRW did decide that they would not take more advice on Israel from someone who liked to collect nazi hat badges, so we can leave it to one side.

“Call me suspicious if you will, but I believe the issue at stake for HRW’s critics was, as it is so depressingly often is, more related to the “Israel/Palestine” “human rights” part than it was with the “Nazi” bit. ”

I am surprised that you think these are separate issues.

32. John Meredith

“John: my hope is that both of them will get reinstated, but can you tell me how an organisation like Amnesty could possibly function if it did not take disciplinary action in cases like Saghal’s?”

But Conor, if she is reinstated they will have to.

Brett: well take the other case I mentioned in the article. An AI researcher on Indonesia who fell in love with a leader of the East Timorese resistance. Clearly she had every right to keep her job and her love life, but clearly also doing so would compromise the organisation’s reputation for impartiality and make it easier for the Indonesian government to dismiss its reports. Since people who work for human rights organisations tend to do so because they care about making a positive difference to the human rights situation she thought long and hard about things and decided that she had to choose one or the other. A difficult choice.

34. organic cheeseboard

Should whistle blowers be vicitimised?

she isn’t a whistleblower.

35. John Meredith

“Since people who work for human rights organisations tend to do so because they care about making a positive difference to the human rights situation she thought long and hard about things and decided that she had to choose one or the other. A difficult choice.”

But this is a clear conflict of interest, isn’t it? The worker here should not have been sacked, but offered alternative duties.

Conor, I don’t disagree about the Indonesian example. Clearly you can’t have someone employed as an impartial monitor in a romantic relationship with the leader of one side of the conflict.

37. FlyingRodent

John: The perception is very much that she is (being persecuted).

“The perception” is entirely wrong, and all of these are straightforward and uncontroversial points. She attacked her employer in the press – accused them of betraying their principles and being overly close to the Taliban, IIRC. Try something similar with your employer and see what happens – they’ll suspend you before you can blink regardless of whether you are right or wrong, and that is “any employer, anywhere”. This is surely common sense and the idea that it represents “persecution” or “victimisation” is cracked and probably wilfully so.

Plus, I confirm again – Garlasco did not use a Nazi nickname. War nerds are well known for collecting weird and fucked-up war memorabilia. The vast majority of the people who joined in the pile-on on HRW were rabid right wing lunatics.

Conor, there was a time when AI didn’t endorse Mandela ‘cos of his support of violent insurrection, so not endorsing Fretelin leaders would have been consistent.

As for your hypothetical Indonesian researcher, if there were evidence of her being compromised – like, oh, I don’t know, endorsing a supporter of violent jihad and violence against people whom AI consider to be innocent civilians – I would agree she had to go.

Lemme give my own hypothetical… you may have heard of the Chinese woman in Malaysia who was forced to strip in front of Police officers. Would you approve of AI formally partnering with a local CCP chief to promote awareness of this and other mistreatments of minorities in South Asia?

John and Brett: well it is the same issue then. My friend was not sacked – she resigned.

In Garlasco’s case I presume his suspension was to give HRW time to investigate whether his hobby would have any bearing on his ability to do his job. If it turned out that he did have views that would have made it inappropriate for him to remain a staff member at HRW then I presume they would have taken this to its logical conclusion (we ask an equal ops question at interviews for precisely this reason). In Saghal’s case the suspension is probably pending disciplinary action, which would usually consist of a verbal warning, a written warning or dismissal. My guess is that she will probably just get the first of these (which was not particularly uncommon within AI when I worked there – and I had to administer a few myself).

Oh, look, Rodent talking about how perception is of secondary importance. Remind me, what is his perception of a certain page?

But most people were not aware of it. She is, for all intents and purposes blowing the whistle. Still, from your point of view it can’t make any difference. It can’t, surely, be more reasonable to suspend an employee for criticising her employer over something already public than one who goes public with something hidden?

The difference is that there is a wider public interest in the exposure of genuine wrongdoing by an organisation which overrides the duty of confidentiality which an employee has to their employer.
I don’t think it is particularly relevant that not many people were aware of AI’s association with MB and CP – I would guess that it is something which relatively few people would take an interest in anyway. This association was still a public one and there were already people outside AI who had raised an objection.
That doesn’t mean that it was neccesarily a sensible decision to suspend her, but AI were perfectly within their rights do so and I don’t think that it can sensible be deemed “victimisation”.

42. John Meredith

“She attacked her employer in the press – accused them of betraying their principles and being overly close to the Taliban, IIRC. Try something similar with your employer and see what happens”

Rodent, we have been over this, but here it is one more time: nobody denies that other employers would have behaved in the same way but that does not have a bearing on the right and wrong of the matter. It is still wrong to do a wrong thing even if many others do it. And you avoid answering the question of whether an employer should be entitled (as you seem to think) to suspend trade unionists who publicly criticise them. If you think this is such an easy and straighforward question I am sure you have an easy and straightforward answer.

“The vast majority of the people who joined in the pile-on on HRW were rabid right wing lunatics.”

It is frightening to think there are people whose right-wing rabidry takes them beyond collecting nazi memorabilia, but you will know better than me.

43. organic cheeseboard

She is, for all intents and purposes blowing the whistle.

no she’s not. No matter how often people say it, this is not true. she is not a whistleblower – she has not ‘exposed’ anything.

44. John Meredith

“In Garlasco’s case I presume his suspension was to give HRW time to investigate whether his hobby would have any bearing on his ability to do his job. ”

But it is cut and dried, isn’t it? Israel will easily dismiss any report that relies in any way on advice by a collectoor of nazi memorabilia. He clearly has a conflict of interest. So long as HRW employs him in that role, they will be impotent in the middle east.

“I know lots of people from military backgrounds who have – what I consider a slightly weird – obsession with the Second World War and its various manifestations. He collected military memorabilia – some American and some German – and he chatted about this on-line using an ambiguous pseudonym”

So do i Connor , but i think it was the fact that he liked to wear a modern sweatshirt orinted with a WW2 German army logo that did for him. Bit different to collecting authentic historical memorabilia.

46. John Meredith

“but AI were perfectly within their rights do so and I don’t think that it can sensible be deemed “victimisation”.”

I am not disagreeing that AI were acting ‘within their [legal] rights’ just that they were acting wrongly.

A blogger was dismissed from the police recently and my perception was that, generally speaking, the left thought this wrong (although legal). So whatyy the ambivalence in the equivalent Saghal case?

John, which blogger?

From what I can see on this thread, there are people calling themselves Left-wingers who are arguing that if, for example, a union leader went on TV to explain why she and her co-workers were unhappy about some company policy, she should be sacked.

49. FlyingRodent

nobody denies that other employers would have behaved in the same way…

Almost right – nobody denies that all employers would’ve behaved in the same way. I’ve already said that this has no bearing on whether Saghal’s opinion is right or wrong.

And you avoid answering the question of whether an employer should be entitled (as you seem to think) to suspend trade unionists who publicly criticise them.

Saghal is not a trade unionist, so why even ask unless to muddy an already clear cut situation?

See also @Brett: From what I can see on this thread, there are people calling themselves Left-wingers who are arguing that if, for example, a union leader went on TV…

Bullseye!

And I have to repeat this – the facts as laid out above could be grasped by a child, and I’d advise readers to be suspicious of those feigning ignorance and any attempts to turn them into some kind of hideous outrage.

50. FlyingRodent

Israel will easily dismiss any report that relies in any way on advice by a collectoor of nazi memorabilia…

As opposed to the open admissions of guilt and pledges cease bombing heavily-populated urban areas we already get, yes?

I suggest another theory – that Garlasco, like Saghal, merely represented an opportunity for a small part of the British left to concern-troll human rights orgs into adopting their own politics or, if that didn’t work, to frag them into oblivion in the hope that a new, more politically acceptable HR network would magically poof into existence.

I base this theory upon the many occasions in which the same small part of the British left has leapt hungrily upon any old bullshit that could prove damaging to human rights orgs, pimping them so hard you’d imagine that they all wear purple suits and drive Cadillacs with leopard-skin interiors.

Brett, check out discussions on Scottish blogs about Nicola Sturgeon writing a letter of defense for a man who’d defrauded the DWP out of hundreds per month for five years, and previously embezzled tens of grands at a local post office… criticism, we’re told, is demanding a “morality test”.

When is Rodent going to start admitting to a pitifully low moral bar, and demanding that everyone else lower themselves to his standards?

52. John Meredith

“Almost right – nobody denies that all employers would’ve behaved in the same way. I’ve already said that this has no bearing on whether Saghal’s opinion is right or wrong. ”

Not all. I recently read a head teacher attacking government policy on the curriculum and there has been no suggestion that she should lose her job.

“Saghal is not a trade unionist, so why even ask unless to muddy an already clear cut situation? ”

What difference does it make? Are you saying that she should not have been suspended if she was a union official, but otherwise should? That is a completely arbitrary distinction.

See also @Brett: From what I can see on this thread, there are people calling themselves Left-wingers who are arguing that if, for example, a union leader went on TV…

Bullseye!

And I have to repeat this – the facts as laid out above could be grasped by a child, and I’d advise readers to be suspicious of those feigning ignorance and any attempts to turn them into some kind of hideous outrage.

>> Saghal is not a trade unionist, so why even ask unless to muddy an already clear cut situation?

Blimey, you must have asbestos cheeks to come out with that guff! She represents the spirit of and actual trade unions!

She has done what a disaffected TU employee might do… would you approve of their suspension?

From what I can see on this thread, there are people calling themselves Left-wingers who are arguing that if, for example, a union leader went on TV to explain why she and her co-workers were unhappy about some company policy, she should be sacked.

No, it is part of a union leader’s job to represent their workers and that includes on occasions publicly arguing their case.

55. John Meredith

“No, it is part of a union leader’s job to represent their workers and that includes on occasions publicly arguing their case.”

It is not part of their contract with their employer. You are making entirely arbitrary distinctions. If it is right to suspend someone for this sort of article, it is right whether or not they are representatives of a trade union.

56. FlyingRodent

I recently read a head teacher attacking government policy on the curriculum and there has been no suggestion that she should lose her job.

Because she’s accountable to her local authority and not to the government. To my knowledge, the government can’t dismiss individual teachers, policemen etc. Let her bash the local authority and see how she gets on, though.

Are you saying that she should not have been suspended if she was a union official, but otherwise should?

No – I’m saying that the trade union issue is a red herring you’re waving because the facts don’t stack up behind your argument about Saghal. Others may be fooled, but I’m well used to having all kinds of obvious diversions wheeled out with a huge cartoon arrow pointing at them flashing “OBVIOUS DIVERSION” on and off in massive, neon letters.

A blogger was dismissed from the police recently and my perception was that, generally speaking, the left thought this wrong (although legal). So whatyy the ambivalence in the equivalent Saghal case?

IIRC he was not dismissed for writing a blog per se but for including details which would enable readers to identify individuals involved in specific cases. My own view is that there is nothing neccessarily wrong with a police officer writing a blog outlining their day to day experiences, including their frustrations, and there is an element of public interest in this. But there must be a limit to the amount of detail, and if it includes, say, direct criticism of his superior officers then he is probably going to get into trouble.

Not all. I recently read a head teacher attacking government policy on the curriculum and there has been no suggestion that she should lose her job.

A head teacher’s employment contract is not with the government.

58. John Meredith

“No – I’m saying that the trade union issue is a red herring you’re waving because the facts don’t stack up behind your argument about Saghal.”

Then you will have to explain why you think it is red herring. You have said (as I understand you) that the same article should not have led to a suspnsion if it had been written by a trade union official, but you can’t explain the moral distinction.

Or do you, as I suspect, simply believe that mangement should have unlimited ‘power to manage’!

59. John Meredith

“IIRC he was not dismissed for writing a blog per se but for including details which would enable readers to identify individuals involved in specific cases. ”

And there may be some children who believe this.

“A head teacher’s employment contract is not with the government.”

That is true. But I know lots of teachers. One has campaigned politically in his local area and directly attacked, as part of the campaign, the disasterous mishandling of school policy by his local authority. He has not been suspended. I doubt many except perhaps FlyingRodent think he should have been. In fact, many people think his position as a teacher adds authority to his views.

60. FlyingRodent

You have said (as I understand you)

I’ve offered no opinion, because you are asking us to say something like Yes, but let’s imagine she was a trade union official…

To which I’m responding, No, let’s not assume she was a trade union official. The only reason why you want me to consider this at all is that your argument is totally buggered without the aid of hypotheticals, and I see no reason to help you out of this particular hole.

It is not part of their contract with their employer. You are making entirely arbitrary distinctions. If it is right to suspend someone for this sort of article, it is right whether or not they are representatives of a trade union.

It is not an arbitrary distinction. If someone is both an employee of a company and a trade union representative then there is a built in conflict of interests there – they have a duty both to their employer and to their fellow employees, so this has to be allowed for.

I’m sorry to interupt, but which Police blogger? I can think only of Dc Richard Horton, who was ‘merely’ disciplined.

Andrew, if an employer didn’t recognize TU membership, would you support the disciplining of a disaffected employee who spoke to the media?

64. John Meredith

“It is not an arbitrary distinction. If someone is both an employee of a company and a trade union representative then there is a built in conflict of interests there – they have a duty both to their employer and to their fellow employees, so this has to be allowed for.”

Allowed for how? Allowed for by whom? I assume by ‘has to be allowed for’ you mean morally. But your distinction is arbitrary. Why should Saghal’s sense of duty to women in the UK and her fellow employees at AI not also be privileged in this way. What is ‘magic’ about union membership/office?

65. John Meredith

“To which I’m responding, No, let’s not assume she was a trade union official. The only reason why you want me to consider this at all is that your argument is totally buggered without the aid of hypotheticals”

I am pointing out that the logical extension of your position is that an epmployer should be permitted to discipline any employee who publicly criticises his or her workplace practices. That just is your position. It would help my argument if you would acknowledge it unequivocally, but your refusal to deny it will do just as well.

66. John Meredith

“I’m sorry to interupt, but which Police blogger?”

I can’t remember, he had quite a famous blog and book, others will know the name.

It’s weirder than Brett thought, John. Individuals presenting themselves as radicals and speakers of truth unto power seem to be appealing to the formal structures of power.

Saghal is not a trade unionist, so why even ask unless to muddy an already clear cut situation?

This us up there with the most weasely comments I’ve read here or anywhere else.

To which I’m responding, No, let’s not assume she was a trade union official. The only reason why you want me to consider this at all is that your argument is totally buggered

No, the only reason why you won’t consider this hypothetical is because it would make it even more obvious than it is already that you’re defneding the indefensible.

Not so much Rodent as Weasel, today.

It is not an arbitrary distinction. If someone is both an employee of a company and a trade union representative then there is a built in conflict of interests there – they have a duty both to their employer and to their fellow employees, so this has to be allowed for.

You mean like being the Head of a Gender at AI after it has aligned itself with an organisation that believes womens’ rights is an oxymoron?

You walked straight into that one, Andrew.

A few days later, when the terror caused by the executions had died down, some of the animals remembered–or thought they remembered–that the Sixth Commandment decreed “No animal shall kill any other animal.” And though no one cared to mention it in the hearing of the pigs or the dogs, it was felt that the killings which had taken place did not square with this.

Clover asked Benjamin to read her the Sixth Commandment, and when Benjamin, as usual, said that he refused to meddle in such matters, she fetched Muriel. Muriel read the Commandment for her. It ran: “No animal shall kill any other animal WITHOUT CAUSE.” Somehow or other, the last two words had slipped out of the animals’ memory. But they saw now that the Commandment had not been violated; for clearly there was good reason for killing the traitors who had leagued themselves with Snowball.

71. John Meredith

“It’s weirder than Brett thought, John. Individuals presenting themselves as radicals and speakers of truth unto power seem to be appealing to the formal structures of power.”

Yes, you are right, and it is very strange to see the flip flop done so shamelessly. FlyingRodent’s entire position is ‘rules is rules and know your place!’, but that does not seem to reflect his/her self-image.

John M,

you place much stock in your experience as a middle manager. That explains your criticisms of Gita Sahgal- they are very middle management.

You are concerned with the minutiae of generic ‘people management’ in an organisation. Sahgal’s actions are those of a visionary and a leader, she has risen far above the world of middle management.

She has dome the world a favour.

And there may be some children who believe this.

That was the legal grounds for his dismissal. I don’t by any means discount the possibility that in reality there was me to it than that.

That is true. But I know lots of teachers. One has campaigned politically in his local area and directly attacked, as part of the campaign, the disasterous mishandling of school policy by his local authority. He has not been suspended. I doubt many except perhaps FlyingRodent think he should have been. In fact, many people think his position as a teacher adds authority to his views.

I think that if I shared his views then I would support him. I see nothing to suggest that FR wouldn’t either. Whether by being part of such a campaign he would technically be in breach of his employment contract and potentially subject to disciplinary action I’m not qualified to say. Not all such cases are directly comparable.

What is ‘magic’ about union membership/office?

It’s a ‘magic’ fig leaf which Andrew and FR believe is shrouding their hypocrisy.

They’re wrong.

there was me to it than that

more to it than that.

76. John Meredith

“Whether by being part of such a campaign he would technically be in breach of his employment contract and potentially subject to disciplinary action I’m not qualified to say. ”

Me neither, but we are not arguing the technical case. I have not claimed that AI is in technical breach of the rules. We are discussing the ethical case. I believe employees should, as a point of principle, be protected from suspension and/or dismissal if they publicly criticise workplace practices. Unions can be an important means of offering this protection but they are a means, not an end in themselves. You seem to disagree.

Andrew, if an employer didn’t recognize TU membership, would you support the disciplining of a disaffected employee who spoke to the media?

I think there are cases where it would be justified. You have to differentiate though between supporting it and recognising the employer’s right to take such action. I’ve said several times in various forums that AI made a mistake in suspending Sahgal.

I think that if I shared his views then I would support him. I see nothing to suggest that FR wouldn’t either. Whether by being part of such a campaign he would technically be in breach of his employment contract and potentially subject to disciplinary action I’m not qualified to say. Not all such cases are directly comparable.

Evasion.

It’s very simple, Andrew:

Ignore for a second whether AI had the legal right to suspend Sahgal. Were they morally right to do so? Alternatively, was Sahgal morally justified in her decision to speak publicly?

In addressing the second question, I’d remind you again that her role within AI was Head of Gender (or something very similar).

I’ve said several times in various forums that AI made a mistake in suspending Sahgal.

Which is not nearly the same as venturing an opinion as to whether the suspension was morally indefensible or whether Sahgal’s public disclosure was morally just.

A strategic “mistake”? A “mistake” because it was bad for PR? Because some bloggers would create a shit-storm?

Christ, Andrew, this is getting worse, not better.

From what I can see on this thread, there are people calling themselves Left-wingers who are arguing that if, for example, a union leader went on TV to explain why she and her co-workers were unhappy about some company policy, she should be sacked.

This is funny coming from the writer of a website that promotes CIF Watch – which is obsessed with criticising Jews who criticise Israel such as Tony Lerman and Seth Freedman because they’re essentially regarded as turncoats.

Well Begg is being showcased at Amnesty HQ in London on Tuesday so we can all go along and make our views known.

Allowed for how? Allowed for by whom? I assume by ‘has to be allowed for’ you mean morally. But your distinction is arbitrary. Why should Saghal’s sense of duty to women in the UK and her fellow employees at AI not also be privileged in this way. What is ‘magic’ about union membership/office?

No I don’t mean morally, I mean legally. The right to union representation is recognised in law. If you can’t understand why that right is a vital one and should be recognised then I’m not going to explain it.

As I said over at PP, I think Gita was wrong to make this into a public spat because that hurts Amnesty more. Amnesty acted like any org would do that make massive accusations in public – I suspect many at her work will feel she betrayed the organisation.

You mean like being the Head of a Gender at AI after it has aligned itself with an organisation that believes womens’ rights is an oxymoron?

No, not like that. An employee has a formal responsibility to her employer, a trade union representative has a formal responsibility to other trade union members. It’s not the same as a conflict between someone’s employer’s actions and their own conscience.

85. FlyingRodent

It would help my argument if you would acknowledge it unequivocally, but your refusal to deny it will do just as well….

…the only reason why you won’t consider this hypothetical is because it would make it even more obvious than it is already that you’re defneding the indefensible…

Frankly bollocks, guys, and useless bollocks on stilts at that.

Go home tonight and accuse your employers of a serious charge in the national press – say, cooking the books, putting mercury in their potato waffles or refusing to buy Alec a new mop – and see what the result is, regardless of whether the allegation is true or false.

Or even just have a quick think about it – obviously they will take disciplinary action, and you’ll almost certainly get suspended. This is simply a fact of reality – I don’t endorse or condemn it, because it’s so totally obvious that there is really no denying it.

What purpose could John’s hypothetical have but to radically alter the paramaters of the discussion so that his argument makes sense? He might as well say Yes, but let’s imagine she’s a unicorn…

Why the hell would anyone chase such an obviously feeble and self-serving argument?

Summary – My contention from the start of this affair has been that some of Amnesty’s fiercest critics are basically dishonest, opportunistic and willing to damage the organisation as badly as they can if it’s in the service of their own politics.

I submit the above bullshit arguments – that Saghal has been “victimised” and “persecuted” and is a “whistle-blower”; well maybe not, but it’s still bloody wrong; well, in that case, let’s all disappear up John Meredith’s arse in pursuit of a hypothetical situation in which his argument may actually make some kind of sense or you are a BASTARD – as evidence for my theory. I think it’s pretty compelling, as it goes.

86. MoreMediaNonsense

“Ignore for a second whether AI had the legal right to suspend Sahgal. Were they morally right to do so? Alternatively, was Sahgal morally justified in her decision to speak publicly?”

To which of course the answer is : No, because by speaking out on this issue she has played into the hands of the HP neocon Zionist agenda and aided the demonisation of Muslims at a time when the war drums are again beating ominously in the Middle East..

Get with it dude.

>> This is funny coming from the writer of a website that promotes CIF Watch – which is obsessed with criticising Jews who criticise Israel such as Tony Lerman and Seth Freedman because they’re essentially regarded as turncoats.

I think you mean “has on the blogroll”. If this is going to reflect on HP, then PP is associated with the coded antisemitism and support for attacks on civilians which appear in the PP comments boxes.

I would suggest people not respond to the ones about Israel, which are unrelated to Sahgal. This is another of Sunny’s efforts to derail a discussion he’s not in control of.

It isn’t on the blog roll.

I am friends with Seth, and I resent that statement.

Go home tonight and accuse your employers of a serious charge in the national press – say, cooking the books, putting mercury in their potato waffles or refusing to buy Alec a new mop – and see what the result is, regardless of whether the allegation is true or false.

Or even just have a quick think about it – obviously they will take disciplinary action, and you’ll almost certainly get suspended. This is simply a fact of reality – I don’t endorse or condemn it, because it’s so totally obvious that there is really no denying it.

Two paragraphs of complete irrelevance.

Since comment one, there hasn’t been a single contributor to this thread that has contested AI’s legal right to sanction an employee speaking out (although even this could be contended if she can show she made efforts to raise her objections internally and she was not given a hearing, as she claims i.e. AI failed to follow their own grievance procedure). The question all along has been about the ethics, the moral justiifcation or otherwise for suspension. Neither you nor Andrew are prepared to address that question head on.

We know why.

90. John Meredith

“Go home tonight and accuse your employers of a serious charge in the national press – say, cooking the books, putting mercury in their potato waffles or refusing to buy Alec a new mop – and see what the result is, regardless of whether the allegation is true or false.”

FlyingRodent, the sort of criticism that Sahgal made was not of this sort, so the comparison does not carry any weight. I think you know that and are doging the question.

Once again, I am not disputing that AI was within its legal rights, just that, unlike you it seems, I believe that some employers rights are wrong.

91. John Meredith

“No, not like that. An employee has a formal responsibility to her employer, a trade union representative has a formal responsibility to other trade union members.”

Andrew, I am impressed by your (and Rodent’s) reverence for formalities, but what if, for a moment, we decided to give precedence to moral or ethical questions?

>> It isn’t on the blog roll.

Even less for Sunny to go on. HP recently gave a guest post for Cllr. Terry Kelly – does it endorse him?

>> I am friends with Seth

I bet you are. You’re all in it together.

I don’t understand the mop remark.

The question all along has been about the ethics, the moral justiifcation or otherwise for suspension.

Let’s say it’s unjustifiable action, but of exactly the same sort that every other orgainsation in the whole world would take in the same position. And that’s a pretty low level of criticism: it amounts to being a organisation of humans, rather than a congregation of angels.

Larry, AI claims to aspire to the standards of angels.

And Morgoth is roundly opposed by the HPers here.

Larry, AI claims to aspire to the standards of angels.

Well damn them to hell for falling short.

97. John Meredith

“Let’s say it’s unjustifiable action, but of exactly the same sort that every other orgainsation in the whole world would take in the same position. ”

Even that is not true. And it is a pretty depressing view: we can’t expect AI to any less prone to victimisation of its employees as any other organisation.

JM

I believe employees should, as a point of principle, be protected from suspension and/or dismissal if they publicly criticise workplace practices. Unions can be an important means of offering this protection but they are a means, not an end in themselves. You seem to disagree.

There should be exceptions, ie a whistleblower defence, and of course there should be formal mechanisms for people to raise grievances and I would have stronger laws than are currently in place to give people the right to union membership. But no, I don’t agree with a blanket protection of the kind you mention.

Brownie,

Ignore for a second whether AI had the legal right to suspend Sahgal. Were they morally right to do so? Alternatively, was Sahgal morally justified in her decision to speak publicly?

I honestly don’t think there is a simple answer in either case. I’ve said before that I don’t doubt Sahgal’s motives, OTOH I believe AI to be an honorable organisation. In this kind of case I don’t think you can only consider either the moral or the legal justification for your actions, you have to consider the wider consequences. I’m sorry if that is irredeemably “wooly”, but can I just remind you what you said about Derek Pasquill –

I think employers are entitled to ask for the cooperation of their employees and demand confidentiality where appropriate. Employees who are morally troubled by their work should either get another job or whistleblow but be prepared to accept the consequences i.e. they shouldn’t expect to be able to waltz back into the office the next Monday as if nothing has happened.

JM

Andrew, I am impressed by your (and Rodent’s) reverence for formalities, but what if, for a moment, we decided to give precedence to moral or ethical questions?

Then I think you are getting into an absolute minefield and a lawyer’s paradise.

We know why.

Would you care to enlighten us?

101. FlyingRodent

The question all along has been about the ethics, the moral justiifcation or otherwise for suspension.

Oho, sure it has.

Bluntly then – unlike Larry, I think Amnesty was right to suspend her. Whether what she’s saying is right or wrong, she denounced the organisation in the national press, and to News International at that – a company with a long history of using bullshit arguments to bash Amnesty for sucking up to terrorists. Frankly, I don’t imagine for a second that Saghal expected any other outcome. I certainly wouldn’t if I cursed my employer to journalists.

And I notice that we are still pretending that this somehow represents “victimisation”, John. Can I presume this means that Amnesty should allow its employees to denounce it in the press, where every other organisation on Earth wouldn’t? Because you know, I’ve heard this old argument about how some people should be held to higher standards than others before, and it seldom goes down well with the people on this thread.

Andrew,

I stand by that. Once again for the hard of thinking:

1 – I’m not at all surprised that Sahgal was suspended.
2 – My guess is that AI were legally entitled to suspend her.

I thoguht exactly the same with Pasquill, although in his case he was a civil servant with an objection to the political direction the government was taking on a specific policy issue. Civil servants aren’t supposed to have opinions on the politics, hence my lack of sympathy.

The point is, I have no problem discussing the specifics of Sahgal and Pasquil. Of course there are special circumstances that might apply in every case. The thing is, we can’t have that discussion about Sahgal because you won’t take a position, other than on the legality.

Andrew,

How many times am I oging to have to remind you that Sahgal was Head of the Gender Unit at the IS beofre you’ll recognise this as possible motivation for her action? Is this not analogous to the shop steward who has a duty to members as well as a contract with his employer?

Brownie,

There is a difference between refusing to take a position and having genuinely mixed feelings on the matter. The best I can say is that Amnesty should not have suspended her but I have some sympathy for their actions and don’t believe they constitute victimisation, and I don’t think that Sahgal should have gone to the press but I don’t doubt that she did so out of genuine motives and had no desire to damage AI. If that’s not unequivocal enough then I’m sorry.

105. John Meredith

“Bluntly then – unlike Larry, I think Amnesty was right to suspend her. Whether what she’s saying is right or wrong,”

It is nice to see your hostility to workers’ rights so bluntly put FlyingRodent. It helps put many of your other comments in perspective.

I think you mean “has on the blogroll”.

I meant has mentioned and promoted more than once in the blog posts.

If this is going to reflect on HP, then PP is associated with the coded antisemitism and support for attacks on civilians which appear in the PP comments boxes.

Hah! I wouldn’t even try and start going down that route. If Brett is going to try and damn Amnesty for doing something any org would do – then he’s on very thin ice. Just because he happens to support the person’s politics (as do I) doesn’t make it any more right.

ANYWAY. The point about whether Amnesty were right to suspend Gita is really now moot.

Are we agreed that?

1) Gita should be reinstated
2) Amnesty should review its position
3) Attackers of MB and CP lay out exactly what they’ve said to support terrorism or curtail rights since he’s got back from Gitmo
4) Amnesty is a worthwhile and admirable human rights org

….etc etc

108. FlyingRodent

It is nice to see your hostility to workers’ rights so bluntly put FlyingRodent…

Can’t say the same – I expected precisely this kind of concern-trolling bullshit from you. It’s a bit like when you’re watching Police Squad! and Leslie Neilsen orders a black Russian – you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to see what’s coming next.

109. FlyingRodent

@106 – Absolutely.

It is worth pointing out that we do not yet know what her final fate will be – she has been suspended, not sacked. Maybe she will be sacked (in which case I would certainly object), maybe she will just get a verbal warning. Would it hurt to reserve judgement until then?

111. John Meredith

“Hah! I wouldn’t even try and start going down that route. If Brett is going to try and damn Amnesty for doing something any org would do ”

And if you are suggesting that LC will no longer criticise organisations for doing what just aboput any other organisation would do, it pretty much means bye bye to defending trade union rights.

112. John Meredith

“3) Attackers of MB and CP lay out exactly what they’ve said to support terrorism or curtail rights since he’s got back from Gitmo”

So Amnesty should place the bar so low that it should be happly to align with any organisation that does not publicly express support for terrorism or actively curtail human rights? The BNP would be OK?

I have been off collecting my Visa at the Angolan Embassy for the last few hours – but to get back to the trade union analogy, if a senior national official of a union was to go public in their disagreement that its leadership was taking on a particular negotiation would they be disciplined? Of course.

Rather than comparing Amnesty to a private sector company, compare it to a trade union, or a political party and ask yourself how these would behave if a senior staff member briefed against them.

I had plenty of disagreements with Amnesty’s policies on particular issues when I worked there and we had massive internal debates about them, but I would never have even dreamt of going to the national media with them. And if I found myself completely unable to go along with a particular line then I would have resigned from my job.

“Attackers of MB and CP lay out exactly what they’ve said to support terrorism or curtail rights since he’s got back from Gitmo”

I’m sorry – are you saying that Gitmo cured Begg of his Jihadism?

115. John Meredith

“I have been off collecting my Visa at the Angolan Embassy for the last few hours – but to get back to the trade union analogy, if a senior national official of a union was to go public in their disagreement that its leadership was taking on a particular negotiation would they be disciplined? ”

But Amnesty were not in the middle of a sensitive negotiation. That makes all the difference. The question is whether a senior trade union official who wrote an article criticising his union’s policy of links with anti-union organisations should be suspended. I think ‘no’, Rodent thinks ‘yes’ and you and Sunny seem to think it a very difficult question.

116. John Meredith

“I’m sorry – are you saying that Gitmo cured Begg of his Jihadism?”

A lot of people seem to think this. The same people, in many cases, who usualy insist that persecution of Islamists is most likely to ‘radicalise’ them. I guess Begg is the exception that proves the rule, or something.

117. organic cheeseboard

I’m sorry – are you saying that Gitmo cured Begg of his Jihadism?

i think it’s pretty clear what’s being requested there. your ‘question’ might be better off as an answer to the above.

what is Begg’s position on terrorism and islamism now – ie, today?

John I think that both the Garlasco and Sahgal cases were difficult. But, on balance, if I had been in the position of their managers I would have taken the same decisions as they did.

I get your position, which seems to be that no one should ever be disciplined for bringing the organisation that they work for into disrepute, but I don’t think it is a practical way to run a campaigning body. I do not quite get the position of the people here who a few months ago were calling for Garlasco to be sacked, but have suddenly turned into committed defenders of workers’ rights.

I think the more interesting point is how the CP issue has impacted on Amnesty’s relaxation of its joint-platform policy and I agree with Frances Crook’s points on that.

“I’m sorry – are you saying that Gitmo cured Begg of his Jihadism”

Well not gitmo, but perhaps on arriving home and having seen the support he had from both muslims and non-muslims, and the wider general feeling that civil liberties – even for those suspected of terrorism – were good things, it is quite possible he might have thought “hmm, people I previously thought were indifferent to the suffering of muslims have defended me in spite of american propaganda”, and then started to rethink his position on stuff.

Just like the involvement of lots of non-muslims in anti-war demonstrations kept thousands of teenage muslim males away from jihadist movements.

In fact the opposite to what happens if angry teenage british muslims look at the comments box in a certain website and make conclusions about whether british society has a place for them.

120. John Meredith

” get your position, which seems to be that no one should ever be disciplined for bringing the organisation that they work for into disrepute”

That is not my position. I simply disagree that criticising an organisation is necessarily bringing it into disrepute. I think that way paranoia lies.

I do realise that when you are inh the role of a manager, you tend to adopt the officer’s view, I have been there myself. But it can be resisted.

121. John Meredith

“In fact the opposite to what happens if angry teenage british muslims look at the comments box in a certain website and make conclusions about whether british society has a place for them.”

Anybody who judges whether there is a place in socirty for him by reading comments on a blog is already doomed.

“what is Begg’s position on terrorism and islamism now – ie, today”

I think that can be judged by his view that Abu Hamza is a prisoner of conscience.

122. organic cheeseboard

I think that can be judged by his view that Abu Hamza is a prisoner of conscience.

well, maybe – but where is this view manifested, in Begg’s words? Why, if he’s so clearly unrepentant, is the main evidence against him taken from the early part of the last decade?

His position, as I understand it, is that he believes that jihad is a religious obligation that falls on all Muslims, that requires them to defend “Muslim Lands” from “occupation”.

He includes Afghanistan within those lands which are fighting a legitimate jihad

He is a supporter and admirer of the Al Qaeda preacher, Anwar Al Awlaki, who has been a leading Islamic State/Jihad theorist, in the Anglophone salafi-jihadi world.

I understand that Begg now opposes terrorism directed at civilians, and does not support Awlaki’s endorsement of such attacks. Nevertheless, Awlaki was involved in Jihad and terrorism right back to the late 1990s.

Here is an article on Jihad by Begg.

http://www.thecordobafoundation.com/attach/Arches_issue_02x_Web.pdf

“By consensus of the Islamic schools of thought, jihad becomes an individual obligation, like prayer and fasting, on Muslim men and women when their land is occupied by foreign enemies. That obligation extends to neighbouring lands until the enemy has been expelled. If the whole body of believers abandon it, they are in a state of sin; if enough of them do it to complete the task, they are absolved.”

“Although in the West jihad is often seen as terrorism it is correct to describe it as tourism. Prophet Muhammad said: ‘The tourism of my nation is jihad.’ This is one reason why many Muslims from thousands of miles away travelled to places as far and wide as Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir and Afghanistan.”

“If resisting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was jihad, if the repelling the massacres by the Serbs in Bosnia was jihad, then how can resisting the current occupation of these Muslims lands be anything else?”

If you want to read about CagePrisoners and Awlaki, just google their site, and you’ll find articles by and about him, interviews, and events at which Awlaki spoke. These articles are not limited – as Begg suggests – to opposition to Awalki’s brief detention in Yemen, but include a range of theological and doctrinal subjects as well.

“I understand that Begg now opposes terrorism directed at civilians”

Well thats progress. Possibly due to the fact he can now distinguish between acts of government and the wider views of civillians as a result of other organisations engaging with his organisation.

Oh sure, it is an improvement.

I’d say that he was akin to somebody who was active in Combat 18, but who now supports the BNP.

I think he’s quite genuine about not supporting terrorism against civilians. I also think he is genuine in the belief that it is right to support the Taliban’s jihad against “occupation”.

My problem – and those of his other critics – is that we do know how Islamic states act, when in power.

126. John Meredith

“Well thats progress. Possibly due to the fact he can now distinguish between acts of government and the wider views of civillians as a result of other organisations engaging with his organisation.”

Wow, that is an impressive contortion.

So, to summarise the anti-Amnesty case so far –

Saghal is being victimised, except she isn’t;
She’s being persecuted, except she isn’t;
Amnesty are bastards for suspending her for denouncing the organisation to the Murdoch press*, even though they’re within their rights to do so and would probably be insane if they didn’t;
And anyway, let’s all pretend Saghal is a trade unionist;
Oh, come on, this won’t work if you don’t pretend!
Okay then, she isn’t a trade unionist, but Amnesty are still bastards because trade unionists!

Notable topics missing from this thread – the massive secret network of American black prisons, torture, murder, disappearances etc. that the US openly admits to operating. Odd, since it’s in the news because a British court concluded its investigation into Binyam Mohammed’s case just the other day. Didn’t they find evidence of British state collusion or something?

I also think it’s worth explaining out to readers who might be baffled by this thread exactly where all this anger at Amnesty is coming from. Of the major players…

Nick Cohen of the Observer and the noted right wing monthly car-crash rag Standpoint, a man prone to penning Meh, torture, no biggie if you imagine a ticking bomb scenario, is it? style articles and periodically attacking Amnesty over Some Bullshit;

Martin Bright of the noted right wing car-crash magazine The Spectator;

Times employees and noted Guantanamo/rendition harrumphers David Aaronovitch and Oliver Kamm;

Internet blog Harry’s Place, bloggers being well-represented in this thread, plus a few other minor blogs, and;

A Facebook campaign denouncing Amnesty, as set up by Nick Cohen and Martin Bright and populated with the furious right wing commentariat of the individuals named above.

This ain’t an apolitical uprising of concerned left-wing democrats, folks. This is a co-ordinated campaign by a small and very annoying political grouping with a long and unedifying history of attacking NGOs for Some Bullshit**, whose honesty you can judge by the squirming Victimisation! Trade unions! noted above.

*Honestly, News International! Why not just give the story directly to Norman Tebbit?

**Primarily by using the political opinions of individual employees as a stick to beat these NGOs, but some of ’em aren’t above running articles implying that, say, the International Red Cross collaborates with terrorist organisations to orchestrate attacks upon its own ambulances, to make the Israelis look bad.

I would also not be so quick to discount Begg’s record prior to his detention in Gitmo. I don’t need to go through that record in detail, because we all know it.

Certainly, people do change their views over time. However, when somebody moves from openly supporting salafi jihadism, jihadi “tourism”, and publishing salafi jihadi material, to supporting people imprisoned and convicted of salafi jihadi offences, it really is fair to ask – has this person really changed?

I know a good number of people who were involved in extreme jihadist political movements, and have now left. They are, without exception, horrified to their core at what they spent a few years doing. They’re desperate to put things right.

With Begg, I think that there has been a slight ideological shift. As I said, I think his rejection of killing “innocents” (not certain if that includes, for example, Israelis), is genuine. However, I don’t think I have ever read a “What Have I Done!?” piece by him. Similarly, I’ve seen things by Begg where he declares himself “shocked” to see the Taliban killing people, but I haven’t read anything by him where he says “I now oppose the creation of an Islamic state”.

For example, Begg appears on the jihadist video, 21st Century Crusaders, which was sold by his old bookshop. On that video, he declares his belief that there is a “War against Islam”. The rest of the video is filled with the usual vile jihadi crap.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/feb/04/terrorism.world

I believe that Begg sees his activism with CagePrisoners and Amnesty, in part, as a mechanism for legitimising military jihad, and encouraging Muslim support for military jihad, by spreading the idea that there is a War against Islam.

However, remember, we’re talking not simply about Begg, but about CagePrisoners as a whole. There’s Ridley and Qureshi as well. And, my oh my, there’s a veritable treasure trove of stuff on them.

129. John Meredith

FlyingRodent, this is pretty basic stuff, but asking that Saghal who is by all accounts one of Amnesty’s most effective campaigners, be reinstated is not ‘anti-Amnesty’. But we have heard enough about your slavish respect for the rights of the employer. Why not have a glass of wine and go and read some more Ayn Rand

@John: But we have heard enough about your slavish respect for the rights of the employer.

It’s not a question of employer vs. employee – it’s more like reality vs. magical thinking, as in If I denounce my employer in the national press, they’re going to subject me to disciplinary action versus Employees have the right to denounce their employers in the national press with total impunity, plus, everyone gets a magic pony!</em.

So Amnesty should place the bar so low that it should be happly to align with any organisation that does not publicly express support for terrorism or actively curtail human rights? The BNP would be OK?

If white people were being locked up in jail without trial, are you saying Amnesty should not even let any of them speak about their personal experiences if that person’s politics don’t agree with yours?

I’m sorry – are you saying that Gitmo cured Begg of his Jihadism?

First – you say that of Ed Husain and Shiraz Maher don’t you? After all, they cross-post to HP quite a lot. So yes, I am saying his views have changed since, like lots of people who grow up and realise they were being idiots.

Oh sure, it is an improvement.

I’d say that he was akin to somebody who was active in Combat 18, but who now supports the BNP.

As far as I remember David T – you yourself admitted on Pickled Politics that you’d see why people may want to attack military targets if someone was oppressing them. Are you going back on that statement? In fact, on that, you and Moazzam Begg agree don’t you? If someone is invading your country – are you saying you can’t even attack military targets in response now? That wasn’t your position before.

I would also not be so quick to discount Begg’s record prior to his detention in Gitmo. I don’t need to go through that record in detail, because we all know it.

Why wouldn’t you apply this to Shiraz Maher?

132. John Meredith

“It’s not a question of employer vs. employee ”

It tends to look that way from the position of the suspended/sacked employee. But I know what you will say: they should know their place! The rights of the owner are sacrosanct! I don’t think that leaves us with much to discuss.

I don’t think that leaves us with much to discuss.

I know. Don’t worry though, the Care Bears will keep you company.

134. John Meredith

“If white people were being locked up in jail without trial”

White people aren’t being locked up without trial? When did it stop?

“are you saying Amnesty should not even let any of them speak about their personal experiences if that person’s politics don’t agree with yours?”

No, I am saying that you should not invite the BNP onto a platform even if your organisation has defended the human rights of a BNP leader who had been unjustly arrested. If you do then cosy up to the BNP it will tend to discredit your organisation. It isn’t that hard is it?

“I’d say that he was akin to somebody who was active in Combat 18, but who now supports the BNP.”

In other words the difference between actively using violence and being a nutter with stupid views. From a security point of view a considerable difference.

There is another important passage from Begg’s article on Jihad. In discussing various forms of military Jihad, Begg observes:

Jihad using wealth is also obligatory in securing the release of Muslim prisoners. Imam Malik said: ‘If a Muslim is held as a prisoner of war…it is
obligatory on others to secure his release, even if it requires all the Muslims’ wealth.

That is essentially how Begg sees CagePrisoners. It is an aspect of military Jihad.

137. John Meredith

“In other words the difference between actively using violence and being a nutter with stupid views. From a security point of view a considerable difference.”

Yes, but Amnesty don’t steer clear of the BNP because of security considerations, they do it because they don’t think the BNP are real supporters of human rights (despite their rhetoric). You must see the difference.

If white people were being locked up in jail without trial, are you saying Amnesty should not even let any of them speak about their personal experiences if that person’s politics don’t agree with yours

Sunny – I don’t see the world in terms of white/brown.

Neither, incidentally, does CagePrisoners – although I appreciate that you put them into your “brown” category, that’s not their own self image.

As John says, if a neo Nazi were held without trial, I would oppose his detention, but I wouldn’t tour him around.

Why wouldn’t you apply this to Shiraz Maher?

Shiraz and Ed’s involvement was pretty light compared to Begg’s.

I have read a few very cautiously and broadly phrased references in Begg’s works to “freedom” and so on. As you can see, the bulk of Begg’s efforts have been put into (a) developing a theory of military jihad, which includes the obligation to secure the freedom of Muslim prisoners (b) working for the release from detention of any and all Muslim prisoners, including those who have been convicted.

By contrast, Ed and Shiraz devote much of their time to explaining, in detail, what precisely is wrong with the jihadist and Islamist positions that they used to advocate when involved in Hizb and Jamaat. They have produced an impressive body of work which constitutes a firm defence of liberal democracy.

That is why I think that they have changed their views decisively, while Begg has moved on very marginally, and possibly not at all.

you yourself admitted on Pickled Politics that you’d see why people may want to attack military targets if someone was oppressing them

You really do have to look at who is being defended, and what sort of system of government they want to put in its place as well. The overwhelming majority of Afghans are terrified of the return of the Taliban. That’s why I don’t regard their ‘jihad’ as legitimate.

I am genuinely interested in the views of the HP people here on some of this.

I have said very clearly that I think AI were right to suspend Sahgal and HRW were right to suspent Garlasco pending further investigations. I have also said that I share many of Sahgal’s concerns about AI sharing a platform with Begg. I can see the argument that dialogue with former supporters of Jihad who may now be shifting in their views could be a good thing – if handled carefully – but I just do not think that is the role of an organisation like AI and I have said (on other occasions as well) that the organisation should stick to its core purpose.

Now can the HP people respond as to why they campaigned for Garlasco to be sacked? They give such slavish support to Nick Cohen who is on record supporting the use of torture? They spread ridiculous conspiracy theories about HRW, the ICRC and the Guardian conspiring together to make up a story about the IDF striking a couple of Lebanese Red Cross ambulances? They vigorously denounce the Guardian as antisemitic on a regular basis because of comments that appear in CiF thread yet regularly allow racists and fascists to post at their own site? etc.

It does come across as a tad hypocritical you know.

140. John Meredith

“Now can the HP people respond as to why they campaigned for Garlasco to be sacked?”

I can’t speak for the HP-ers but I would expect an answer like: Garlasco did something wrong that compromised his work and Sahgal didn’t. That seems right to me. It is evidently inapproriate to employ somone with a nazi-fixation to research into the Israeli/Palestine conflict. It is not evidently inapproriate to employ a woman to lead on women’s rights when she objects to the views of people who want to remove them.

I don’t see why these completely different things are being conflated. If Garlasco had attacked HRW for aligning itself with extreme right wing Israeli organisations, I would have supported him (so long as he wasn’t also into the nazis).

The point about Garlasco was not that he should be sacked, but that it was pretty poor that a man who collected and wrote specifically about Nazi memorabilia, wore Iron Cross sweatshirts, and described leather Gestapo uniforms as “cool” was not a great choice as a professional critic of a majority Jewish state.

It is really a very similar issue to the one raised by Gita about the problems raised by Begg.

Garlasco might have been better redeployed to another conflict.

That is why I think that they have changed their views decisively, while Begg has moved on very marginally, and possibly not at all.

This isn’t aimed at David, as I’ve no idea what his views on the issue were, but Nick Cohen, for one, wasn’t so thorough when it came to Hassan Butt.

Anyway, my barely informed opinion – hurray for blog commenters! – is that Amnesty should take a closer look at Cageprisoners. Even if we leave the issue of Begg behind, Ridley and Qureshi have some expounded some views that are difficult to square with a human rights organisation. However good the cause – human rights abuses in Iran, for example – I’d do the feet-shift if they collaborated with, say, the Center for Security Policy.

Err David that is not actually true. I read what you wrote at the time and you were very clear that he was not a fit person to be employed. HP continued to critise HRW even after his suspension on the the grounds that this was not enough. As I said above Garlasco was not employed to work specifically on the Israel/Palestine conflict. He was a general advisor on military issues and humanitarian law.

Now for the other points . . .

144. Shatterface

Way to change the subject, Conor.

@ David T.

Can I suggest that not one of you actually believed that Garlasco was a Nazi, held Nazi sympathies or was in any way anything other than a dork with a WWII fetish – i.e. a military analyst – and that your campaign against him was really just an excuse to beat the shit out of HRW in revenge for its reports on Israeli bombing campaigns?

I ask because your website has an absolutely shocking record of leaping on any old bullshit that damages human rights NGOs, especially if said NGO has recently criticised the US, the UK or the Israelis. I remind you again that you personally wrote the Ooooh, dodgy, are the Red Cross in league with Hezbollah? post, one of many, many such incidents in your website’s history.

@BenSix Would you do the feet-shift with any organisation that has worked with the Centre for Social Cohesion? 🙂

Ah – a tricky one. I’ve seen fine analysts cite the CSC, but, yes, Murray should clear up the question of his views.

148. John Meredith

“Can I suggest that not one of you actually believed that Garlasco was a Nazi, held Nazi sympathies ”

Again, I can’t speak for the HP-ers (who seem to take different views of all this) but while I didn’t think Garlasco was a nazi, I did think that he obviously had nazi sympathies. That is the most obvious interpretation of the fascination that nazi paraphernalia had for him. Most people (including military historians) are faintly repelled by that stuff. Can we imagine Richard Overy in an iron cross T-shirt (yes I know the iron cross pre-dates the nazis)?

One way or the other, though, he was eveidently not fir to be commenting on Israel for a human rights organisation. I can absoluteluy guarantee you that they will be able to find a military expert with no interest at all in nazi cap badges if they look a bit harder.

149. Shatterface

Personally, I have a great deal of respect for AI but the idea that we should not voice criticism of institutions we support in case it gives succour to those who oppose universal human rights is just tribalism.

Those who have argued that defending someone’s rights is not the same as sopporting their cause have been dealt a great diservice by some parts of Amnesty. Victimhood does not bestow virtue.

A recommittment to Amnesty’s core values is long overdue.

Yes John, but I am pretty sure they did not know about his hobby when they employed him (how would it have come up in the interview?) and they suspended him when they found out. Also, from my understanding of his job, he was simply employed to advise on military matters and international humanitarian law (the Geneva and Hague Conventions).

151. John Meredith

“Yes John, but I am pretty sure they did not know about his hobby when they employed him (how would it have come up in the interview?)”

I bet it comes up in the next one!

But I am not suggesting that HRW were in the wrong when they employed him, just that it was correct to suspend him (I think he should be allowed his hobbies but be kept away from Israel). The case does not compare to Sahgal, it seems to me.

“Those who seek to undermine that reputation – for whatever reason – had better be clear that their own ‘higher purpose’ justifies the suffering that will go unchallenged as a result.”

Gita Saghal might argue that it was precisely to limit suffering – that of women – that motivated her actions.

You suggest that the most honourable option was for her to resign her position. There is another option: she could have organised her colleagues and collectively opposed the partnership / required an internal review. Does anyone know if her trade union has taken a position on the suspension?

153. Golden Gordon

I think Amnesty could have handled it better.
A discussion with Gita about correct procedures when dealing with the press. There was no need to suspend her , silly and plays into the hand of the right
Although the mock indignation from the right wing HPs is sad to behold. They couldn’t give a monkeys about Gita.
Also some of the near racist comments about Sunny on that site is appalling

Okay, my two cents:

1) AI has the right, as any large organisation has, to suspend an employee pending an investigation if they have done something which is on the face of it contrary to the employee’s contractual obligations.

2) Criticising AI’s policy in public, to a newspaper, is certainly something which on the face of it is a breach of contractual obligations.

3) But the employee should not be disciplined if she can establish that she behaved because she reasonably believed that she was compelled to act as she did because a) AI was in serious breach of its moral obligations as an organisation and that b) there was no other means open to her to challenge this breach.

4) Further, if it is established that AI really was in serious breach of its moral obligations – which are the reason for its existence- by dint of its collaboration with Begg and Cageprisoners, then it was in the wrong and Gita Saghal was in the right- and AI’s policy of collaboration with Cageprisoners should end.

5) The only way to establish if 3) or 4) are the case is by investigation, which takes time.

6) On the face of it, AI has no case to answer for championing Begg while he was in Guantanamo- his human rights were certainly being violated while he was incarcerated there. Human rights violations are unacceptable whether or not the victim was previously involved in criminal activity (as the US Government alleges, but has not proved, that Begg was) and whether or not the victim himself supported other human rights violations (as we know that Begg did with his pro-Taliban statements).

7) Also on the face of it, AI has a serious case to answer for staging public events etc with Begg, Ridley, and other Cageprisoners spokesmen once Begg had been released- because Begg’s committment to human rights seems equivocal at best, and Ridley has worked as a paid apologist for the Iranian government (‘Press TV’) and publicly ridiculed the demonstrators arrested and maltreated by Iranian security services.

8) AI acted within its rights to suspend Saghal. But there are strong reasons – not yet proven- for believing that AI should not discipline her and might be obliged to modify AI policy in line with her criticisms. This is something we can all legitimately comment on.

The smiley was supposed to be an ‘8’ followed by a parenthesis….

156. Golden Gordon

I agree Coner about your comments about HP. It has strong links with right wing groups such as Nothing British about the BNP and conservatives who have an immigration agenda such Edmund Standing. Also those organisations are allied with Migration watch, not a pleasant organisation.
They make a big deal about the BNP but in reality HP’s sister organisation have the same anti immigration agenda.

157. Golden Gordon

Excellent post Dan

158. John Meredith

Are you a lawyer, Dan?

159. John Meredith

“It has strong links with right wing groups such as Nothing British about the BNP”

Nothing British is a ‘right wing’ organisation? Is this coming from the ‘BNP’ is socialist school of web drivel?

160. Golden Gordon

Although I have problem with 7.
Hasn’t AI always staged meeting with all the prisoners they have got released. Begg was just the most high profile for years.
I agree about Ridley , her presence was a bad decision by AI

161. Golden Gordon

Nothing British is a ‘right wing’ organisation? Is this coming from the ‘BNP’ is socialist school of web drivel?
It is run by Tory candidates who have praised Powell.
I would say that is pretty right wing.
The BNP and Migration Watch/Nothing white about the BNP. are just two sides of the same coin.
Both have massive anti immigration agendas.
They both have same ultimate aim, that is to stop non white immigration
I don’t have that agenda, do you

162. John Meredith

” I don’t have that agenda, do you”

No, but then neither does Nothing British.

I’m not, John, and that’s not a lawyer’s statement. I do think that clarity is a good thing when dealing with human rights issues.

Shorter Dan:

Legally, AI did what it was entitled to do and what any large organisation probably would have done.

Practically, there has to be an investigation before we can be sure what happened.

Morally, if the main criticisms made by Saghal are true, then AI should change its policy regarding Cageprisoners and take no action against her.

Dan, yup – I think that’s pretty much it.

I’m very happy to argue the whys and wherefores about Gita’s suspension. However, she did of course do what she did in full knowledge that it would put her at huge risk. She did what she did because absolutely nobody would even begin to consider the CagePrisoners problem.

I think she deserves huge respect for that.

Now, whether you regard Begg and CagePrisoners as a problem really turns on the answer to an issue that CagePrisoners itself poses, which in summary is:

“Will the West recognise the legitimacy of Jihad to defend Islamic states and Muslim Lands, and the right of the Ummah to participate in that Jihad.”

The problem, for people like Gita – and indeed me – is that states which are established according to those principles will by their very nature impose horrendous suffering on the populations.

My other problem is this. Somebody like Asim Qureshi is a great proponent of jihad as a solution to terrorism. Jihad for Asim and Moazzam is a very strictly defined “just war” theory. It does not permit the killing of “innocents”.

You can read in Begg and Qureshi’s writing what I think is an honest and genuine shock that Awlaki turned out to support the mass murder of civilians. But the clues were there. He had been a supporter of such terrorism before, notwithstanding his condemnation – while under suspicion for involvement in the plot – of 9.11.

I think it quite possible that Begg and Qureshi promoted Awlaki because they had adopted Nelsonian blindness to the nature of this fellow’s political philosophy. Moreover, there really is very little that separates a salafi jihadi who won’t kill civilians from one who will. The recent history of salafi jihadism is one of clerics and combatants who flip backwards and forwards on the issue.

Qureshi believes that teaching Jihad properly, and getting “the West” to respect Jihad will prevent people like Abdulmuttalab “getting it wrong” and setting fire to their undies. However, Abdulmuttalab took his instruction from Awalki, ended up engaging in terrorism, and Awlaki applauded it.

That’s why the promotion of jihadism is dangerous.

165. Golden Gordon

James Blethal
The great and important speech by Enoch Powell’s 1968 address to Conservative Party workers at Birmingham’s Midland Hotel (mis-named the “Rivers of Blood speech”), in which he anticipated Labour’s silence on immigration:
Head of Nothing British about the BNP
This is the one of the sister organizations of Harry’s Place.
John your such a right wing D**k

166. John Meredith

“Head of Nothing British about the BNP
This is the one of the sister organizations of Harry’s Place.
John your such a right wing D**k”

I don’t know what all this stuff about ‘sister organisations’ means. If you have qaccurately reported Blethal’s view on Powell then I disagree with him about that. How does that make Nothing British ‘right wing’? Do they campaign on immigration? I think they are single-issue, aren’t they? It is curious that you are so hostile to them given what their issue is.

SUNNY HUNDAL >> ANYWAY. The point about whether Amnesty were right to suspend Gita is really now moot.

Don’t try to throw your rattle out of the playpen, and then suggest others are changing the subject by drawing attention to it. Even Andrew Adams’ mind-numbingly obtuse defense of AI’s ethical approach was at least coherent and within the terms of Sahgal’s remit and Begg’s interests (Rodent’s just being rodent).

Then you turn up and start shrieking about Israel. I doubt that you – being narcissist – actually can appreciate how Sahgal and others feel, after decades of defending gender equality, to see such concerns to be placed on a lower-rung to Gitmo.

Likewise, you present something *you* have said in support of Sahgal or the Southall Sisters as firewalling you from criticism.

DAVID T >> I understand that Begg now opposes terrorism directed at civilians

I understood it’s specifically innocent civilians.

168. Golden Gordon

John
I despise and fear the BNP.
They are the brownshirts of modern British politics. Working class dolts led by public school boys, they are violent and miltaristic but they are THICK.
The real ones to worry about are the Blackshirts, mainly middle class, as racist as the BNP, but far more subtle.
Look the people behind Nothing British and Migration watch and their views on race.
They want to get rid of the competition.

@Dan: AI acted within its rights to suspend Saghal. But there are strong reasons – not yet proven- for believing that AI should not discipline her and might be obliged to modify AI policy in line with her criticisms. This is something we can all legitimately comment on.

And I can get down with that, Dawg. If it transpires that Begg’s views are far more hideous than he’s letting on*, then I’d expect a few wrists slapped and more than a couple of heads to roll.

That said, I’m genuinely interested to discover who readers think Amnesty should enlist to draw attention to the people innocent and guilty who have been dragged into the actually existing black prison/torture network that seems to have somewhat fallen off the radar on this thread, not to mention every other I’ve seen discussing this issue.

After all, we’re not overburdened with former inmates because a) lots of them are dead and/or disappeared into a legal black hole for good, and we’ll never find out what happened to them because the anonymous officials involved in previous cases have all been given immunity and b) most of those that have been released are likely to hold some fairly noxious views.

I appreciate that recognising the existence of this black prison network is merely a pro-forma exercise on the way too Condemning! the inmates for quite a few folk on this thread, but when it comes down to it, exposing extrajudicial detention, disappearances, torture and murder is what Amnesty is supposed to do, when it isn’t fending off attacks from the likes of Nick tick-tock-tick-tock-ouch Cohen.

*Let’s not forget that, while David T. does good work on Islamism, he’s far from infallible and, AFAIAA, is somehow yet to be contacted by any MI5 agents begging for his advice.

@Alec: Rodent’s just being rodent.

Indeed – I thought somebody needed to keep us grounded in the whole Jesus Christ, the Americans are disappearing and torturing God knows how many people in secret prisons and cordially admitting to it! thing.

Plus, I think it’s entirely fair to remind people that this present attack on Amnesty is being orchestrated by a small number of like-minded journalists and bloggers who have some very oddball views and a history of attacking NGOs over Some Bullshit. Many of them are present in this thread after all, and I doubt you would be slow to point out the presence of lots of former Swuppies or RCP types.

171. Shatterface

‘Plus, I think it’s entirely fair to remind people that this present attack on Amnesty is being orchestrated by a small number of like-minded journalists and bloggers who have some very oddball views and a history of attacking NGOs over Some Bullshit’

No, AI is being criticised by a broad spectrum of people, most of whom are broadly sympathetic to their *stated* values but who think they have fallen short of late; it is being defended entirely by a small number of partisan control freaks frightened of losing a monopoly on ‘liberal’ discourse.

>> Plus, I think it’s entirely fair to remind people

Ah, right, once more Rodent’s presenting himself as the only objective person here.

>> that this present attack on Amnesty is being orchestrated by a small number of like-minded journalists and bloggers who have some very oddball views and a history of attacking NGOs over Some Bullshit.

Like Terry Glavin (and Gita Sahgal)? Or, even, Andrew Coates? Stop talking rubbish.

Now that Douglas Clark’s here, the tone is going to go right down.

Rodent’s presenting himself as the only objective person here.

I make no claims to objectivity – I just think it’s worth pointing out to those who wouldn’t realise themselves that this current campaign is an almost entirely Decent Leftastic campaign. The fact that the first people you cite to rebut this claim are Glavin and Coates – Jesus, practically NVA infantry, them! – should tell people exactly where the pressure is coming from here, and it’s “middle-aged ex-socialists with expertise in denunciation and in calls for disassociation and US-led miltary catastrophes”. Recall how quick you lot are to cry bullshit whenever the SWP get their claws into issue (x), and this seems entirely fair enough.

Further, LC readers who are wondering who all these new commenters are really deserve to know that collectively, you have a long and ignominious history of launching mendacious attacks on NGOs, newspapers, broadcasters and individuals that have had the misfortune to fall foul of your political manias. That has no bearing on whether Amnesty are right here, but this particular outbreak of pearl-clutching and handbag-waving should certainly be seen in the light of previous, less justifiable assaults.

174. astateofdenmark

Jaysus wept. What has happened to this thread?

I’m a big fan of AI and even continued my donations when I was in the army. They principle of prisoners of conscience is a simple, but effective, proxy for support of liberal institutions.

Yet, AI aren’t without criticism here. They’ve consistently crossed the border between activism and advocacy. A fine line for sure, but AI are now well into the Oxfam advocacy side of it. Which is why I stopped donating.

Stephen Hopgood’s ‘Keepers of the Flame’ should give you an idea:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Keepers-Flame-Understanding-Amnesty-International/dp/0801472512

175. astateofdenmark

Here’s a brief essay by Hopgood to save you the trouble of buying the book:

http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-think_tank/amnesty_morality_3625.jsp

WRT Garlasco and his interest in Nazi uniforms and militaria. Rodent fairly argues that this is a nerd thing for some amateur WWII historians. But it is also a BDSM/fetish interest (and I’m not accusing Garlasco of anything). The tailored uniforms for senior officers, leather coats and boots, the decadent insignia, the regimental tattoos, eagle and skull badges — that is prime fetish stuff.

Use of the swastika is culturally forbidden in most of the BDSM world; similar emblems, usually based on “Celtic iconography” are used instead. The rest of the stuff is permitted. You may recall that concentration camp dress was mentioned in a recent privacy case in UK courts.

The submissives who get their kicks from domination in a Nazi play scene aren’t Nazis, nor necessarily are the dominators. It isn’t how I get my kicks, but it is no more harmful than any other BDSM scene.

Fetishes are weird, by definition. The gay skinhead scene is still big in the UK. Some US dominatrixes provide services to black men and women who wish to play slave transportation games.

177. astateofdenmark
178. astateofdenmark

183 – The film ‘The Night Porter’ explored that very theme.

>> I make no claims to objectivity –

Followed immediately by:

>> I just think it’s worth pointing out to those who wouldn’t realise themselves […]

Go away, you loonie. But not until you’ve atoned for this:

>> The fact that the first people you cite to rebut this claim are Glavin and Coates – Jesus, practically NVA infantry, them!

The nadir has been reached. You contemptible fuck.

PS Coates??????

180. So Much For Subtlety

37. FlyingRodent – “Plus, I confirm again – Garlasco did not use a Nazi nickname.”

I am sorry but his on-line psuedonym was Flak88. Last I checked Flak was an acronym derived from the German Fliegerabwehrkanone. More specifically, derived from the German used in the period 1932-1945. It is not a term used for Western Anti-Aircraft units. Nor for Soviet ones. Nor for German ones before 1931 or for German ones after 1945. It was solely used for German Anti-Aircraft units during the Nazi period. By all means, tell us how this is a common word commonly used in English that has nothing to do with the Nazis at all.

And as everyone here at LC knows, 88 is commonly used by neo-Nazis. Because H is the Eighth letter of the alphabet. 88 being HH. As in Heil Hitler for instance.

Now I am sure you know this. I am pretty sure Garlasco knew this. That may not have been his motivation. His motivation might have been the slightly more innocent love of the German 88 mm gun. But only slightly more innocent.

So by all means, tell us how he was not using a Nazi handle. I am sure you will be able to follow that up with an explanation of why Combat18 and Prussian Blue are not Nazi names either.

The double standard here at LC is interesting. When Tancredo mentions civics tests everyone denounces him for wanting to bring back Segregation. But when someone who criticises Israel (and is probably not on the Left) uses a name like this, people on LC defend him. Not very liberal really.

“War nerds are well known for collecting weird and fucked-up war memorabilia. The vast majority of the people who joined in the pile-on on HRW were rabid right wing lunatics.”

I assume you are trying to imply that there are no neo-Nazi war nerds? If not what relevance does that comment have?

And are you seriously making the claim that partisan politics shapes your world to such an extent that you think anyone attacked by the Right *must* *be* innocent or at least defended? Otherwise what relevance does it have whether rabid right wing lunatics piled into him or not? A lot of rabid right wing lunatics did not like Stalin either. You think he is innocent?

A Flak 88 was an artillery piece in the German army, in the Nazi era – it’s as readily identified with WWII as the Spitfire, the Bouncing Betty and the Thompson. I know that from the odd Anthony Beevor book, and from playing three generations of Call of Duty and two of Medal of Honours, plus watching Saving Private Ryan – “They just didn’t want to give up those 88s”.

I know all this because I’m a self-confessed geek who likes books, films and computer games – not even a military analyst, i.e. a total and utter war nerd. I can run you through the best guns in the PS3 game Killzone 2 and the situations where they’re most useful, if you need proof – shotguns in corridors, M82 rifle at mid-range, StA11 SMG for all-round performance.

Look – the guy might be an out and out Nazi bastard of the Nth degree. I have no idea, and I strongly suspect that his accusers have no idea either. I suspect he’s just a dork like me with a bit more money to throw around. I’d buy all kinds of stupid shit if I had the cash, although probably not Nazi kit.

The point I’m making is that calling yourself Flak88, Messerschmidt, Luger or Nebelwerfur on a WWII memorabilia site is as controversial as calling yourself JimmyJohnstone on a Celtic FC forum or AssBandit32 on a gay porn site. It proves bugger all, unless of course you want it to prove something – for instance, maybe you want it to prove that HRW institutionally hates the Israelis and wants to make them look bad. I throw it out there, for consideration.

It’s obviously just a coincidence that I strongly believe that this was the case with that particular Decent campaign against HRW, as it happens – 100% certain, as it happens. Others were even less justifiable than that.

A lot of rabid right wing lunatics did not like Stalin either. You think he is innocent?

Jesus, I didn’t notice that first time around. I reproduce it for posterity.

183. Graeme Thompson

“Those who seek to undermine that reputation – for whatever reason – had better be clear that their own ‘higher purpose’ justifies the suffering that will go unchallenged as a result.”

A very good point to make to the Judges who’ve just (yet again!) put a misconceived notion of human rights for terrorists before our national security.

Amnesty International have an alliance with the Al Qa’eda propaganda group Caged Prisoners for one very simple reason: It is riven with pathological anti-Americans for whom there is no form of evil they will not side with against the United States.

184. So Much For Subtlety

182. FlyingRodent – “A Flak 88 was an artillery piece in the German army, in the Nazi era – it’s as readily identified with WWII as the Spitfire, the Bouncing Betty and the Thompson.”

More specifically it is readily identifiable with Germany’s World War Two effort as the Bouncing Betty and the SS. Maybe more so than the former. Even though it was first used in Spain.

That is, it is a specific Nazi reference.

“I know all this because I’m a self-confessed geek who likes books, films and computer games – not even a military analyst, i.e. a total and utter war nerd.”

I would think this falls into the category of general knowledge but may be not. What is the relevance? Are you claiming that every single war nerd is definitely not a Nazi? The only way this can be relevant from where I sit is if you are claiming that the categories of war nerd and Naziphilliac are mutally exclusive. Is this what you’re claiming or is your comment irrelevant? Because if they are not mutually exclusive a war nerd who was also a Neo-Nazi might go looking for a name that incorporated, I don’t know, perhaps his love of the Nazi War machine and Adolf Hitler, wouldn’t he? Something with an 18 or an 88 in it perhaps? A piece of hardware no doubt. Something phallic even if he has issues.

“Look – the guy might be an out and out Nazi bastard of the Nth degree. I have no idea, and I strongly suspect that his accusers have no idea either.”

I have no problem with any of that. He might be. He might not be. I have seen HP’s investigation into his publications and postings and I think the evidence is a little stronger than you do. But what I do know is that you are in no position to assert he is not a Nazi and that his user name is not a Nazi name. Whether or not he is a secret Hitler fan.

“I suspect he’s just a dork like me with a bit more money to throw around. I’d buy all kinds of stupid shit if I had the cash, although probably not Nazi kit.”

Not only money but time to publish. But you would not buy Nazi kit. He did. Odd that isn’t it?

“The point I’m making is that calling yourself Flak88, Messerschmidt, Luger or Nebelwerfur on a WWII memorabilia site is as controversial as calling yourself JimmyJohnstone on a Celtic FC forum or AssBandit32 on a gay porn site.”

Again, unless you’re asserting that no neo-Nazi wannabes are also WW2 collectors I don’t see the point. You mean that people fascinated by the Nazis are tolerant of other people fascinated by the Nazis? You don’t say. You think that perhaps maybe they ought to be less tolerant of the neo-Nazis within?

185. So Much For Subtlety

183. FlyingRodent – “Jesus, I didn’t notice that first time around. I reproduce it for posterity.”

Thank you. But how about answering the question first? You have asserted that people like you are never neo-Nazis. You have asserted that people who are attacked by people whose politics you do not like are never neo-Nazis. Either that or you have made a few irrelevant comments with no value whatsoever. Care to defend either of these claims?

.That is, it is a specific Nazi reference.

It’s the name of a German army – Nazi, if you prefer – artillery piece. If you want to hallucinate more than that, be my guest.

187. Golden Gordon

He collects worlds war two memorabilia now he’s a Nazi, so anyone who buys an airfix kit or paints Waffen’s SS soldiers is automatically a Nazi. Johnny Rotten ands pistols were Nazis , they wore some of that paraphernalia. Sullivan the west ham owner, a first class capitalist, always wears a commie hat. Is he a member of the party.
A little more logic.
Saying that it does remind me of a wonderful father ted episode

188. So Much For Subtlety

187. FlyingRodent – “It’s the name of a German army – Nazi, if you prefer – artillery piece. If you want to hallucinate more than that, be my guest.”

Actually, to be technical it is the name of a German Airforce artillery piece. But let’s not go there. After all I like to end on a note of agreement and having agreed that he did, in fact, have a Nazi handle is enough.

188. Golden Gordon – “He collects worlds war two memorabilia now he’s a Nazi, so anyone who buys an airfix kit or paints Waffen’s SS soldiers is automatically a Nazi.”

I don’t see anyone accusing him of being a Nazi. Just someone who is more than a little fascinated by them.

“Johnny Rotten ands pistols were Nazis , they wore some of that paraphernalia.”

Yeah. I am not sure that is going to work as a defence.

189. Golden Gordon

So your saying the pistols were nazis not anarchists who wanted to shock.
There are people fascinated in dinosaurs. It doesn’t mean they are living the life of a raptor.
It is logical fallacy

>> So your saying the pistols were nazis not anarchists who wanted to shock.

Are you an idiot? The only person saying that is you… and the Pistols were punks, not anarchists.

Anyone notice how those defending AI’s ethical right to suspend Sahgal are also implicitly denying those concerns HRW had over Garlasco’s conduct when they suspended

191. Golden Gordon

Alec you right wing clown.
Read all the posts and I agreed with Dans post that Ai had handles the situation wrongly.
Now I know it is difficult. But here we go A, B, C.
My argument was that you a cannot call somebody is a Nazi if he collects Nazi memorabilia.
Now in your case as a brown person hater. AHHHH that might be different

192. Golden Gordon

“Johnny Rotten ands pistols were Nazis , they wore some of that paraphernalia.”

Yeah. I am not sure that is going to work as a defence.
I was answering that question.
Also they were anarchists Dickhead, because that was whole point of punk rock.

GG, dude, what are you talking about?

The Pistols never headed a professional organization criticizing Israeli actions, so this point is rather moot.

194. Let's Hear That Again

“The Pistols never headed a professional organization criticizing Israeli actions, so this point is rather moot.”

Here, perhaps, is the closest we’ll ever get to the heart of the matter. As soon as the issue becomes “human rights NGO” vs. Israel, the NGO will always, always get the shaft, regardless of whether it’s correct.

Did the Israelis bomb those civilians? Who cares, when HRW employ a goosestepping Nazi? Nazi, I tell you!

It’s the first rule of cheerleading the indefensible – make it all about the NGO, not the dead kids.

195. Golden Gordon

Alec you simple minded soul.
Anarchists come in all shapes and sizes.
What the fuck has it to with Israel ?

What’s the partisan suggestion in “criticizing Israeli actions”? Perhaps you think “criticizing” is spelt “obsessing about”.

Nice one turning it to those dead kids which the dastardly Zionists don’t care for. I mean, they can’t possible have dead kids of their own, can they? I admire the pacifist call for restraint when someone else’s kid is being attacked.

GG, I repeat, are you an idiot? Garlasco dealt with criticizing/documenting Israeli actions.

197. Golden Gordon

Alec my little racist friend do READ the posts.
Garlasco dealt with criticizing/documenting Israeli actions.
So what, it is a democracy. Hasn’t anybody the right to criticize any state.
I will have a go at Mugabe , It doesn’t mean I am anti black African.
Just because you have issues with Brown people Alec.
Don’t use the problems in the middle east to hide them

GG, 1968 is long-gone… you can’t use ju-ju terms like “racist” any longer.

Garlasco was employed on a professional basis to criticize Israeli actions. This is fact. He was revealed to have a slightly-more-than-passing interest in Nazi memorbilia, and HRW asked questions just as they would have if the head of a rape-crisis centre was found to have a slightly-more-than-passing interest in bondage and rough-sex.

Garlasco’s previous role was pertinent to his hobby, as implacable critics of Israel have a track-record of stumbling into antisemitic politics (and, as I recall, he was also disseminating suspect literature).

Sahgal’s qualifications in gender politics (or opposition to Gitmo) never have been questioned. The questions raised are purely managerial, and company loyalty rather than the universality of human rights.

“calling yourself Flak88, Messerschmidt, Luger or Nebelwerfur on a WWII memorabilia site is as controversial as calling yourself JimmyJohnstone on a Celtic FC forum”

Unless you were German and picked up the hobby/interest from a family member who served in anti-aircraft artillery in WWII. You see only an English speaker would call it a Flak88, a German would have called it a FlaK 36 or more likely FlaK 37 (Flugzeugabwehr-Kanone) so as to distinguish it from the anti-tank PaK 88 (Panzerabwehr-Kanone). The Germans, like the British, didn’t name their guns after caliber, the Americans did. Germans used a Mark number (which was used by the Prussians) and the British used shell mass (17 pounder) dating back to the days of cannon.

A good read from The Slate:

http://www.slate.com/id/2244802


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