Monday, May 31, 2004

There's nothing artificial about this AI's intelligence

"Bankrupt of vision and bereft of principle."

The words were unsparing.

"Violating rights at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad."

The source was Amnesty International.

"Double speak."

The target was the US and its "war on terror."

Its 2004 annual report, issued this past Wednesday, was one of the strongest and harshest Amnesty International has produced,
saying governments, as well as armed groups, have declared a war on universal human values that is unprecedented in the last half century. ...

[T]he London-based organization said a worldwide decline in rights included the justification of abuse by powerful governments, hundreds of lives lost to terrorist attacks, indiscriminate killing by armed guerrillas, and a lawless environment in which the wheels of justice often seemed to be in reverse.
The US was, thus obviously, by no means the only target of criticism, nor were governments: AI's Secretary-General, Irene Khan, referred to the need to "confront the callous, cruel and criminal acts of armed groups and individuals." But, she added,
[i]t is also frightening that the principles of international law and the tools of multilateral action which could protect us from those attacks are being undermined, marginalized or destroyed by powerful governments,
among them, the US, which she charged with disregarding the rule of law and having "damaged justice and freedom, and made the world a more dangerous place." Amnesty
also rapped partners across the world in the United States' self-declared "war on terror" for jailing suspects unfairly, stamping on legitimate political and religious dissent, and squeezing asylum-seekers
as part of a "backlash against human rights created by the single-minded pursuit of a global security doctrine that has deeply divided the world."

But, to paraphrase the famous (but, it seems, possibly apocryphal) quote from Vietnam, we had to destroy the rights in order to save them. Doesn't Amnesty International know there's a war on?

Footnote: I want to re-emphasize that neither the US nor the broader "war on terror" were AI's only concerns. In fact, the report covers 155 countries and territories and points to
government repression and brutality continu[ing] against the Uygurs in China and Islamists in Egypt, while gross violations of human rights are unchecked in "forgotten conflicts" such as Chechnya, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nepal.
And when Kahn was asked as a press conference
whether a particular case of human rights violations in the world demanded immediate attention, Khan named Sudan's western Darfur region without hesitation.

"I would say that there is an emerging situation where international action and pressure can stop a humanitarian catastrophe and that would be western Sudan right now," she said.
Still, though, the "war on terror," probably because of the international scope of its reach, loomed over the report. Kahn noted that it had been used to justify relaxation of export controls of arms to governments with "appalling human rights records" and in her message with the report, she wrote
Iraq and the "war on terror" have obscured the greatest human rights challenge of our times. According to some sources, developing countries spend about US$22 billion a year on weapons and, for $10 billion dollars a year, they would achieve universal primary education. These statistics hide a huge scandal: the failed promise to attack extreme poverty and address gross economic and social injustice.

According to some analysts, there is a real risk that the targets of UN Millennium Development Goals - such as the reduction of child and maternal mortality, getting all children to primary school, halving the number of people with no access to clean water - will not be achieved because international attention and resources have been diverted to the "war on terror".
Like the man famously said:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. - President Dwight Eisenhower, April 16, 1953
Or, as the other man said:
Everything is connected to everything else. - Barry Commoner's First Law of Ecology
Which also means, I suppose, that our actions are connected to others' actions in a web of change that keeps getting shredded but some have the strength to keep trying to reweave. All praise to the dreamweavers. Keep hope alive.

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