An Amnesty International poster announcing a “shadow summit” to coincide with the NATO summit in Chicago has elicited attacks from people saying that the human rights organization is campaigning for NATO to continue its “work” in Afghanistan.
With the slogan “NATO: Keep the progress going” and in its subsequent press release, Amnesty International USA has said that NATO’s intervention in Afghanistan has brought considerable progress to the lives of women. In view of the fact that the period 2001 – 2012 has been one of constant warfare, people have contested this claim.
AIUSA says it “doesn’t take a position for or against NATO”, which is odd considering that the Alliance has been accused of numerous war crimes including aggression. One would not expect an organization like AI to sit on the fence. Perhaps even more striking is that AI’s link between NATO’s presence in Afghanistan and “progress” on women’s rights is in fact an overt repetition of the propaganda peddled by George W. Bush to justify the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. On 18 November 2001, Laura Bush took over her husband’s weekly radio address to link women’s rights to the need for military intervention, while in his extremely bellicose 2002 State of the Union address President Bush specifically introduced Sima Samar, the newly appointed Minister for Women’s Affairs in Afghanistan, who was present in the Congress to hear the speech and who had earlier met with the President. He said, “The last time we met in this chamber, the mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captives in their own homes, forbidden from working or going to school. Today women are free, and are part of Afghanistan’s new government.”
Indeed, Amnesty’s position on Afghanistan is identical to the position which continues to be taken by the former US president 10 years on. In 2011, he gave an interview to Fox News in which he said, like Amnesty, that, “The idea of liberating women, empowering women, encouraging women, educating women in Afghanistan is all part of laying a foundation for lasting peace.” Laura Bush, in an article published in the Washington Post on 18 May 2012, advances arguments which are literally identical to Amnesty’s.
Indeed, the identity between AIUSA’s position on Afghanistan and the policies of successive American governments is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that the first speaker at the “Shadow Summit” is none other than Madeleine Albright, the former US Secretary of State and muscular proponent (and practitioner, over Kosovo, in 1999) of military interventionism in the name of human rights.