Monday, July 23, 2012

Amnesty International and the CIA

I signed a new Will the day before we flew to Norway last month. If the plane had gone down the Will probably wouldn’t have been enforceable anyway, but you never know. Linda and I own all our assets as joint tenants with right of survivorship, and as the older I would have been presumed to have died first, absent any evidence to the contrary. Linda’s Will would have been in effect, not mine. Nevertheless...

The last-minute change I made was to disinherit Amnesty International. I know, I know: it’s a fine organisation with a proud record of battling for political prisoners around the world, including those in Guantanamo and Bagram and all the other US and NATO torture-camps.

Until now. Now, change is in the offing. Earlier this year, the US State Department parachuted one of its trained stooges into the top job at Amnesty’s US branch. According to Wikipedia, she advocates a program of military intervention as a way of promoting democratic agendas all over the world – presumably as defined by the US State Department. (Sometimes, you have to destroy a country in order to save it, right?)

Amnesty will continue to do good work, but now "good work" will be what the State Department says it is. Amnesty's agenda will be set by the CIA, which is the Department’s military wing. We can imagine how the agenda will change: political prisoners in Iran and Syria, OK: in Israel and Saudi Arabia, not so much. There will be a shift in the organisation’s priorities, as there was at Human Rights Watch, where the appointee worked last. That body became increasingly regarded as a CIA front during her time there.

What an appalling betrayal of trust those takeovers represent! We had Amnesty down to receive a third of our assets – a serious commitment on our part. What should we do now? Our own family gets first dibs on our savings, when we die, but we have never believed its members should receive the whole kit and caboodle.

So, as long as the Salvation Army remains uncorrupted, we will gladly give it the money instead. Will the Salvos ever be suborned by national rulers who believe that mutilation and slaughter of foreign civilians are actions to admire? We can’t imagine the Salvos’ good works would ever be compromised by national or tribal considerations, the way Amnesty’s and Human Rights Watch’s have been or will be.

One-time bequests to charities are easy enough to arrange; an extra paragraph in a Will is all it takes. Permanent and complex Foundations are fine for the super-rich, who don’t mind paying super-lawyers to set them up and administer. Those are the ones we all read about in newspapers and books – Ford, Rhodes, Templeton, Rockefeller, Gates, and many others not quite so famous. Most of them bring super-benefits, whether tangible or intangible, to large numbers of people in different parts of the world.

Incidentally, there is even a Ken Dart Foundation, not so well known but easily found on Google. It sponsors, among other things, the internationally involved Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, thereby encouraging the kind of fighters for freedom that Amnesty made its name defending.

Those native Caymanians who are forever bad-mouthing Ken Dart for not giving away more local freebies than he does, in this richest of all Caribbean islands, should give the man respect for his Foundation’s work. Don’t let Cayman’s entitlement-culture blind any of us to the needs of the rest of the world.