The British Foreign Office has released a report <a href="http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2002/12/02/hrdossierenglish.pdf">detailing the human rights abuses of the Iraqi regime</a>(PDF File Download), which has prompted Amnesty International to denounce the publication as a 'cold and calculated manipulation of the work of human rights activists. The report, harrowing reading as it is, contains little that is new, as it draws much of its information from the years of work of human rights organisation such as Amnesty International and Humans Right Watch. It is the timing of the report, rather than the content, that has drawn criticism from Amnesty International, with their Secretary General, Irene Khan, dismissing the report as a cynical piece of opportunism: <blockquote>"Let us not forget that these same governments turned a blind eye to Amnesty International's reports of widespread human rights violations in Iraq before the Gulf war..They remained silent when thousands of unarmed Kurdish civilians were killed in Halabja in 1988"</blockquote> Human rights abuses are human rights abuses, whoever publicises them. Also, the argument that the UK Government was complicit in the genocide of the Kurds has some truth to it, but the current Labour Government were in opposition, and made full and vocal protests about UK policies at the time. Is AI, in an apparent attempt to lend support to the anti-war axis, failing in its primary role to stamp out human rights abuses? Wouldn't it be better if it adopted Human Rights Watch strictly neutral role when it comes to military action undertaken by countries? I also have a piece to share, I think you will find it very telling: Fourteen years ago, when I was taking a few college courses, I joined the campus chapter of Amnesty International. I did a fair amount of work, helping distribute petitions, post flyers, man the booth, et al. I like to think that I contributed some small amount to the overall AI effort. And then, I made a serious mistake. I didn't sign a petition. It was about a man who had refused to serve in his nation's military (I don't recall which nation, but I think it was a Middle Eastern one) and had been jailed. Well, I've never particularly liked the idea of compulsory military service, but I don't think it's a human rights violation for a nation to require it. And so, I put that petition at the bottom of the pile and signed the rest (the usual complement of people being tortured because they held the wrong ethnicity, sexual orientation or political view). The Petition Person (before this, I thought of her as the Perky Petition Person, and much later, I thought of her as the Parker Posey Perky Petition Person, but I digress) pointed out that I had "missed one." I explained that I wouldn't sign that one and told her why. And my ass got dumped. I wasn't put on the roster for the booth the next time it went up. I stopped getting called about meetings. When I asked the chapter president what was going on, he told me under no uncertain terms that my efforts would no longer be required, since I wasn't -- and I remember these words exactly -- "voluntarily participating in key Amnesty drives." I started to plead my case, and then realized that I was talking to a wall. So I left, and have made a point of not having anything to do with Amnesty International since then. They lost a guy who would later be known to spend more than sixty hours a week at an extracurricular pursuit, thanks to the actions of a few small-minded members. And I'm not talking about the fact that I disagreed with them, either -- I'm talking about the fact that because I decided not to support one facet of the overall AI effort, they decided that I was no longer worthy of being allowed to help them on the many other facets. So that's why this story doesn't surprise me in the least -- as far as I'm concerned, AI has long been for people who enjoy complaining about things far more than they enjoy doing anything about it. And heavens forfend that the "wrong" sort of person decide to do something about it.