Kristyan Benedict is the Campaigns Manager at Amnesty International UK, one of the Western worlds most well known and influential human rights NGOs, and one whose work is often both useful and informative. I personally am an avid reader of many of their reports and articles, although i’m no longer naive enough to think they are as studiously neutral and impervious to the pressures and forces we are all subjected to as I once did.
This is just a post to highlight something that I have found exasperating and perplexing about Benedicts public exhortations on the war in Syria for months now. Namely, that:
When it comes to the anti-war movement, particularly as it finds an expression via the Stop The War Coalition, he has regularly expressed – or maybe that should be struggled to conceal – his contempt for them. You can see that from this selection of tweets, spanning months, and up to the present day:
Example one (if they aren’t referring to recent anti-war protests, what are they referring to?):
Example two (with this anonymous individual a stand-in for Stop The War in general, perhaps):
All the usual tropes of what you might call ‘Cruise Missile Liberalism’ are there: that people who are against the war are in some sense indifferent to the suffering of the people in the targeted country; that they are self-righteous; that they are an irrelevance anyway; that they are insufficiently critical of the Real Bad Guys so as to make them suspicious; that it is they, and not the people who support the war, who are the genuine reactionaries; that their positions are borne of dogmatic inflexibility, rather than principle or what they believe to be a sound analysis; and that they are nutty conspiracy theorists.
Anyone who is interested can find Stop The War’s position on Syria here.
I really do struggle to see anything objectionable about it, especially when you take into account that the role of Stop The War – as the name suggests – is to prevent the U.K. government participating in or sponsoring wars. They are not, as far as I can tell, a general solidarity organisation, so Benedicts mixture of ‘What-aboutery?’ and ‘Why-don’t-you-condemn-athon?’ does seem misplaced.
When it comes to the British government, however – who unlike Stop The War, have a proven and continuing track record of arming dictators, supporting human rights abusers, and carrying out human rights abuses and war crimes themselves – his tone markedly changes.
He generally cites them uncritically, and often approvingly, despite the fact that the things they say and tweet about Syria are demonstrably – given their abysmal record – borne of unprincipled and calculating propaganda, and likely war propaganda at that. You can see that from this series of tweets (to cite a small number):
And on and on it goes like that.
I’m just left wondering why, on the eve of a war which could dangerously inflame an already bad situation, a senior human rights activist would continually parrott the propaganda of a British government notorious for supporting and arming some of the worlds worst human rights abusers, while simultaneously attacking an anti-war organisation whose opposition to the war is based on the plausible belief that it will, among other things, be bad for human rights and self-determination within Syria?
Maybe he simply does have more sympathy with the war mongers and dictator supporters than he does with actually existing anti-war activists, as his tweets suggest.
Or maybe he just doesn’t want to lose his privileges and access:
Ultimately, I don’t know, but what I do know is that his behaviour is extremely disappointing and worrying.