Bianca and Ramsey
They seem like strange bedfellows: Bianca Jagger and Ramsey Clark. But I think something the former said can shed a bit of light on the dark and murky thought processes of the latter.
Writing in Friday's NY Post, Amir Taheri reports on a speech given by Bianca at a Foreign Press Association meeting in London. Taheri writes that a prize was given to there to "Akbar Ganji, an Iranian investigative reporter who is on a hunger strike in Tehran's Evin Prison."
Taheri has learned from experience that ordinarily there are certain unwritten rules about awarding such prizes:
Together with several colleagues, I had been trying for months to persuade the Western media to take an interest in Ganji, a former Khomeinist revolutionary who is now campaigning for human rights and democracy [by the way, that sounds like another fairly dramatic "change" story, doesn't it?]. But we never got anywhere because of one small hitch: President Bush had spoken publicly in support of Ganji and called for his immediate release.
And that, as far as a good part of the Western media is concerned, amounts to a kiss of death. How could newspapers that portray Bush as the world's biggest "violator of human rights" endorse his call in favor of Ganji?
To overcome that difficulty, some of Ganji's friends had tried to persuade him to make a few anti-American, more specifically anti-Bush, pronouncements so that the Western media could adopt him as a "hero-martyr."... Would Ganji adopt [this] tactic in order to get media attention in the West? The answer came last January and it was a firm no.
The result was that Ganji, probably the most outspoken and courageous prisoner of conscience in the Islamic Republic today, became a non-person for the Western media. Even efforts by the group Reporters Without Frontiers, and the International Press Institute, among other organizations of journalists, failed to change attitudes towards Ganji.
Taheri was heartened when the Foreign Press Association decided to defy convention and to honor Ganji despite his refusal to denounce the evil Bush. But then, at the awards ceremony, Bianca Jagger turned out to be the speaker of the evening. And it was quite a speech she made:
She started by telling us about her recent trips to Tehran and Damascus, presumably the two capitals of human rights that she likes best, and how she had been told "by officials and others" that she and other Westerners had "no moral authority" to talk about human rights and freedom.
She then proceeded by saying it is all very well to remember Ganji but that should not prevent us from remembering "those held in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, and all other secret prisons" that the United States is supposed to be running all over the world.
The rest of the little speech had nothing to do with Ganji and everything to do with the claim that the United States is drawing an almost sadistic pleasure by practicing torture. I couldn't believe my ears.
There was this caricature of a "UNICEF ambassador" equating Ganji — a man who has fought only with his pen — with men captured armed in hand on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.
So what does this have to do with Ramsey Clark? Well, Taheri had the following post-speech exchange with Jagger:
Having swallowed my anger, I gave the "UNICEF Ambassador" a piece of my mind. She seemed surprised. No one had ever told her such things, especially not in a polite society of dinner jackets and long robes. "Is Ganji the same as the alleged terrorists in Guantanamo Bay?" I asked.
"Well, yes, I mean no, I mean yes," she mumbled. "But they are all prisoners, aren't they?"
They are all prisoners, aren't they? That's it; that's the key. In Jagger's eyes, all prisoners are the same: victims.
And I think that is also the key to Ramsey Clark: in his eyes, the role of prisoner trumps all others, and immediately makes a person a victim, and therefore a figure of pity. If you've read my piece on Clark, you know the rest.
[NOTE: And, in a possibly doomed effort to head some of you off at the pass, this does not mean that (a) I approve of torture; (b) I approve of the Abu Ghraib goings-on that fell short of torture; or (c) that I don't think Saddam should have a defense lawyer. It's just about two things: (1) the PC need to denounce Bush in order to get any human rights kudos; and (2) the mentality that automatically assumes all prisoners are victims.]