Amnesty Director Talks Torment and Tyranny
by Gail Taylor
staunch defense of human rights is in the U.S. national interest,
an impassioned Dr. William Schulz told a rapt OC audience in October.
'71, executive director of Amnesty International USA, decried a
waning of American public support for human rights as a foreign
policy objective. Fifteen years ago, he said, most Americans would
have named containing communism or, "perhaps more positively," promoting
democracy, as the chief goal of U.S. foreign policy. Today, most
people view stemming drug traffic or protecting American jobs as
the chief goals.
lecture on "Torture, Torment and Tyranny--the State of Human Rights"
was the first of two fall semester talks supported by the Richard
R. Hallock Foundation and sponsored by the politics department in
conjunction with associate professor Eve Sandberg's course, U.S.
Foreign Policy Making.
key challenge for the human rights movement is "simply to re-enliven
among Americans a sense that the world beyond our borders matters,"
Schulz said. Seasoned with poignancy and humor, but punctuated with
disquieting details of human suffering, his talk was well-suited
to enlivening his Oberlin audience's concern.
deals with "the worst kinds of troubles that the world can throw
at us," he said--troubles like those of a 9-year-old sold into slavery
by his parents to weave carpets when he was 3, and blinded in his
left eye by a foreman when he failed to work hard enough; or, like
those of women in Afghanistan who, if they appear on the streets
with a wedding ring, are in danger of having their fingers chopped
its original mission of freeing prisoners of conscience, the 39-year-old
organization has added campaigns against such abuses as political
killings, torture, unfair trials, and execution--including police
brutality and the death penalty in the U.S.
minister and former president of the Unitarian Universalist Association
before taking his post at Amnesty in 1994, Schulz condemned excessive
U.S. reliance on the export of capitalism to enhance human rights.
Economic development may have some positive effect, he said. "The
problem is that capitalism, investment, and economic growth alone
are not sufficient to guarantee human rights, for if they were,
South Africa...would have been emblematic of human rights."
that ignore human rights are ultimately unstable and therefore "bad
for business," he contended. The U.S. ultimately suffers when governments
silence such dissidents as environmental crusaders.
arguments go beyond invoking enlightened self-interest. The organization
tries to "break down the defenses of a Henry Kissinger or a
James Baker or a Madeleine Albright" by telling victims' stories--showing
them "that battered body lying before them, bleeding, bleeding.
"Every single one of us," he said, "knows what it
is to bleed."