Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Losing Faith in the Red Cross: Epilogue

A few days ago I wrote a post entitled "Losing Faith in the Red Cross." It has been getting a fair amount of traffic, largely from the American Red Cross. This morning I received a letter from the Red Cross (specifically from an International Relief Delegate using the 'official' Red Cross email).
SMW is always happy to hear from readers, particularly when their letters are articulate and do not threaten physical violence, and so I am more than happy to post this letter along with my response.

For clarity, I am putting my responses in italics. Just so you know who is saying what.

I saw your post and would like to clarify a few things. I have been a Red Cross volunteer for 15 years and worked on numerous international missions.

Yeah, we didn't do the right thing in the WWII. There were little victories when we succeeded in getting convoys of supplies into some concentration camps, but by and large, the organization didn't find a way to help people enough. The organization has been pretty candid about that in recent years.

[Thank you for acknowledging that the Red Cross did not do “the right thing” in WW2. The issue is a bit bigger than not helping people enough, there was a systemic failure to speak out against the evil that was taking place in Europe. This was not about supplies; this was about moral authority and courage.]

One of the things that keeps me in the Red Cross is that we look at our shortcomings and strive with all our might to get it right the next time.

[This is a good thing. And this is the reason why I mentioned the Red Cross’s shortcomings in WW2; because it is difficult to tell if the Red Cross is ‘getting it right the next time.’ One of the rationales used to justify not speaking out about the Concentration Camps is exactly the same as the rationale you use below to justify training the Taliban:

No relief action of any sort by the Red Cross in Germany or the occupied territories could have been undertaken without the approval of the authorities....Conforming to the letter, if not to the spirit of the Geneva Conventions...the Nazi government permitted the ICRC and its delegates to act on behalf of the several millions of prisoners held in the Stalags and Oflags. It refused, however, to allow any intervention on the part of the Red Cross in the concentration camps....In the face of such an obstinate refusal which covered up the horrifying reality, about which one was then ill-informed, the ICRC certainly could have made itself heard; it could have protested publicly and called on the conscience of the world. By doing so it would, however, have deprived itself of any possibility of acting in Hitler's Empire; it would have deliberately given up what chances there still remained to it to help, even in a restricted manner, the victims of the concentration camp regime. But, above all, it would have made it impossible for it to continue its activity on behalf of millions of military captives. For the Nazi leaders viewed this activity with suspicion which they would have ruthlessly suppressed on the slightest pretext.]

The Magen David Adom is now part of the worldwide Red Cross network, in large part because of the pressure brought to bear by the American Red Cross.

[Yes, you are correct – after almost 60 years of refusing them entry, the Red Cross allowed the Magen David Adom to join their ranks in 2006.]

That Director you referred to led the charge, and this issue had very little to do with why she left. The policy of withholding our arrears to the international fund was continued for over a decade after she moved on. An agreement was worked out in 2005 with all the governments of the world and all the parts of the Red Cross movement to change the Geneva Conventions. The MDA and the Palestinian Red Crescent were admitted at the same time and a new symbol was adopted (the red crystal).

[Yes, and doesn’t it strike you as odd that the Star of David is not deemed an acceptable symbol? That Israelis have to use the Red Crystal instead of the Magen David to be allowed entry to the Red Cross?

But the IRC says that, rather than being a neutral emblem that is only seen in connection with relief work, the Star of David is primarily a national - not to mention a religiously and politically-charged - symbol. Arab member states have, for their part, said that the use of such an emblem would be unacceptable on their territory.

The Cross, the Crescent, the Magen David are ALL religious symbols. Of course the Magen David indicates Jew, and so in order to to join the Red Cross, the MDA needed to make its emblem Judenrein and adopt a nifty ‘Crystal’ instead. Finally, I applaud all of those within the American Red Cross who fought hard and valiantly to have the MDA admitted to the organization.]

At that point, the American Red Cross released the funds it had held in escrow. In Haiti, I worked alongside MDA medics- on their first international mission as full members of the Red Cross movement.

As for training the Taliban, the Red Cross teaches the principles of international humanitarian law to warring parties all over the world- from guerrillas in Colombia to clans in Somalia. They aren't providing humanitarian aid to the Taliban, they are teaching them the law. In doing so, they are working to save lives-- maybe even the lives of British or American soldiers.

[I am sure everyone will let out a sigh of relief knowing that the Red Cross has rolled into Afghanistan to give the Taliban legal lessons. I’m sure Taliban fighters will keep these important legal lessons in mind before they kidnap another American soldier to hang out with their current captive Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl. No doubt these lessons have come in handy in teaching the Taliban to cry ‘torture!’ at every possible turn. Just out of curiosity, I am wondering which Red Cross legal lesson the Taliban were following last week when they hung a seven year old child?? The fact is, on this point you are dead wrong. See the British Red Cross website for confirmation that the Red Cross is supplying medical kits and first aid training to the Taliban.]

Training provides contact, and this may give the Red Cross a future chance at gaining access to POWs and other captives.

[Isn’t this the same faulty logic that was used by the Red Cross during WW2?]

Case in point: No one else could get to Michael Durant (captured US soldier in Somalia) but the Red Cross. His release was secured by the Red Cross in a country that had no government.

[Yes, it was and I am very thankful that Michael Durant was saved and is still alive today.]

Who else but the Red Cross might be able to help if a US soldier gets captured by the Taliban? You might argue that the soldier will be killed and has no hope.

[No, I do not think that a soldier captured by the Taliban will necessarily be killed (although it is most likely). Terror organizations keep hostages alive if they are an asset – they can use them for money, propaganda and psychological warfare. Terrorists do not keep hostages alive out of the goodness of their heart or out of a soft-spot for the Red Cross, or because they have been given legal training – they kidnap hostages and keep them alive because experience has taught them they can do this and get away with it while reaping the benefits from their propaganda machine.]

But international humanitarian law gives hope, and interests change over time and at different political junctures. Someday, it might be to everyone's benefit somewhere down the line that the Red Cross did this training. Someday it might give them access to save another Michael Durant.

[Hope, laws and goodwill have not convinced Hamas to grant the Red Cross access to captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. People who believe international humanitarian law gives hope are living in a Heart Shaped World. Laws only serve a purpose if people are willing to obey them. I do not put my faith in international humanitarian law. I put my faith and hope in the brave men and women who believe in freedom and the value of life, who put their own lives on the line every day protecting America and her allies from the very Taliban that the Red Cross is helping. As Brian Lilley wrote earlier this week:

There is a great deal of difference though between saving the life of someone who has been wounded in battle and training, as well as equipping, one side of that battle.

I don't know anything about the Norwegians in the IDF you wrote about, but governments are supposed to try their own citizens for crimes committed during war (like the US did in My Lai and Abu Ghraib). Only when those judicial instruments fail or are non-existent are war crimes tribunals created.

[Yes, governments do have their own systems for crimes committed during war. However the Red Cross’s Director of Communications in Norway wants the Norwegian government to go after IDF soldiers on its own. This is just one of many examples of the Red Cross's tunnel vision in the Middle East.]

Thanks for reading all the way through.

[Thank you for your letter. I believe that there are many incredible volunteers working for the Red Cross, particularly in North America. I also believe that many of these volunteers are patriots and I hope that they will step back and take an honest look at the Red Cross’s history (the good and the bad) and its current activities (the good and the bad). Personally, I would not want to volunteer for, or give my money to, an organization or project that is training and equipping America’s enemies.]