March 14, 2000
Dr. William F. Schulz was appointed Executive Director of Amnesty International (USA) in March 1994. An ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, he came to Amnesty International after serving for fifteen years with the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA), the last eight (1985-93) as President of the Association. He has appeared frequently on radio and television, including "60 Minutes," "20/20," "The Today Show," "Good Morning, America," "All Things Considered," "Politically Incorrect," and on the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, FOX News and Bloomberg News. He has published and is quoted widely in newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Review of Books, The Nation, The National Interest and Parade.
Dr. Schulz will visit Mobile to give presentations on behalf of Amnesty International at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mobile on April 1 and 2.
The following interview was conducted via email last week.
Q: Do you know in the 1980's, the local daily newspaper considered Amnesty
International a communist-front organization?
A: I did not know that but, at age 50, I am not particularly surprised by any instance of ignorance anymore. Amnesty has been called practically every nasty political name in the book. We like to think of ourselves as "equal opportunity offenders," people who offend those from one end of the political spectrum to the other. Anyone who suspects Amnesty of being sympathetic to Communism will need to explain why it is, then, that we are one of the world's most outspoken critics of the denial of political and religious liberty in such remaining Communist "bastions" as Cuba, China, Vietnam and North Korea.
Q: Like most Americans, Mobilians are concerned with or interested in things that
happen in their own backyard. Why should they be concerned with prisoners of conscience in
A: Whenever the US becomes involved militarily, be it in Kosovo or Haiti, it is almost always related to the violation of human rights. If you care about Mobile's kids in the military and where they may end up in the world, you had better care about human rights. Often when US jobs are lost to manufacturing plants overseas, it is because would-be labor leaders in those Latin American or Asian countries have been prevented, through harassment, intimidation or worse, from organizing and advocating for better wages and working conditions. If you care about Mobile's jobs, you had better care about human rights. When the US sends money to Colombia ostensibly to fight the drug wars and that money is used instead by the Colombian Army to collude with paramilitaries killing thousands of innocent civilians each year, that's a colossal waste of taxpayers dollars. If you care about how your taxes are spent, you had better care about human rights. When radioactive waste is poured into the North Sea, eventually to reach US waters, and Russian environmentalists are under siege for pointing the contamination out; when dengue fever reaches the US South from Latin America and a Cuban doctor who tries to sound the alarm is imprisoned; when forests in the Amazon or Indonesia are felled, thus contributing to global warming, over the objection of indigenous leaders who are often imprisoned or even killed for protesting, all of our lives are put at risk. These are just some of the practical reasons folks in Mobile have a powerful self-interest in protecting human rights. I'm publishing a book in early 2001 tentatively called "The Profits of Justice: Why Human Rights Are Good for Americans" that will make the argument in considerable detail.
Q: What are some of the recent campaigns of Amnesty International?
A: We've just completed a year-long campaign on rights violations in the US and will be focusing shortly on those in Saudi Arabia, a strategic US ally. Soon after that an international campaign to stop torture around the world will begin. But Amnesty monitors about 160 countries and tries to keep consistent pressure focused wherever it is needed, from China to Turkey, Congo to Chechnya.
Q: What will you be discussing when you visit Mobile?
A: I'll offer an assessment of the major challenges facing the human rights movement and how people can help.