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June 02, 2005

Ours is not a gulag

Listen up, this week's right wing talking point is improvisational. Your job is to act outraged, horrified, shocked, and dismayed that Amnesty International described Guantanamo Bay as "the gulag of our times."

Unfortunately, from a marketing perspective, "We aren't running a gulag." is right up there with "I am not a crook."

So, here's a little backgrounder on the huge differences between America's global penal archipelago and the real G.U.L.A.G.

First off, ours is tiny. America is holding less than 1/100th of 1 percent of the number of prisoners interned by Stalin.

Second, we're offering global solutions for a global war on terror. The original gulag was was hamstrung by a centralized socialist bureaucracy. They did all their murder and torture in-house. We're not nearly so hidebound. We outsource most of the really heavy "interrogation" work to our allies and highly specialized mercenaries soldiers of fortune private security contractors.

We're so modern and flexible that we don't know exactly how many people we're holding, or whether they've been charged. A lot of people just "disappear" into a kind of limbo, so it's hard to get an accurate count. The world is flat, buddy. Deal.

If someone compares our penal network to the gulag, just laugh and call them ignorant. Any sophomore can tell you that the gulag was a network of forced labor camps. We prefer forced indefinite leisure in small chicken wire cages.

Unlike the old school gulag, our archipelago is built by good old American capitalists, that's why it's light, mobile, and poised for growth.

Jason Burke of the Observer runs by some of the highlights of our own little archipelago:

The United States government, in conjunction with key allies, is running an 'invisible' network of prisons and detention centres into which thousands of suspects have disappeared without trace since the 'war on terror' began. In the past three years, thousands of alleged militants have been transferred around the world by American, Arab and Far Eastern security services, often in secret operations that by-pass extradition laws. [...]

The ghost prison network stretches around the globe. The biggest American-run facilities are at the Bagram airbase, north of Kabul in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, where around 400 men are held, and in Iraq, where tens of thousands of detainees are held. Saddam Hussein and dozens of top Baath party officials are held in a prison at Baghdad airport.

However, Washington is relying heavily on allies. In Morocco, scores of detainees once held by the Americans are believed to be held at the al-Tamara interrogation centre sited in a forest five miles outside the capital, Rabat. Many of the detainees were originally captured by the Pakistani authorities, who passed them on to the Americans. [Observer]

So, remember, anyone who insinuates that America is involved in any way shape or form with any gulagdom is a crazy Bush-hating relativist. They also hate the victims of Stalin. Maybe they even like Stalin! Anyone who says the g-word might as well be singing the Marseillaise while pissing on the grave of Ivan Denisovich.

Any questions?

Comments

"Any questions? "

Should work in accusations that they compared Bush to Hitler?

Is the author of "Gulag Archepelago" still alive, and is he a Bush supporter? Can we get a soundbite of him saying "Bush good. Stalin Bad."

Damned pinkos! Can't they see that there is a major and overwhelming difference between the GULAG and Gitmo? To get into the archipelago you at least got a show trial or forced confession, for Gitmo you don't even need that. Unlike Stalin, Bush doesn't even care about the veneer of the rule of law.

They should do tshirts:
"I was tortured at Gitmo and I didn't even get to sign a lousy confession."

Another difference is that the Soviet gulag was fairly successful in its objective, reprehensible though it was.

Rob, 'successful' in what way? And what 'objective' do you speak of?

"To get into the archipelago you at least got a show trial or forced confession, for Gitmo you don't even need that. Unlike Stalin, Bush doesn't even care about the veneer of the rule of law."

Actually Bush does care and he created a law just like Hilter that allows someone to be declared a "person of interest", be picked up with out being charged with a crime, without notification of their families, denied access to legal representation or a court hearing, free one way admitance to Gitmo, and indefinite detention... and the two individuals that that was done to were US citizens.

I shit you not and their families eventually filed suit in Federal Court and the administration lost several hearings and were forced to get them attorneys and have a court hearing.

The Nazis also implemented a legal concept called Schutzhaft or “protective custody” which enabled them to arrest and incarcerate people without charging them with a crime.

This also happened in regards to prisoners being deported to counties who routinely use torture in a number of cases and again the Federal Courts ruled against the administration.

So when I hear someone stupidly argue that its a numbers game as to whether you can compare Bush to Hilter or the Nazis to what is happening now, it is just so much bullshit! If it can be done to one person... it can be done to anyone... and its probably just a matter of time.

Does it really surprise anyone that this administration is now waging a war on the judiciary? Or that the Attorney Genrel Gonzales was the one who gave Bush the memo that justified using torture? Or the Judicial nominee Pryor was the one that actually wrote the torture memo?

From Bob Barr's website:

http://hq.democracyinaction.org/dia/organizations/PRCB/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=621

"This expansion of government powers has resulted in a significant groundswell from across the political spectrum - resolutions opposing the Patriot Act have been passed in 367 communities in 43 states including four state-wide resolutions. These communities represent approximately 55.2 million people who oppose sections of the USA Patriot Act."


If you can't connect the dots... God help ya because there may not be anyone around to after a while.

Is this what passes for sophisticated informed commentary these days? Pathetic.
Why the cartoon instead of a serious point. Isn't it obvious that the promiscuous use of hyperbole poisons the atmosphere and generally harms the image of the accuser more than their target.

"To get into the archipelago you at least got a show trial or forced confession, for Gitmo you don't even need that. Unlike Stalin, Bush doesn't even care about the veneer of the rule of law." Ah, not enough venom release for you comparing Gulag to Gitmo, now Stalin who murdered 30+ million is morally superior to Bush." Brilliant, really brilliant.

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Isayevich is the author of Gulag Archepelago, a passing knowledge of the book or the events it documents might help you form an informed opinion. I guess if you are promulgating a fun house mirror version of current reality; then historical accuracy is not of any particular interest to you.

How many human beings need to be tortured in order for it to become morally indefensible? How many need to die in custody of suspicious causes (like freezing to death in an Afghan cell), before it becomes murder?

What is pathetic is a person who can stand on a soap box proclaiming he represents a “culture of life” and then abuse it not in the light of day… but in secret torture facilities in Egypt, Jordan, and Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan… where just before 9/11 our own government Human Rights Commission went there and issued a scathing report on their lack of civil rights, “where prisoners were routinely beaten with blunt objects, selective body parts put into boiling liquid, and while they were there two prisoners were boiled to death.”

What is pathetic are people who are so ideologically driven that can justify any sort of human behavior, no matter how morally objectionable, and be so in denial and fail to realize that they have become what they say they hate the most.

What is pathetic is that America used to stand for something… Ronald Reagan called it that “shining city on the hill”, it was founded on principles and self evident truths. Now the world looks at us and calls us liars, hypocrites, and despots.

Quite brilliant!

sloooow response time. 'Successful' in the most obvious way, it silenced (almost) all internal opposition to the regime, real or imagined, and created an atmosphere of fear, which were major components of its objective.

It's outrageous they invoke archipelagos. As if you need a boat to get to Bagram from Abu Ghraib.

There is a lot to criticize about the US system, Gitmo, Bagram, Abu Graib, and so on. This does not make it a Gulag.

The differences are too legion, domestic vs international, trials vs battlefield captures, slave labor vs no labor, free Korans vs forced atheism, and on and on. Criticize what needs to be criticized. Do not equate flushing books down the toilet with pulling of fingernails. Do not annihilate your own credibility with specious exaggerations.

Amnesty International flushed its reputation for accuracy down the toilet for a publicity stunt. Problem: You yourself will not believe AI when they next come out with a new report, you will assume they are exaggerating.

"Is this what passes for sophisticated informed commentary these days?"

No. This is cynical banter. Sophisticated informed commentary does occur here, but this isn't it.

Do not equate flushing books down the toilet with pulling of fingernails.

Tell me, son, have you ever heard of a "peroneal strike?"

"Do not equate flushing books down the toilet with pulling of fingernails. Do not annihilate your own credibility with specious exaggerations."


Below are excerpts from the Armies own report to Congress as reported by Associated press. Its a lot more than flushing the Koran down the toilet. Many of the deaths that are listed as natural causes are suspicious as well. In one report there were two detainees who were stripped naked and put into their cells and found later frozen to death.

This is only what the US will make public and is certain to be the tip of the iceberg.

Abuse report

The AP showed that of the 108 prisoner deaths in U.S. custody:

• More than 26 cases have been classified as criminal homicide involving prisoner abuse.

• At least 29 deaths were due to suspected natural causes or accidents.

• Twenty-two cases are blamed on a mortar attack on Iraq’s Abu Gharib jail in April 2004.

• More than 20 deaths were due to "justifiable homicide", where army investigators claimed that U.S. soldiers used deadly force “appropriately”.

The Pentagon presented a report to Congress last week, stating that only six detainees died in Iraq and Afghanistan in what it called “closed, substantiated abuse cases" as of last September.

The author of the Pentagon report, Vice Adm Albert Church, blamed the abuse on a breakdown of discipline, but did not directly accuse any senior officials.

To be fair, koran flushing has to be compared to the least worse form of idealogical attack that was suffered by victims of the gulag, pulling out of fingernails has to be compared to the pulpification of "detainee's" kneecaps or multiple cases of anal rape with blunt objects.

To compare koran flushing to fingernail pulling is disingenuous to say the least, and I'm sure those that trot out such a vapid and stupid argument know it is but use it anyway.

Unfortunately, from a marketing perspective, "We aren't running a gulag." is right up there with "I am not a crook."

very nicely done.

I guess if you are promulgating a fun house mirror version of current reality; then historical accuracy is not of any particular interest to you.
ah, my friend it is here you show your lack of perception. current reality is a funhouse mirror version of ideals that America is supposed to stand for. as to your second point, the historical accuracy baby has long since been thrown out along with the moral and ethical standards bathwater.

Amnesty International flushed its reputation for accuracy down the toilet for a publicity stunt
so, it seems to me that this report here is the first time you are actually hearing of amnesty international. that's well and good, but the amount of insensitivity you have shown while trying to make a point is quite frankly, scary.

But The New Republic says it's an "obscene moral parallel." Those guys are never wrong, right?

Wow. You guys are good. Good work taking on JJ.

Do not equate flushing books down the toilet with pulling of fingernails.

Fred, do you realize that have been more detainees who have died in American custody over the past four years than there were American POWs who died in Vietnamese custody during the entire Vietnam war?

Hi Thad:

I'm coming down on your side in this argument, but I wanted to know your source on the Vietnam figures. Its an interesting parallel and useful for further use.

The Pentagon report to Congress admits 108 deaths of detainees for various reasons. These figures were alter revised up to 132 fatalities. These, of course are the only ones that they will admit to and it and does not include the "outsourced" torture victims. Additionally, the International red cross found that they were deliberately creating "ghost detainees" and not given ID numbers to make them invisible to the system.

When it all comes out... as it always does... lots of folks will have plenty to hang their heads in shame about, which if true to form... will be rationalized and minimized away with lots of rhetorical crap.

http://www.mrfa.org/vnstats.htm

lists 114 US POW deaths for Vietnam war.

Thanks.

Don’t compare Bush to Stalin, it’s unfair to Stalin.
Stalin made mistakes but he was not a villain. No one in the history did more for working class people, for literacy, for women rights than Stalin. You have to look at Stalin in the context of history. He was building the first socialist state surrounded by hostile imperialist powers. Many western intellectuals, writers and artists recognized his contribution to the progress, unfortunately his legacy was squandered by the traitors of the workers cause, which ironically proves that Stalin’s excesses were not so unfounded after all. Even Hitler was better than Bush in some respects. He at least cared for the German working class.

I am tired of all Bush apologists! Bush is worse than Hitler and Stalin combined.

I think the reaction to Americans killed directly by terrorism by Clinton was much better. He passed a law, right? You like your freedom? Deal with the fact that the Government needs to do unpopular things.

Being old enough to remember Nuclear Fallout Drills makes me wonder if Kennedy should have had "Operation Cuban Freedom,". Instead, we had the "Cuban Missle Crisis,".

If the World Trade Center was hit under Al Gore, would we have gone after Usama? No. Would we be dealing with roadside bombs in Iraq. No. We would be dealing with them in the US, on our way to work, at our schools, our picnics...

Call President Bush what you will, but sleep well, your not going to die on your way to work from a roadside bomb! You should be thanking the Military, and not making weak comparisons to people who slaughtered and attempted Genocide!

Ever wonder what life would have been like if Germany won World War 2? Think about it, and try that comparison again, Mario. Have any Jewish friends? You allowed out after dark? Can you write in a Blog? Are you free to go for a walk? Can you own property?

Wake up dude...

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