June 14, 2005

Remembering Stalin's Gulag: Further Perspective on Amnesty International's Comments

Ned Rice's article entitled Amnesty Irrational: Lessons in "gulag" provides a valuable history lesson on the Soviet gulags:

...For their edification, the Soviet gulag consisted of hundreds, possibly thousands of forced labor camps that existed from the time of the Russian revolution right up through the Gorbachev era...Here somewhere between 18 million and 25 million Soviet citizens not foreign-born terrorists or enemy combatants, but Soviet citizens, mostly were housed in POW-style barracks and given just enough nourishment, usually, to survive. Unlike POWs, or the current residents of Guantanamo, gulag residents performed slave labor in the mines, forests, and farms of the Soviet empire. This vast pool of unpaid labor was, in fact, instrumental in propping up the otherwise unsustainable Soviet economy.

Solzhenitsyn writes that the gulag interrogators weren't content to simply torture until the pain became so unbearable...fought for their lives while suspended from a ceiling by their heels with electrodes stuck in their various orifices.

...Plus, many of the camps were located in virtually uninhabitable Siberia...The kind of place where any day in which the temperature approached zero degrees Fahrenheit was considered balmy...

...to get into the old Soviet gulag...All you had to do was say or write something against the Soviet government, or even be suspected of doing so...And if all else failed you could just get on the wrong side of some petty military bureaucrat like Solzhenitsyn did and it was goodbye, civilian life, hello gulag!...

Much has been written about real and alleged abuses in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. But by way of perspective, consider this: In the current war on terror coalition forces, mostly American, have liberated some 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of these 50 million newly liberated people, about 68,000 have been detained as possible enemy combatants, terrorists, or both. Of these 68,000 detainees, (many of whom were trained to claim that they were tortured after being released), about 325 have formally claimed some degree of abuse. Each of the claims is being investigated, and 100 people found guilty have been punished...

Comparing even the reprehensible criminal acts of abuse during the current war to the breadth and depth of the decades-long horrors of the Soviet gulag is, frankly, an obscenity...The abuses in question now were initially uncovered as the result of internal military investigations that were under way long before the Abu Ghraib photos were publicly disseminated. Guilty parties have been charged, and punished, and further adjudicating is an ongoing process.

To date, according to the Pentagon, at least ten major probes have been launched into the current abuse allegations, and so far not a single one of them has found that President Bush, Vice President Cheney, or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ever knew of or condoned so much as a single act of torture, much less ordered any of them. Compare this to the Soviet gulag, where decades of daily torture and forced labor under starvation conditions were official, explicit Soviet policy. Yet the administration's critics insist that we still haven't gotten to the bottom of things yet and that more studies are needed...

All of which is lost on the "new American gulag" crowd because they don't really care about prisoner abuse. If they truly cared about the mistreatment of the incarcerated they would have demanded the liberation of Iraq long ago. And Afghanistan, and Cuba...These Bush haters aren't even focusing on the genuine outrage of the few cases in which detainees were genuinely tortured and even killed. No, most of their ire is over the embarrassment of few dozen prisoners by a handful of sick people at an understaffed military prison called Abu Ghraib. The same prison where Saddam's surgeons practiced punitive amputations. Where men and children watched their wives and sisters and daughters being gang raped. Where tens of thousands were murdered, and then dumped into unmarked trenches. And on, and on, and on.

No, the real goal of these Bush haters is to delegitimize this war and this scandal is just another weapon in their feeble arsenal...As anyone familiar with history and warfare knows, Amnesty International's characterization of the U.S. prisons as being a "the gulag of our time" are more than just obscene. They are, as President Bush recently noted, absurd.

JunkYardBlog comments here.

Then JunkYardBlog comments further, including this Power Line link, which shows how disingenuous Amnesty International has been throughout this entire affair they created.

For further information on Amnesty International's behavior, go to posting entitled Amnesty International's "Gulag" Claim: Is It Real OR Is It Just Partisan Politics?.