Sunday, June 05, 2005

Amnesty Int'l and the Gulag

Amnesty International recently compared the U.S. and our detention of terrorist suspects to a "gulag." One would have to be staggeringly ignorant of what The Gulag Archipelago was to accept that report as anything other than a joke. However, given that the report was a direct attack on the U.S., naturally many American leftists have embraced it.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the man who coined the term and personally spent eight years as a prisoner in the Gulag, described it in devastating detail. Those who would throw the word "gulag" around should at least trouble themselves to read Solzhenitsyn. I've read everything he's written, far as I know, and I'll admit that it takes a while to educate yourself. But it's worth the effort, especially for those who try to compare it their to own country and end up looking like fools.

I'd recommend reading a relevant piece in the Rocky Mountain News by David Kopel (via a link from The Volokh Conspiracy). You might also want to read a Reuters story that has Amnesty International admitting that it doesn't know what it's talking about.


Anonymous Richard said...

Hi Tom, I agree with you: Amnesty International does not understand what the Gulag was because if they did they would realize what a poor comparison they made.

My issue with Guantanemo is that people (i.e. non-military) are being held without being charged and without trial. At least in this sense, the Gulag was better as all of its prisoners received a trial, albeit unfair, and were clearly told what law they supposedly broke. If these prisoners were members of a foreign military, then we have special rules to cover them. The point is that they are not.

I am not suggesting that I think that they are all poor innocents caught up by a crazed US military (some are, but most are probably not), I just think they should have a fair trial.

For me, getting a fair trial is one of the most important pillars of our country. But not giving the prisoners of Gitmo a fair trial, we show that we are no better than all of the non-democracies that we so intently want to change.

For those that wonder (although I know that Tom knows) what the word Gulag means, it is a Russian acronym of Gosudarstvenie Upravlenie Lagerey (State Department of Camps). Hopefully that helps the next time it comes up while playing Trivial Pursuit. :-)

3:54 PM, June 06, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Hi, Richard, nice to see you again!

I understand what you're saying. But, as you know, all those souls who disappeared into the Gulag were tried in phony trials on phony charges. And they actually were tortured, often terribly. In the camps they lived under the most abysmal conditions imaginable, and millions didn't survive it.

Compared to the Gulag, or to prisons in most other countries today, the detainees at Guantanamo are living well and being treated very reasonably. And they did take up arms against us, even though they weren't in uniform and operating under an organized military command structure. The number one priority has to be getting information from them. Then they'll be released, as many already have--and some have gone back to fighting against our forces. Others will eventually face a tribunal of some sort.

I just can't make myself be uncomfortable with what's happening. And even if they don't get what we normally consider a "fair trial," they're still better off than most other people in similar circumstances in other hands. About 3,000 people didn't get a fair trial on 911, Nick Berg didn't get a fair trial, and none of the many others murdered by Islamists in recent years got fair trials. Just trying to keep it in perspective.

I used to respect Amnesty International, but no more. They've shown their true colors.

Aside from all that, how's tricks?

4:22 PM, June 06, 2005  

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