Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Guantanamo's No Gulag

Despite what Amnesty International and Sen. Dick Durbin have said, the prison at Guantanamo Bay is not a "gulag of our time." At least not according to someone who should know: Pavel Litvinov, a dissident who was once imprisoned by the former Soviet Union for his beliefs. In an article from Saturday's Washington Post, Litvinov shares: . . .

By any standard, Guantanamo and similar American-run prisons elsewhere do not resemble, in their conditions of detention or their scale, the concentration camp system that was at the core of a totalitarian communist system.

For example, incidents of desecration of the Koran in Guantanamo by U.S. personnel have been widely reported. But those Korans were surely not brought to Guantanamo by the prisoners themselves from Afghanistan. They were supplied by the U.S. administration -- in spite of the obvious fact that most of the prisoners misguidedly found in the Koran the inspiration for their violent hatred of the United States.

By contrast, Russian author Andrei Sinyavsky, who was sentenced in 1966 to seven years' forced labor for his writing, was approached one evening soon after his arrival in a labor camp by a prisoner who quietly asked Sinyavsky whether he wanted to listen to a recital of the biblical account of the apocalypse. (Possession of a Bible was strictly prohibited in the gulag.) The man took Sinyavsky to the furnace room, where a group of people were squatting in the dark recesses. In the light of the furnace flame, one of the men got up and started to recite the biblical passages by heart. When he stopped, the stoker, an old man, said: "And now you, Fyodor, continue." Fyodor got up and recited from the next chapter. The whole text of the Bible was distributed among these prisoners, ordinary Russians who were spending 10 to 25 years in the gulag for their religious beliefs. They knew the texts by heart and met regularly to repeat them so that they would not forget.

Hat tip to Ed Veith at World Magazine Blog.


At Wednesday, June 22, 2005 9:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hooray, the United States operates prisons that cannot be realistically compared with some of the very worst hellholes in the history of human experience!

Now, what do we do about the very real problems our government has created for us by running prisons that are bad enough -- and this is well documented -- to spark such heated rhetoric in the first place, and which cause us such problems around the world, and which are stains on our honor and affronts to our principles?

After we're done cheering about the prisons not actually being comparable to gulags, of course.

At Wednesday, June 22, 2005 9:27:00 AM, Anonymous Ed Cone said...

anonymous above = me

ed cone

At Wednesday, June 22, 2005 10:48:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, the law of averages dictates that out of the thousands of soldiers assigned to guard duty, there will be a few who are really ticked-off with certain prisoners who likely killed their buddies or who attempted to kill them and will take their aggression out on those prisoners.

Second, it's a guarantee that the media will focus on the exception instead of the rule. We treat our prisoners too well- above and beyond what the Geneva Convention requires.

Third, you're gullable if you believe that how we treat our prisoners will have the least to do with how they treat ours. It's not in the Muslim extremist's faith
to do anything less than to abuse and/or kill our captured.

I understand your point, Ed, but none of us should pretend to be in the shoes of our soldiers who are being shot at, bombed and attacked on a regular basis. Prisons are not resorts. It's where we house people trying to kill us- or have already killed.

The heated rhetoric you speak of is based on a small number if incidences by those on the left who want to see our nation and our president disgraced for their own future political purposes.

the Heckler

At Wednesday, June 22, 2005 12:17:00 PM, Anonymous ed cone said...

It's a loooong way from "not as bad as the Gulag" to "not a real problem."

Any other answers out there?

At Wednesday, June 22, 2005 5:02:00 PM, Anonymous A. Samuels said...

Why don't we give each prisoner a Bible to flush down the toilet and transport them to the nearest country that will have them. That will make everything fair, right? Not in this world!

I do agree that we need to get them out of Guantanamo. With my 100% hind sight vision I can see that putting them there brings too many more complications to a strategic base which - dare I say it - is more important than those prisoners are.

At Wednesday, June 22, 2005 9:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who said anything about getting these sub-human life forms out of Guantanomo? There next destination is hell. If you want to speed up the process, I'll back you on that.

Enough is enough. These whiney, slithering, cry baby libs need to get a spine and realize which side they are supposed to be on. We are at WAR!!!

These prisoners have more creature comforts than do our soldiers. Oh, dear, it's too hot. Oh dear, the lemon fish was over-cooked. Boo-hoo. Somebody pass me a hankey.

the Heckler

At Wednesday, June 22, 2005 9:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

btw, Alex, only the first sentence of my rant pertains to you. Not sure who or what- or if you actually do agree with.

At Thursday, June 23, 2005 5:10:00 PM, Anonymous Alex said...


Most, if not all of the prisoners held at Guantonomo Bay, are guilty of terrible human rights’ violations such as murder, rape, torture, terrorism, theft, etc. Liberals want us to forget about the atrocities committed by these prisoners against the Afghan people primarily because the wrong political party is currently in power in the United States. Therefore, the media tends to spin its stories away from why the prisoners are there to begin with - to - Is our government treating them too harshly? You see it is more important to make the republican administration look bad than it is to see the crimes committed against Afghanistan’s people punished.

Probably, all of these prisoners deserve to be executed. If there is any basis for this opinion, however, they should be tried before legally instituted courts to determine their fates. Justice must be the heart of the issue not vengeance.

I repeat. I would rather see this problem moved to some other location than Guantonomo Bay. In the meantime, I don’t think much is going to be done about the prisoners because any decision made by this administration will automatically be considered morally wrong by those the press love to interview. It is kind of the same reason America is hated by so many other countries in the international community. America is hated because it is America. This is the politics of envy which influences so many abroad and unfortunately the political parties in our own country.

At Thursday, June 23, 2005 8:31:00 PM, Anonymous Ed Cone said...

Alex: any facts to back up your claims?

"Most, if not all of the prisoners held at Guantonomo Bay, are guilty of terrible human rights’ violations."

"Probably, all of these prisoners deserve to be executed."

Really, now. Please share your sources with us. And be sure to explain how it's ok for the US to violate its own principles even if these statements are true.

Then there's this gem: "Liberals want us to forget about the atrocities committed by these prisoners against the Afghan people." Smearing anyone who might disagree with you on some political issues...WWJD?

"America is hated because it is America." A simplistic statement about world opinion that ignores the very issue supposedly raised by the original post -- the accountability of America for actions carried out in her name.

This is the best you can do, Alex? This is your contribution to a serious discussion of important issues -- name calling and invented facts?

At Thursday, June 23, 2005 9:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Do you have information that these are not horrible terrorists? Who, specifically?

Alex is simply entrusting the judgment of our military. I realize this is hard to do for the left. I happen to trust our military. I do, however, wish that all would be given a military tribunal and get to the conclusion.

Being a "law of averages" kinda guy, my guess is that there is someone in that prison that is innocent. But I'll bet my life that the other 99% are the dispicable sub-human life forms that deserve nothing less than a one-way trip to the Satan that possesses them.

Again, they are treated too well. Americans who want to dwell on the few incidences that have happened are in it purely for political purposes.

Your choice is to convict American soldiers. If what a few are doing is wrong-than it is wrong. But you don't know that for a fact, either. The only fact here is that your post is indistinguishable from an American to that of a terrorist supporter.

the Heckler

At Thursday, June 23, 2005 9:39:00 PM, Anonymous Ed Cone said...

"The only fact here is that your post is indistinguishable from an American to that of a terrorist supporter."

Really? I ask for evidence to support blanket statements, I ask for some critical thinking about US policy and the world's perceptions...and that makes me sound like a "terrorist supporter?"

You name yourself aptly, Heckler: a shouter of insults from a darkened room, afraid to stand up and speak in your own name.

At Thursday, June 23, 2005 9:46:00 PM, Blogger Mickey McLean said...

I find your last comment ironic, Ed, since I recall that you are on record defending the right of bloggers to blog anonymously or under clever or assumed names.

At Thursday, June 23, 2005 9:59:00 PM, Anonymous Ed Cone said...

I didn't challenge his right to do it, Mickey, I pointed out the appropriateness of his nom de blog (ah, French, I must be anti-American).

I'll admit to being disappointed in the level of conversation in this thread. Sorry if I sound frustrated. There are real issues here, and you provide a forum that brings together disparate views...and we end up with simplistic arguments and name calling.

At Thursday, June 23, 2005 10:08:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Michael Hallisey. I don't sit in a darkened room but in the bright light of reality.

The U.S. policy on prisoner's rights is above and beyond that of the Geneva Convention and the difference between heaven and hell in the stark contrast between how we treat them and they treat us.

I'm not making a blanket statement. I'm referring specifically to you and your post. I trust our troops. You do not.

You've not stated who is being held that is innocent. If you have proof that the reason most of these guys are being held is because the troops rounded them up to meet a quota- I'm with you.

Until then, don't make blanketed statements about our policy or troops assigned to guarding these satanic bastards.

And, yes, you sound like a terrorist's mommy.

the Heckler

At Friday, June 24, 2005 7:07:00 AM, Anonymous Ed Cone said...

"I trust our troops. You do not."

Please. This is not about you, or me. You can wrap yourself in the flag and shout that questioning things our government does is unpatriotic, but that doesn't make it so.

There is simply no question at this point that the treatment of prisoners under US custody has not conformed to our own standards, and that this has cost us in political terms and moral ones too.

I've asked what we should do about it, once we've taken the extreme rhetoric (gulag, nazis) off the table.

The responses have been:

--nothing bad is being done. (False.)

--they're all guilty anyway. (Unknown, and not an excuse for abusive behavior in any case.)

--they treat us badly, too. (Not an excuse for forgetting that we are the good guys and we have standards to which we adhere.)

Clearly there is no conversation to be had here. The only responses are denial and name calling, no attempt to actually look at the issue of what our policies mean to us as a moral people and as players in a political world.

Thanks for the space, Mickey.

At Friday, June 24, 2005 9:20:00 AM, Anonymous Alex Samuels said...


I thought this blog welcomed fact and opinion.

Fact: We have prisoners at Guantonomo Bay who were taken into custody by the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

My Opinion: These must be pretty bad guys.

Further Opinion: These guys need to be tried or sent packing elsewhere.

My Opinion: Liberals want us to forget about the atrocities committed by these prisoners against the Afghan people primarily because the wrong political party is currently in power in the U.S. and they desire to use this situation to make the current administration look bad (basis of opinion: watching and reading various news outlets).

My Opinion: America is hated because it is America (Achams Razor: simplest answer).

Ed’s Statement: “This is the best you can do, Alex? This is your contribution to a serious discussion of important issues – name calling and invented facts?”

My Opinion: Condescending questions.

Ed’s Statement to Mickey: “There are real issues here, and you provide a forum that brings together disparate views . . . and we end up with simplistic arguments and name calling.”

My Opinion: We should have learned in kindergarten not to call names.

My Further Opinion: Ed complains, “we end up with simplistic arguments . . .” Ed, I did not know that participation in the conversation required a certain I.Q. If this is indeed the case, I am going to be very lonely writing to just myself – Ha Ha (joke).

When debating issues with people who disagree with you, it is always good to remember the words of Samuel Johnson: “All argument is against it; but all belief is for it.”

At Friday, June 24, 2005 9:54:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I appreciate the topical discussion. But for some reason you're not acknowledging the point.

For example, "nothing bad is being done". No one said that. In fact, I've stated that statistically, there would have to be some. The vengeance of the individual sodiers taken out on some prisoners does not make it right-nor does it re-write the policy.

To believe that something like this in WAR would not happen is silly.

I also stated very clearly that there are likely innocent people in the prison. But when you read it, it comes out, "they're all guilty anyway." This does make it hard to have a serious discussion with you.

Bottom line: our policy and the conduct of the VAST majority of our troops (According to AI) towards the prisoners is way above the legal and moral standards. SOME troops will break the rules. SOME troops should be punished. This is where it ends.

There is no need to use "America" or "Bush Policy" in connection with this. To advertise this and to shout it out to the rest of the world is an attempt to make sure everyone hates us. That's treasonous. That's dishonest- and done only for political gain.

I know Pfc.Lindy England would disagree with you on your assessment about accountability. but anyway....

the Heckler

At Friday, June 24, 2005 11:08:00 AM, Anonymous ed cone said...

I don't mean to be rude, I don't mean the people here are simple, I wouldn't be arguing with you if I didn't think it was worthwhile.

But Occam's razor doesn't make the world a simple binary place, it just says when no answer can be reached the simplest explanation is logically the strongest argument.

It does not mean it is productive to reduce US relations to 'they hate us because we are America.' That strikes me as a very dangerous way to view the world, in a very practical sense. There is an enormous strategic advantage to understanding the people who are trying to kill you, and also to not making more people want to kill you.

There is also a moral element to the way we as Americans act, regardless of the actions of others.

I'm sure these are principles upon which we would agree in general. But we seem to be making little progress in arguing this specific case. So, I'll bow out and see you next time.

At Friday, June 24, 2005 11:29:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You're right it simple. You seem to hate the broad brush but use it in most every post. Let me step away from this issue to mention a conversation I had with my father-in-law as an example.

He dislikes the NFL- or as he calls it, the National Felons League. Well, I did some research and found that there are 27 NFL players who have either been arrested or convicted of a crime.

There are roughly 1,768 players in the league. That equates to .15% of the sum.

So is it fair to base an opinion about the whole based on the few? Is it right to preach to others that the league is bad?

What are the ratios of good guards to bad in Guantonomo? What is the value in using terms like "America" when desrcribing only a few "players"?

Yes, there is a moral element to this and we can deal with it on our own without the help of the left airing out our dirty laundry to the entire world.

the Heckler

At Friday, June 24, 2005 11:57:00 AM, Anonymous Alex said...


Thanks for the correct spelling of "Occam's razor." I must learn to keep my dictionary with me.


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