View Full Version : 'American Gulag'

05-26-2005, 12:41 PM
Just one question, would you rather be in a prision in Syria, Saudi or Egypt or be guarded by Marines in Guantanamo Bay. Leftist A..holes waiting to drag down the US any chance they get.

Thursday, May 26, 2005; Page A26

IT'S ALWAYS SAD when a solid, trustworthy institution loses its bearings and joins in the partisan fracas that nowadays passes for political discourse. It's particularly sad when the institution is Amnesty International, which for more than 40 years has been a tough, single-minded defender of political prisoners around the world and a scourge of left- and right-wing dictators alike. True, Amnesty continues to keep track of the world's political prisoners, as it has always done, and its reports remain a vital source of human rights information. But lately the organization has tended to save its most vitriolic condemnations not for the world's dictators but for the United States.

That vitriol reached a new level this week when, at a news conference held to mark the publication of Amnesty's annual report, the organization's secretary general, Irene Khan, called the U.S. detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the "gulag of our times." In her written introduction to the report, Ms. Khan also mentioned only two countries at length: Sudan and the United States, the "unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power," which "thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights."

Like Amnesty, we, too, have written extensively about U.S. prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay, in Afghanistan and in Iraq. We have done so not only because the phenomenon is disturbing in its own right but also because it gives undemocratic regimes around the world an excuse to justify their own use of torture and indefinite detention and because it damages the U.S. government's ability to promote human rights.

But we draw the line at the use of the word "gulag" or at the implication that the United States has somehow become the modern equivalent of Stalin's Soviet Union. Guantanamo Bay is an ad hoc creation, designed to contain captured enemy combatants in wartime. Abuses there -- including new evidence of desecrating the Koran -- have been investigated and discussed by the FBI, the press and, to a still limited extent, the military. The Soviet gulag, by contrast, was a massive forced labor complex consisting of thousands of concentration camps and hundreds of exile villages through which more than 20 million people passed during Stalin's lifetime and whose existence was not acknowledged until after his death. Its modern equivalent is not Guantanamo Bay, but the prisons of Cuba, where Amnesty itself says a new generation of prisoners of conscience reside; or the labor camps of North Korea, which were set up on Stalinist lines; or China's laogai , the true size of which isn't even known; or, until recently, the prisons of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Worrying about the use of a word may seem like mere semantics, but it is not. Turning a report on prisoner detention into another excuse for Bush-bashing or America-bashing undermines Amnesty's legitimate criticisms of U.S. policies and weakens the force of its investigations of prison systems in closed societies. It also gives the administration another excuse to dismiss valid objections to its policies as "hysterical."

05-27-2005, 06:30 PM
Bush, Other Top Officials Should Face Torture Probes, Says Amnesty; Urges Arrests if Warranted
Abid Aslam
OneWorld US
Thu., May. 26, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 26 (OneWorld) - Rights watchdog Amnesty International urged foreign governments Wednesday to investigate and prosecute President George W. Bush much as they once did former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

''If the United States permits the architects of torture policy to get off scot-free, then other nations should step into the breach,'' William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a statement launching Amnesty's annual report.

Bush is among a dozen former or current U.S. officials who should be probed by foreign governments because Washington has failed to conduct ''a genuinely independent and comprehensive investigation'' of torture allegations against U.S. troops, commanders, and their civilian overseers, Schulz said.

Others on the Amnesty list of potential targets for investigation and prosecution include Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief George Tenet.

''If the U.S. government continues to shirk its responsibility, Amnesty International calls on foreign governments to uphold their obligations under international law by investigating all senior U.S. officials involved in the torture scandal,'' Schulz said.

''If those investigations support prosecution, the governments should arrest any official who enters their territory and begin legal proceedings against them,'' he added. ''The apparent high-level architects of torture should think twice before planning their next vacation to places like Acapulco or the French Riviera because they may find themselves under arrest as Augusto Pinochet famously did in London in 1998.''

Torture and other grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions amount to crimes against humanity and therefore all states have a responsibility to investigate and prosecute people responsible for them, Amnesty said in its 308-page report.

The U.S. government had yet to respond to the Amnesty report Wednesday but Rumsfeld and others on the Amnesty list have strongly denied that they condoned torture or did anything wrong.

Military officials and administration spokespersons have repeatedly and strenuously denied any policy promoting or tolerating torture and have said that allegations of abuses have resulted in dozens of investigations and a number of prosecutions and disciplinary actions.

Some 125 such cases have been filed, Amnesty acknowledged, but it said they have involved only soldiers and their superiors in the field and have yet to trace lines of responsibility back to Washington. Characterizing this as a refusal to investigate, Schulz said it amounted, in effect, to ''tolerance'' for torture and mistreatment and warned that it would destroy U.S. credibility when Washington assails human rights violations by other governments, like those in Syria or Egypt.

''It is the height of hypocrisy for the U.S. government itself to use the very torture techniques that it routinely condemns in other countries,'' Schulz said. ''When the U.S. government then calls upon foreign leaders to bring to justice those who commit or authorize human rights violations in their own countries, why should those foreign leaders listen?''

Amnesty's demand dovetails with a lawsuit by Human Rights First and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleging that Rumsfeld and others authorized torture-like interrogation techniques by U.S. troops at U.S bases in Afghanistan, Cuba, and Iraq.

It also buttresses a campaign by non-governmental organizations demanding a full-scale independent probe of the prisoner abuse scandals modeled on the 9/11 Commission. That effort has brought together rights advocates of a liberal as well as conservative stripe, former Republican lawmakers, and retired military officers.

The call for foreign governments to take action also coincided with the release by the ACLU Wednesday of documents that it said revealed that prisoners at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, complained that guards mistreated the Koran and in one incident, flushed a copy of the Muslim holy book down a toilet.

The ACLU said it obtained the documents under court order from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and that they also provided accounts of beatings, sexual assaults, and hunger strikes.

The revelations follow Newsweek's recent retraction of a report saying that government investigators had corroborated almost identical incidents involving the Koran. The magazine ultimately withdrew its story saying a confidential government source no longer could be confirmed.

While Schulz singled out the United States as what he called ''a leading purveyor and practitioner'' of torture, Amnesty's report surveyed 149 countries and found that for the most part, 2004 had been a bleak year for human rights everywhere.

Amnesty also highlighted:

-- Darfur, where it said the Sudanese government generated a human rights catastrophe and the international community did too little too late to address the crisis, betraying hundreds of thousands of people.

-- Haiti, where it said individuals responsible for serious human rights violations were allowed to regain positions of power.

-- The eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where it bemoaned the lack of an effective response to the systematic rape of tens of thousands of women, children, and babies.

-- Afghanistan, which it said slipped into a downward spiral of lawlessness and instability despite the holding of elections.

-- Reports that Russian soldiers had tortured, raped, and sexually abused Chechen women with impunity.

-- Zimbabwe, where it said the government manipulated food shortages for political reasons.

''The betrayal of human rights by governments was accompanied by increasingly horrific acts of terrorism as armed groups stooped to new levels of brutality,'' Amnesty added.