Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Gulag Archipelago

Fellow naturalized Vermonter Alexander Solzhenitsyn's metaphor for the Soviet Union's system of prisons becomes more resonant all the time:
Bush is now thinking of building jails abroad to hold suspects for life

The promise of imminent release for four British detainees held at the notorious US prison at Guantánamo Bay is obviously welcome, but it is only a tiny exception in the surge of bad news from the Bush team on the human rights front. The first few days of the new year have produced two shocking exposures already.

One is the revelation that the administration sees the US not just as a self-appointed global policeman, but also as the world’s prison warder. It is thinking of building jails in foreign countries, mainly ones with grim human rights records, to which it can secretly transfer detainees (unconvicted by any court) for the rest of their lives – a kind of global gulag beyond the scrutiny of the International Committee of the Red Cross, or any other independent observers or lawyers.

The other horror is the light shone on the views of Alberto Gonzales, the White House nominee to be the chief law officer, the attorney general. At his Senate confirmation hearings last week he was revealed to be a man who not only refuses to rule out torture under any circumstances but also, in his capacity as White House counsel over the past few years, chaired several meetings at which specific interrogation techniques were discussed. As Edward Kennedy pointed out, and Gonzales did not deny, they included the threat of burial alive and water-boarding, under which the detainee is strapped to a board, forcibly pushed under water, wrapped in a wet towel, and made to believe he could drown.
Can't we just stamp out torturers instead of giving them jobs? Is that concept so fucking hard to understand?


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