Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Gitmo, Gulags, and Amnesty International

This has all been said better, and noticed by still other, blogs with much wider readership than your truly ever aspires to.

But since it's been brought up here and bandied about a bit, these words from William Shultz of Amnesty International on the PBS Newshour deserve to be repeated, without comment:
MARGARET WARNER:....We invited Pentagon officials to send a representative, but they declined. And welcome to you both. Mr. Schulz, what is the basis for your charge that Guantanamo Bay is, in fact, the gulag of our times?

WILLIAM SCHULZ: Well, let me say first this that this is, of course, not an exact analogy. There are differences between the Soviet gulags, differences in size. We don't expect, we have no reports that there is forced labor at Guantanamo or the other U.S. detention centers or that people are being starved.

But there are similarities. The United States is maintaining an archipelago of prisons, many of them secret prisons in which people are being disappeared. They are being held in incommunicado detention without access to the judicial system.

That is similar to the gulags. They are being held without access to their families; that is similar. And in many cases, they are being mistreated, abused, and even killed. In fact, there have been at least a hundred deaths of detainees, 27 of which have been ruled to be homicides by medical examiners.

Now, at Guantanamo Bay itself, you don't to rely upon Amnesty International for reports of abuses that have taken place there and of the violation of the Geneva Conventions. In terms of abuses, a Kentucky guardsman, for example, reported detainees whose heads had been slammed into walls.

The FBI agents there at Guantanamo Bay reported their concerns about people held in stress positions for eighteen to twenty-four hours. The Red Cross itself reported on sleep deprivation there.

And we've heard reports of female interrogators smearing what they represented as menstrual blood upon the faces of those prisoners, some of the prisoners there, which certainly is inhumane and degrading treatment, even if it doesn't rise to the level of torture.

And finally, we also know that the United States is clearly in violation of the Geneva Conventions because the conventions require that if a captor does not want to label captives prisoners of war.

Even though they have been taking prison in the course of combat, then that question of the status of the detainees has to be taken to what the conventions call a competent tribunal to determine whether or not they are POW's or instead, as we claim, enemy combatants. And, in fact, no such competent tribunal has ever ruled on these detainees' status. So that's some of the reasons that this charge has been made.

Okay, one comment. Go to the Newshour website, and notice the immediate response of Neil Livingstone, who won't budge from the argument that hyperbole undermines an entire investigative report, who can't even be bothered to pay attention to Mr. Schultz' statement.

And if there's any question that Mr. Schultz is unfamiliar with this tactic, well:

The response of this government to Amnesty's criticisms is almost exactly the same response that the Chinese give, the Cubans give, and many other governments give whenever we hold up what we try to hold up as one universal gold standard of human rights respect: The same standard for every country.
Mr. Livingstone's response? You can't make this stuff up:
"Let me tell you about Guantanamo. For a lot of these people, they're having better treatment and care than they had when they were in the field in Afghanistan. They're getting healthcare for the first time."

This is what passes for "discussion" in our national media.

I'll retire to Bedlam....

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