Speaking of Cuba…


Matt Welch's col yesterday about Cuba listed a number of books which underscored the disturbing point that "there can be no final and precise accounting for exactly who collaborated with [totalitarian regimes], and to what extent. To his suggestions, let me add Anna Funder's stunning Stasiland, a grimly hilarious telling of "true stories from behind the Berlin Wall." For more information on this extraordinary book, go here.

Back to Cuba for a moment (and in a roundabout way): The Wash Post today condemns Amnesty International for its recent annual report, in which the venerable group calls the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay "the gulag of our times."

After noting the paper's own extensive criticisms of Gitmo, the Post notes:

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….

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."

Whole thing here.

I sense the hand of Post columnist and editorial board member Anne Applebaum guiding the above editorial (with which I agree). She's the author of the excellent Gulag which, like Stasiland, is a monumental achievement in recording totalitarianism as it (hopefully) fades from the planet.

Reason looked at Camp X-Ray and civil liberties here. And Cuba's Castro-driven insanity here. And here.

NEXT: The Thin Non-White Line

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  1. While Castro’s gulag is clearly larger and probably worse, ours is more significant for the future of the planet, for exactly the reason AI states: Cuba is neither the most powerful nation on the planet, nor are they seen as a model for countries and movements seeking to foster humane, liberal republics.

  2. Of course, the willingness of AI and the rest of the neo-neo-Marxist tranzi left (which are numerous and highly influential) to condemn America while giving a pass to others whose actions are, objectively, far worse, may be even more significant for the future of the planet.

    After all, the tranzis are seeking, quite openly and with a fair chance of success, to set up a world government, and in doing so they show absolutely no principled opposition to gulags and no principled commitment to freedom, only consistent opposition to American activism and an incurable fondness for top-down control.

    Personally, I think the cynical and corrupt tranzis are a greater threat to the long-term liberty and well-being of the planet than the Americans. But that’s just me.

  3. what’s a tranzi? a tranny nazi?

    gulag is a poor choice of words, but amnesty international is a very solid group. they’re not just giving cuba a free pass.

  4. Good thing RC didn’t bother to look at what AI had to say about other countries, of he might feel embarrassed.

    Yup, everyone but the United States gets a free pass.

  5. I stopped giving money to AI and peeled the bumper sticker off my back window after Gulf War I when they took the position that the US military was holding a soldier as a “political prisoner”.

    He had enlisted in the Army to get free college (he admitted this publically) and had the bad luck of being on board when the war broke out and his unit was sent to the Mid East. He refused to go citing his pacifism and was duly prosecuted and jailed.

    Sorry dude, you signed on to the military. WTF do you think they do for a living?

    I called AI on it citing the all volunteer military and to my surprise they wrote me back and told me that it didn’t matter. The only thing that counted was that the soldier was in jail for acting on his conscience and refusing to go to war.

    Although I don’t entirely discount AI’s work, that loose standard implies that there may be other cases in other countries where AI is off base.

    Bet they don’t even miss my $150.00. 😉

  6. I grew up greatly respecting Amnesty International. It’s a shame what seems to have happened with them.

  7. It’s not that people are opposed to human rights. It’s just that Amnesty International is so anti-American that they can’t be believed.

    And the Red Cross.

    Oh, and Human Rights Watch.

    Stop shooting the messenger.

  8. joe – I wish we could “Stop shooting the messenger” but our regard for human rights that the groups you name are so quick to condemn us for has prevented us from even starting the shootings of those who arguably should be shot in the first place.

  9. I’m not gonna shoot the messenger, but when he tells me Gitmo is the “Gulag of our time” I’m going to go ahead and ignore what he’s trying to tell me.

  10. …because anyone who compares Gitmo to a gulag is obviously out of his mind. After all, it’s not as if most of the people there did nothing wrong, people are being held without records being kept, the inmates are denied legal counsel or a fair venue to challenge their detention, or the abuse of detainees is routine.

    But but but…ours is smaller.

  11. By that logic, joe, I’m the Pele for our times because I wear #10 and scored on a bicycle kick in my indoor rec league last week.

    But but but…it wasn’t the World Cup.

  12. I was unaware that the number you wear and the ability to do a bicycle kick were the criteria for being the best soccer player in the world.

    Having a system of prison camps to which people are sent without due process, where they are abused and their release depends entirely on the whims of the jailers are, in fact, the criteria for having a gulag.

  13. And here I thought the criteria for a gulag was a forced labor camp where prisoners were starved, denied medical treatment, and killed by the tens of thousands. Maybe I just misread Solzhenitsen.

  14. Yeah, well, Archangel would have been much worse.

    That’s what you’ve got? Not as bad as the height of Stalinism?

  15. Being better than Stalin doesn’t automatically make us good, just like being less dumb than Paris Hilton doesn’t automatically make you a genius.

  16. Ok, joe, so if you’re now going to try to switch the argument around so that you’re attacking Gitmo instead of defending Amnesty, should I take it that you agree with me that the comparison of GB to the Gulag is reprehensible?

  17. Perhaps one reason why AI focuses a seemingly disproportionate percentage of its opprobrium on the US is due to a belief that, unlike, say, the North Korean regime, the US government might actually give two figs about what they have to say. Does anyone believe that anyone within the inner circle of Castro, Kim Jong-Il, or Crown Prince Abdullah spends the slightest amount of time caring as to what’s written about their countries in the latest AI report? But someone at the White House or on Capitol Hill just might. The same, of course, applies to the governments of other relatively liberal democracies whose policies have been targeted by the organization in the past.

    That said, the “gulag” line was clearly a gross exaggeration that doesn’t do anything to further AI’s agenda, at least unless their agenda here was to provide some rhetorical red meat to left-wing donors.

  18. To cop thoreau’s phrase, Stalin would have been much worse.

    …but isn’t it interesting that so many of us seem to feel it’s necessary to make the distinction? Clearly the difference Guantanamo Bay and the Gulag was more than just a question of intensity.

    Considering that, what do you guys see as the secondary differences between Antonio Gonzales and a monster like Adolf Eichmann?

  19. Does anyone believe that anyone within the inner circle of Castro, Kim Jong-Il, or Crown Prince Abdullah spends the slightest amount of time caring as to what’s written about their countries in the latest AI report? But someone at the White House or on Capitol Hill just might.

    Only because Castro, Kim, Abdullah don’t cite human right abuses when they go around invading other countries. Bush, on the other hand ….

  20. Only because Castro, Kim, Abdullah don’t cite human right abuses when they go around invading other countries. Bush, on the other hand ….

    So you don’t think Clinton or Kerry would pay attention to an Amnesty International report on what they consider American human rights abuses? How about Congressmen who voted against the Iraq war? I think it’s safe to say that, on the whole, this group is more attentive to such matters than the average war supporter.

  21. Well, did Clinton pay much attention to AI criticism when he was in office?



  22. Come to think of it, Clinton probably isn’t the best example. But the fact remains that an AI report is far more likely to draw the attention of an American politician than a police-state apparatchnik.

  23. Yep, Gitmo is the gulag of our times. And flying monkeys are an actual national security threat.

    It’s depressing when I realize that there are people who actually capital-B Believe and apparently relish that flavor of crap.

    Every time I hear something this bizarre I wonder when the aliens siphoned their brains out and replaced them with blueberry sorbet.

    The excuse that maybe AI is “exaggerating” in an effort to catch some politician’s attention just doesn’t hold water. Unless you can swallow the idea that that maintaining credibility is far down their list of objectives and is pretty much completely eclipsed by their desire to make a point to some politician. (“Truth isn’t important – getting attention is FAR more important!”)

    Making those political points wouldn’t have anything to do with providing political ammunition against the current adminstration, surely…

  24. “Making those political points wouldn’t have anything to do with providing political ammunition against the current adminstration, surely…”

    In your blueberry universe, is it possible that people might want to point out the incompetence of the Administration because the Administration is incompetent? …Is it possible for people to oppose the Administration because the Administration is incompetent?

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