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.