Michael: Amnesty International and GuantanamoThe amount of Right wing bloviation about Amnesty International officer Irene Kahn's comment that Guantanamo is the Gulag of our time, has not only been set up as a strawman for an Administration desperate to discredit AI's report fingering us as major human rights abusers, but been completely mischaracterized by the press.
First, the comment doesn't mean that Guantanamo is the same as a Gulag. It means that the word 'Guantanamo' has become an international shorthand for human human rights abuse in our age, as the word 'Gulag' was in the age of Stalin. It's surprising that the Bush Administration has been able to effect such a swift transformation of the word Guantanamo, formerly most associated in the popualr imagination with Cuban nationalism and the peace movement (and to a lesser extent the American naval base), into a watchword for imperial overreach and secretive torture.
The Administration and its appologists have purposefully mistaken the meaning of Kahn's comment in order that they may react indignantly to a rhetorical strawman. No one implies or believes that Guantanamo's Camp X-Ray is comparable in conditions, intent, or practices to Soviet Gulags. The evil of the Gulags has been matched in world history, but not often, and certainly not by Americans. But nobody connected with Amnesty International has ever suggested that. Only Administration officials and Right wing commentators maintain any literal equivalency exists between Guantanamo and thhe Gulags.
Despite this temporary smoke screen, the Administration is going to have to account for the mistreatment, torture, and deaths of prisoners in American military detention camps around the world. The simple fact is, for all their outrage and bombast, all they have accomplished is to set the hook firmer in the public's minds: Guantanamo is the Gulag of our time.