Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld today denounced an Amnesty International report comparing America’s military detention facilities to a Soviet-style "gulag." Rumsfeld called Amnesty’s claims "reprehensible" and "outlandish." Earlier, President Bush called the same report "absurd." Unfortunately, both men are denying the obvious, and living in a dream world.
In reality, the sun never sets on America’s worldwide gulag. From Afghanistan to Guantanamo and points in between, America has created a series of concentration camps and torture chambers that rival anything from the former Soviet Union. It is a tragedy that our leaders insult the people of the world by pretending otherwise.
The Guantanamo gulag has been a disaster for American foreign policy. It has produced more litigation that actionable intelligence. It has destroyed the image of America as a nation of laws and respect for human rights. The arrogance of government leaders who claim that because they have declared "war" (no such declaration in fact exists) against an unspecified enemy they are allowed to imprison people for life without due process is disgusting and contemptuous.
In Afghanistan, the Bagram gulag has murdered innocent civilians and tortured others, hanging them in a form of medieval abuse.
In Iraq, as I drove my Abu Ghraib on a regular basis I could not believe the U. S. had been so stupid as to reopen Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers. I could never have imagined that Saddam’s horrors would be replaced by our own.
The CIA’s "rendition" of innocent and uncharged people on secret airplanes to undisclosed locations for franchised torture are a stain on every American.
How can Bush and Rumsfeld deny the obvious? Rumsfeld claims he "liberated" the Iraqi people. Partially enslaved them is more like it.
One of the first things Paul Bremer proposed after the war was building a massive system of new prisons in Iraq, a Cadillac-quality gulag of jails, and other maximum security torture chambers. A full-scale gulag.
Rumsfeld has a convenient memory that ignores history. He has a particularly causal disregard for his own history in the Middle East. Rumsfeld went to Iraq twenty-two years ago, when that nation was developing and religiously tolerant. Sunni women were largely emancipated and in the work force. Iraq could have eventually become a real building block for democracy if the Bush family had not repeatedly bungled foreign relations. Iraq was a hope for the future, notwithstanding Saddam’s murderous clique that ran the nation.
What did Rumsfeld bring to Iraq in 1983? Approbation for torture and mass extermination, and the tools to achieve and expand these sickening tactics.
Twenty-two years after Rumsfeld’s first visit, Americans have destroyed Iraq, murdered tens of thousands, and devastated the economy and infrastructure. And they call this disaster "liberation." Saddam should have been removed from power, absolutely yes, but not by staging an American invasion based on lies and total lies. Right enemy, wrong tactics.
Yet on and on they go, Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, denying that America has created a massive gulag for foreigners, a gulag that Bush & Co. have bitterly fought to screen from any and every effort at court review. Why are they so adamant in denying the truth? Again.
Because America itself is a nation addicted to torture and prisons. We are only doing to foreigners what we do with gusto to our own people. As Governor, Bush executed scores of people in Texas without a second thought. The State of Texas has its own massive gulag. Every major state in America has a huge prison system designed to destroy the spirit of prisoners and to ensure that they come out worse than they went in.
Republican "conservatives" are similarly addicted to the death penalty. The fact that over 100 innocent people have been removed from death rows, and that innocent people have been executed, does not bother them one bit. "Try ’em (without a lawyer) and fry ’em," is the war cry of the right.
So perhaps Bush and Rumsfeld should respond not with a denial of an American gulag but an affirmation. "People of the world suck it up! America loves jails, prisons, torture, abuse and every form of inhumane treatment conceivable. We practice it on ourselves; why won’t we practice it on you!"
The reason why Bush and Rumsfeld can deny a gulag exists is because they have been schooled in America’s love affair with jails, death, abuse and sadism. In their minds, we are only spreading one aspect of American "culture" to Afghanistan, Iraq and the rest of the world. "Deal with it," they could say. "Abuse and human rights violations are as American as apple pie; we do it at home, now we are doing it abroad. You got a problem with that?"
Yes I do. Count me out.