Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Loose lips sink ships, or, the gulag word, revisited

Evidently while I was on vacation, Dick Durbin said Gulag in public.

Now, the Republican argument against saying gulag out loud, as I understand it, is that our gulags have fewer people in them than Stalin's, and the torture is more benevolent--after all, it is well known that we outsource the most severe torture.

I'm not sure either Republican view withstands scrutiny.

The "our torture is benign" gambit is very suspect, given that a number of our torture victims (or should we call them "clients"?) are known to have died while being benignly interrogated. Happenstance, no doubt. It was just their time, probably. But, unfortunately for the Republican cause, the coincidence of torture with death in several cases is hard to prove to be mere chance.

With regard to numbers, I am not sure the number of people disappeared into prison camps is what makes a gulag into a gulag, but rather the fact that the disappearances are extra-legal, and that if there is any legal recourse at all for the people taken away in the night, the legal recourse is a kangaroo court. A show trial.

But we have to be fair. So far, at least, we have put fewer people into our prison camps than Stalin put into his, though, again, in fairness, the Bush Administration seems very averse to giving us a head count--almost as averse to giving us hard numbers as to giving the imprisoned a genuine and fair trial.

But I will take it as a common sense given, that, as of now, our gulags house far fewer disappeared individuals than Stalin's did. Indeed I doubt if Dick Durbin claimed otherwise.

But even so, this gulag business is an issue that doesn't seem to want to go away.

If Rush Limbaugh's policy recommendation had been followed, that what happens in our gulags should stay in our gulags, none of this ugly problem would have arisen.

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