The ” gulag of our times ” stated in the preamble of Amnesty Internationals annual report by Irene Khan, Secretary General. Set of a whirlwind of criticism from the current administration in Washington and many newspapers through out the country.
” Gulag ” is a reference to forced labor camps during the regime of Stalin. It has been said that tens of millions of people were placed in such camps. Many thousands of people died in those camps under very harsh and inhumane conditions.
The critics of Amnesty International ( hereafter AI ) report that it is unfair to associate what the current administration is doing with its detainees as a ” gulag.” The Russian government of that era had imprisoned more than fifteen million people. It is estimated that the imprisonment of people by the current American administration as it wages war on terrorism according to AI is around 70,000. While a match in numbers are not comparable, it does not mean that the world does not have another ” gulag. ” For incidence, Stalin’s ” gulag ” of harsh and inhumane conditions did not occur overnight. The American ” gulag ” is only in its infancy. Only time will determine if the numbers between the two gulags are comparable in harshness and being inhumane.
Stalin, made no claims of being a global champion of human rights, as does George W. Bush (hereafter W. ) ” W’s ” war on terror continues to violate and make mockery of human rights abroad and at home. Case in point torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. At home former USAF professor, Sami Al-Arian. W refuses to apply the Geneva Conventions for those captured during armed conflict in Afghanistan and transferred to Guantanamo, Cuba and detained. The International Committee of the Red Cross chided the administration for their ambivalence for human rights. Justice Stephen Bryer said, ” it seems rather contrary to an idea of a Constitution with three branches that the executive would be free to do whatever they want, whatever without a check. The government of W is seen abroad and at home as being a danger to human dignity.
It must be remembered that an assault on liberty and human rights in the name of the Patriot Act is being waged here in the United States. Do we have an American gulag in the making? AI seems to have arrived at that opinion, at least on the international scene.
It would not be the first time we had a ” gulag ” Consider the systematic extermination of Native Americans, or the forced enslavement of African Americans and associated lynchings.
A historic day is upon this nation.The Senate is set to offer an apology to African Americans for not outlawing lynchings. The preamble to the Constitution reads, “WE hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. “The apology will come in the form of a resolution.
Just think this land of liberty refused to pass laws to prosecute white men for killing black men. Attempts were made to pass laws making it a crime to lynch people. The first such resolution was proposed ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE YEARS ago. Three times congress attempted to pass laws making it a crime to lynch people. Each attempt failed in the Senate because Southern Democrats used the filibuster to prohibit a vote.
It was argued that such federal laws would violate ‘ State Rights. ‘
The sad thing about this resolution is that the congress is not acting on its own initiative. The congress has been successfully lobbied according to Mark Planning, counsel for the Committee for a Formal Apology. Better late than never!!! (Source St. Petersburg Times, Sunday, June 12, 2005, p.3A., The Nation, Washington Post.)
Bob Dylan with his critique of war from his CD ” With God On Our Side ” sings you do not count the dead when God is on your side. This nation has always believed that God was on its side. The nation felt it was okay to slaughter Native Americans, enslave African Americans, condone lynchings because they falsely believe that God was on their side.
Perhaps AI is right on the mark when it reported. ” The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law.” ” Trials by military commissions have made a mockery out of justice and due process.”
This writer has concluded that American fondness for atrocities against Native Americans, African Americans, including unlawful lynching in the name of ‘ state rights ‘ could well have been a gulag. Perhaps the tag to this government as the ” gulag of our times ” is justified. WE shall see because this writer will be posting more on the AI 2005 report.
This writer is available for discussion, workshops, or lecture on the above.