Friday, June 03, 2005

Was the 'Gulag' Statement Worth It?

E. J. Dionne takes Amnesty International to task today for the "gulag" statement. At first, I disagreed with him. Surely some hyperbole is acceptable in order to break through the din of the 24 hour news hole. Without some controversial claim, reports like Amnesty's get buried beneath celebrity trials and revelations of long-held secret identities.

But on second thought, Dionne is right. Amnesty made a mistake in comparing Guantanamo to a gulag. They did get attention, but it wasn't constructive attention. No one has heard the substance of the latest report, and the organization certainly lost some credibility. There's a lot to be gained from rhetorical flourishes; but, ultimately, the central argument has to be sound - or at least believable.


At 6:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, "gulag" wasn't very nice, but the prison conditions aren't either. Let's look "gulag" up at

1. A network of forced labor camps in the former Soviet Union.

2. A forced labor camp or prison, especially for political dissidents.

3. A place or situation of great suffering and hardship, likened to the atmosphere in a prison system or a forced labor camp.

Definition 2 seems to me close (not sure if there is any forced labor ); defiition 3 seems quite appropriate. The underlying reference (definition 1) to the former Soviet empire (which did not have the luxury of establishing its gulag on foreign soil) gives room for thought, as William Schulz no doubt intended. That doesn't prove the word was "worth it," but I think it is defensible and not necessarily hyperbolic.

At 8:27 AM, Anonymous ReaganRepublican said...

Left-leaning critics of Bush will continue to enhance Republican ranks whenever they whine about the "unfair" treatment afforded terrorists.

It does not take a genius for the average voter to realize that terrorists cutting off the heads of evil Americans gets no more play in the media than the "terrible" and unjust incarceration of likely terrorists.

Recently Jimmy Carter became an anti-GITMO spokesperson for the left. The Republicans are giddy. Voters know which party will provide more security.

Keep up the good work, and it will be a long, long time before the Democrats ever win another national election.

At 2:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to ReaganRepublican's comments...
Last time I checked no one on the left has been complaining about the treatment of terrorists. So many prisoners at Gitmo have been held without any charges. The justice and defense departments either need to fish or cut bait. People on the "left" (and btw some GOP House members have echoed concerns... while some have made ridiculous claims that the prisoners are living in luxury) have complained about how people who may be innocent are being treated. You automatically assume that if they are male, picked up in a dragnet in Afghanistan, and muslim they are a terrorist. I dont make these generalizations.

As for not winning national elections... I suggest you start looking at the approval ratings for Congressional Republicans and for Bush.


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