Thursday, May 26


Amnesty International has condemned U.S. treatment of prisoners under "enemy combatant" status at Guantanamo and other bases in Afghanistan and Iraq in the harshest terms, calling Gitmo "the gulag of our times."

Administration officials and other conservatives are outraged (the screeches on talk radio will damage your eardrums) at having America's honor besmirched by comparisons with Soviet excesses. But the fact is, aside from the prisoner abuse allegations, holding suspects incommunicado for years without charges being filed and without providing access to legal representation is exactly what the gulags of old were all about. We condemned it then, and it is worthy of condemnation now. We justify our actions by the extent of the danger they "might" pose to the state if released, but that is exactly the same rationale that was offered by the Russians.

To date, the portions of military investigations made public have found only limited abuses by low-level soldiers and officers, but Thursday a bipartisan group of more than 30 lawyers, former military officers and former government officials assembled by the Constitution Project, a Washington advocacy group, echoed Amnesty's call for an independent investigation of prisoner abuse.

The signers -- ranging from former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta to David Keene, head of the American Conservative Union, and former FBI director William Sessions -- said a comprehensive study by a group modeled after the Sept. 11 Commission was needed. One signer, Kevin Barry, a retired Coast Guard captain and military judge, said military probes suffered from an inability to point the finger at higher-ups in the Pentagon.

"You can't indict the boss," Barry said. "But we have so much evidence of abuse in so many locations that to say it's a couple of bad people here or there has lost credibility with the public."

One of the cardinal tenets I was raised on was "if you do it to someone else, they may do it to you." The more the Bush administration mistreats the peoples and nations of the world, the more danger to our own troops and our domestic security. The pervasive "country club cowboy" rhetoric proves that the Bushies just don't get it. Their sense of personal privilege extends to their belief in American exceptionalism. They simply don't believe the rules apply to them.


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