IN OTHER WORDS : Gulag or not

By calling the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay ‘’the gulag of our times” in the foreword to its annual human rights report, Amnesty International has garbled its own justified criticism of the US’s extra-legal detentions of terrorist suspects and its complicity in torture. Amnesty’s false comparison drains credibility from an organisation that played a heroic role in teaching the world to hold governments to a universal standard for human rights. But precisely because Amnesty once led the way in forging bonds of solidarity between free people everywhere and prisoners of conscience held without legal rights in the despotic regimes, there is no excusing Amnesty’s resort to the gulag analogy. An unfortunate effect of Amnesty’s rhetoric is that it may diminish the horror Americans ought to feel at the actions perpetrated by officials of the Bush administration. Those abuses include holding more than 500 people at Guantanamo and trying to deny them legal representation and the rights accorded either to defendants under the US legal system or to prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. These things done in the name of Americans must be denounced because they are unjust in themselves and because they will inevitably end-anger Americans. False analogies are of no help to anyone. — The Boston Globe