The American Gulag

The US holds maybe hundreds of non-citizens, all captured abroad (we are told), incarcerated in Guantanamo and in other secret prisons around the world. The Bush administration plans to hold them up to forever.

Of course, there is a difference between the Soviet Gulag, which was aimed at saboteurs, dissidents, or people who somehow got on the wrong end of officialdom, and the US Gulag, which is we are told aimed merely at the foreign version of the same.

Whether the creation of a secret archipelago of prisons and coercive questioning facilities will inevitably fail to be deployed against US citizens is a question that one is not permitted to ask in public, as it is too far outside the permitted consensus. So put that issue aside.

Ask instead whether from a moral, political, or even legal point of view, the fact that only foreigners are incarcerated for life without trial (or indeed any rights, it appears), at the complete and unconstrained pleasure of the super-imperial presidency, gives us much in the way of bragging rights over the former Soviet Union.

What's that? Our gulag is much smaller? And our policy this week is not to torture people, the last two years notwithstanding? And that nice Mr. Bush (with Justice Thomas's endorsement, to his and the Court's eternal shame) promises that all the people being held really deserve it, so who needs complications like a trial?

Well, that's alright then!

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5 Responses to The American Gulag

  1. Pingback: The First Amendment Run Amok

  2. Heh. says:

    Ok, Genius. Since none of those captured were uniformed combatants who accepted the rules of civilization captured within the Geneva accords, and thus, not entitled to the protections offered to such combatants, WOULD YOU PREFER THAT WE INTERROGATED THEM QUICKLY ON THE BATTLEFIELD, THEN SHOT THEM?

    Actually, sounds like you would have us release them. Brilliant. Thank God the Opposition is so astoundingly stupid and blindly dedicated to the cause of the enemy. Otherwise, people might actually take you seriously!

  3. Michael says:

    Actually, I’d prefer that in the case of war zones, we follow the Geneva conventions as they apply to either soldiers or civilians. I see the four conventions as dividing all persons into one of those two classes, and rejecting the possibility of some third, disfavored, class. In the case of non-soldiers, that means the incarcerated are entitled to a military hearing if they claim to be soldiers. And if civilians they can be held for security purposes but not indefinitely; they can be prosecuted as civilians for any criminal acts (and terrorist acts are crimes everywhere).

    But of course its likely that many of the people being held in the CIA gulag were not captured on battlefields, but instead in various third countries with which we are at peace. That’s usually called “kidnapping”. For better or worse our law allows our government to kidnap people and bring them to the US for trial. It does not and should not allow our government to kidnap people, hold them in secret forever, subject to no rules, and free to practice whatever barbarisms it feels like during that administration.

    PS. Not everyone suspected even by the saintly US government is guilty — got that? In fact, not even everyone convicted in court is guilty, but court is a darn sight better than the CIA or the Army grabbing people and holding them in the dark forever.

  4. Brautigan says:

    Since none of those captured were uniformed combatants who accepted the rules of civilization captured within the Geneva accords

    How do you know, genious?

    Perhaps some/all/most of them were non-uniformed, non-combatants who are simply waiting for the “accepted rules of civilization” to be applied.

    It’s been a few years since I read through my constitutional history textbook, but I believe that was the whole idea behind that “rule of law” thing.

  5. Joe Average says:

    Actually, why stop there? Why not just stop thieves and murderers and jaywalkers in the street, interrogate them there, and then shoot them instead of incarcerating them. After all, they’re working outside the accepted laws of the land, and you wouldn’t want to release them to join the “underground enemy”. Anyone acting against the state laws is an enemy of the state. Enemy combattant is not too far off that description, either.

    Wait, I have a better idea. Why not just incarcerate them forever with no judicial process. It would be cheaper on the judicial branch of the govt. and would stop criminals from getting back on the street for lack of a timely trial.

    Nah. better to just shoot them. Bullets are by far the cheapest alternative.


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