While I am sympathetic with the American Left's outrage over Amnesty International's slander of Soviet gulags by likening them to the United States' incomparably evil prison detention center at Guantanamo Bay, I thought I would review Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's description of the Soviet Camps in his classic, "Gulag Archipelago."
Since Amnesty International's executive director, William Schulz, is indignantly standing by his assertion that "The U.S. is maintaining an archipelago of prisons around the world, many of them secret prisons ?" I decided to reminisce with Mr. Schulz and his ilk, who are doubtless avid readers of this column, about the "Archipelago" Solzhenitsyn exposed.
In the first place, it might be noted that prisoners of the Soviet camps were generally not those who had declared war on modern civilization, who had taken up arms against the state, or who had aided, abetted and collaborated with those who were at war with the regime. They were not arrested on the battlefield while waging war against the mother country.
No, they were often just political prisoners, whose sin might have been merely to criticize the repressive government -- sometimes in private correspondence. Solzhenitsyn, relating his own arrest, wrote, "I knew instantly I had been arrested because of my correspondence with a school friend, and understood from what direction to expect danger."
The prisoners of the gulag were those who dared dissent from a government that obliterated the very notion of liberty, whereas those at Gitmo are most likely ones who are opposing freedom and democracy in the United States, the Middle East and the rest of the world.
If the Left could bring itself to take a hiatus from its hyperbole in redefining "torture" so as conveniently to encompass the detention practices of the U.S. military in Guantanamo and elsewhere, perhaps it could rediscover the true meaning of torture by perusing the pages of Solzhenitsyn's gripping account.