Words in Boxes

Nouns, verbs, and occasionally adjectives.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Guantanamo Archipelago

Recently, I've been slowly (very slowly) making my way through Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago. It's a huge tome, sometimes rambling, sometimes dull, but extremely important and powerful. In it Solzhenitsyn, a prisoner of the Soviet Gulag prison camps, writes about the vast system in which people are arrested, tortured until they confess, and then shipped to labor camps in Siberia.

What is most disturbing about the work isn't that such a terrible thing happened in the past, but that there are so many parallels to what is happening now in our own country. I am not trying to imply a similarity of scale. But as I read his viscerally detailed descriptions about their methods of torture, it sounds disturbingly like the descriptions of what we are doing to the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

This article, written by another former Gulag prisoner, drives this point home:

Even talking about the possibility of using CID treatment sends wrong signals and encourages base instincts in those who should be consistently delivered from temptation by their superiors. As someone who has been on the receiving end of the "treatment" under discussion, let me tell you that trying to make a distinction between torture and CID techniques is ridiculous. Long gone are the days when a torturer needed the nasty-looking tools displayed in the Tower of London. A simple prison bed is deadly if you remove the mattress and force a prisoner to sleep on the iron frame night after night after night. Or how about the "Chekist's handshake" so widely practiced under Stalin -- a firm squeeze of the victim's palm with a simple pencil inserted between his fingers? Very convenient, very simple. And how would you define leaving 2,000 inmates of a labor camp without dental service for months on end? Is it CID not to treat an excruciatingly painful toothache, or is it torture?

Now it appears that sleep deprivation is "only" CID and used on Guantanamo Bay captives. Well, congratulations, comrades! It was exactly this method that the NKVD used to produce those spectacular confessions in Stalin's "show trials" of the 1930s.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

I'm James Sulak, a software developer in Houston, Texas.

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