When Amnesty International called Guantanamo Bay the “Gulag of our times” the response from the Bush administration and its allies was utter outrage that anyone could make such a comparison. The Washington Post said:
we draw the line at the use of the word “gulag” or at the implication that the United States has somehow become the modern equivalent of Stalin’s Soviet Union. Guantanamo Bay is an ad hoc creation, designed to contain captured enemy combatants in wartime. Abuses there — including new evidence of desecrating the Koran — have been investigated and discussed by the FBI, the press and, to a still limited extent, the military.
“Amnesty is veering dangerously close to Noam Chomsky/Ramsey Clark-land here. They are not quite there yet, but give them another year, and the once-proud Amnesty International will be simply dismissed as another hotbed of fervent leftish-anti-Americanism which is no more credible on these matters than the U.S. government itself.”
Solzhenitsyn writes that the gulag interrogators weren’t content to simply torture until the pain became so unbearable that one cried out, “I’m guilty. Where do I sign?” Instead, detainees were required to guess which counterrevolutionary crime they had supposedly committed by confessing to one, then another, then another, and so on until by sheer trial and error they stumbled upon which particular, imaginary offense “against the people” their interrogators had pre-determined them guilty of. Only then would the pain stop, making the gulag interrogation process something of a macabre game show.
Turns out, Amnesty just compared the US to the wrong communist dictatorship:
WASHINGTON — The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”
What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.
The Report was that we based out Guantanamo interrogation strategy was titled “Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From the Air Force Prisoners of War.”
Mr. Biderman’s 1957 article described “one form of torture” used by the Chinese as forcing American prisoners to stand “for exceedingly long periods,” sometimes in conditions of “extreme cold.” Such passive methods, he wrote, were more common than outright physical violence. Prolonged standing and exposure to cold have both been used by American military and C.I.A. interrogators against terrorist suspects.
The chart also listed other techniques used by the Chinese, including “Semi-Starvation,” “Exploitation of Wounds,” and “Filthy, Infested Surroundings,” and with their effects: “Makes Victim Dependent on Interrogator,” “Weakens Mental and Physical Ability to Resist,” and “Reduces Prisoner to ‘Animal Level’ Concerns.”
The only change made in the chart presented at Guantánamo was to drop its original title: “Communist Coercive Methods for Eliciting Individual Compliance.”
The documents released last month include an e-mail message from two SERE trainers reporting on a trip to Guantánamo from Dec. 29, 2002, to Jan. 4, 2003. Their purpose, the message said, was to present to interrogators “the theory and application of the physical pressures utilized during our training.”
The sessions included “an in-depth class on Biderman’s Principles,” the message said, referring to the chart from Mr. Biderman’s 1957 article.
Even the Onion couldn’t make this shit up.