Thursday, June 30, 2005

At Least We're Not as Bad as <insert name of evil dictator>

There's been a lot of talk about America's treatment of prisoners lately. Amnesty International compares our prisons to gulags, Senator Durbin says if we didn't know they were American jails, we'd think we were looking at pictures of Nazi camps, and specific allegations of prisoner mistreatment at Guantanomo Bay have been released. Then Republicans shoot back and say Amnesty International is unimportant and thus not worth commenting on; Sen. Durbin should be ashamed of comparing U.S. soldiers to Nazis; and in an "amusing because it's so ridiculous" moment, Republicans try to show how well prisoners at Guantanomo Bay are treated by not only listing sample menus but also by showing us fully cooked meals representative of what the prisoners receive!

Where to start... Okay, first of all, let's look at the Republican's responses. Insulting Amnesty International and saying they weren't credible is interesting. Interesting because Amnesty International estimates on human rights abuses were used by the same administration a few years ago as justification for the war. Want some more hypocricy? Sen. Santorum criticized Sen. Durbin for his Nazi comments, apparently forgetting that he compared the Democratic Party to Hitler not too long ago himself (and never bothered to apologize). And come on, people. Do you really think how well you feed your prisoners gives us any indication of how well you treat them? Sure if we were totally mean we could give them maggot-infested bread and dirty water. But we do seem to feed them well. I'm sure they appreciate that when they are forced to urinate on themselves and stay in painful positions for hours at a time and are refused medical treatment after being beaten. And let's not forget that the allegations of Koran abuse turned out to be true in a few cases (that we know of).

It should bother us all that FBI reports show that very little actionable and useful intelligence has been gathered from Guantanomo Bay or any of the other prison camps we're operating now, despite the questionable interrogation techniques used on the prisoners. That tells me that the techniques aren't working to save American lives by providing information, but they very likely may be endangering American lives by enraging more and more Muslims around the world as these stories of mistreatment get out. Right now militant Muslims are a minority (albeit a vocal and visible one) within that faith, but if we continue disrespecting their religion and mistreating Muslim prisoners, the moderates may soon come to hate us as well. Then we'll all be in a lot of trouble.

And let me set one thing straight, lest I be accused of excusing the Nazi remarks by Durbin. Comparing the actions of our soldiers (or political parties...) to Hitler, Stalin, et al, is grossly unfair. In fact, it lessens the effect of the atrocities committed by those maniacs. If we are to teach people that the Holocaust was truly horrific, we can't compare the torture, cruel treatment, and deaths of several dozen (or who knows -- maybe hundreds) of prisoners to
millions of deaths in WWII concentration camps. As bad as we're treating people, it's not as bad as Hitler treated people.

However, can we live in a world where the best we can say is "at least we're not as bad as Hitler?" That sets the bar pretty low in my book.


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