European Media See an American Gulag

From Iceland to Turkey, The Washington Post's Nov. 2 story, "CIA Holds Terror Suspects In Secret Prisons," has elicited denunciations and denials in the online media.

While every East European government denied the presence of secret CIA detention centers within their borders, Human Rights Watch's statement that it believes two such prisons are located in Poland and Romania was also widely reported in Europe. Together, the stories revived reports from last spring about flights of CIA-owned planes through various European airports that raised the possibility that so-called "torture flights" were transporting suspected terrorists to a European destination.   

What rankled most commentators is the possibility that European governments have been made complicit in the U.S. policy of secret detention and interrogation unbound by international law, especially East European democracies that only threw off communism 16 years ago.

"The reaction can hardly be strong enough if the United States has sneaked the serious violation of the European view of human rights inside the EU's door," said the Copenhagen daily Politiken (in Danish).

In Poland, Peter Gentle of Radio Polonia said the Post story came "as a bit of a shock to Poles. Most - maybe all - people I have spoke to just can't believe a word of it. A Guantanamo Bay type prison in the middle of northern Poland? Don't be ridiculous. "

Gentle described the evidence to support the claim of a prison in Poland as "dodgey, to say the least," adding that Poles "won't believe that there are any [secret prisons] in Poland until physical evidence of these camps is uncovered before their very eyes."

The headline on his column evoked incredulity: "CIA Gulags--in Poland?"

Hungarians "were already aware of the fact that the United States was keeping people captive in secret locations without charging them, without judicial control or time limits," said Gabor Horvath, writing in Nepszabadsag (in Hungarian), a Budapest daily. "The new information is that, with the President's knowledge, the CIA has kept this secret even from US legislators and that it has also involved East European democracies in this."

Horvath doubted that the prisoners had been held in Hungary, merely transported through its borders. Nonetheless, he said President Bush "owes an apology and detailed explanations not just to US voters but also to the friends of the democratic United States. He has already caused enough headaches to the latter."

In Turkey, a columnist for the Yeni Safak newspaper said "human smuggling sponsored by governments is gradually becoming a nightmare for the entire world... Are we going to cover up operations, unlawful acts, and crimes against humanity committed by the CIA or on its behalf in this country?" Ibrahim Karagul predicted the "secret torture centres" in Eastern Europe will be recorded in history as "the United States' Auschwitzs."

In Slovakia, a columnist for the influential left-of-center daily Pravda (not to be confused with Russia's Pravda) quoted President Bush as saying, "Successful societies protect freedom with the consistent and impartial rule of law, instead of selectively applying the law." Now, says Miloslav Surgo, Bush's CIA "is keeping people without trial in secret prisons ... in countries that are so proud of having rid themselves of secret prisons a few years ago."

In France, Le Monde asked "has the United States, which has defended human rights and the moral values of democracy throughout the world for such a long time, come to ask European countries, NATO members and protagonists in the European Union, to do 'the dirty work' on exported jihadist detainees? . . . Such an attitude toward the Old Continent would be one of utter arrogance and even contempt."

The Bush administration's "eloquent refusal to comment," wrote Artur Blinov in the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, makes it "increasingly obvious that these scandalous prisons do exist, and on the territory of the former Eastern bloc." The headline on his column: "Washington's GULAG in Eastern Europe."

By Jefferson Morley |  November 11, 2005; 7:48 AM ET  | Category:  Europe
Previous: The End of Teflon Tony Blair? | Next: Mideast Media Ask: Can France and Islam Coexist?


Please email us to report offensive comments.

More evidence that Dana Priest's story has really damaged Amercian national security. Let's all hope that Preist gets full Judith Miller treatment. And the the leaker goes to jail for a long, long time. (Everybody is against leaking classified information right?)

Posted by: Al | November 11, 2005 08:43 AM

Dana Priest, and the others involved in exposing this, should be held as heros to humanity. The Bush administration and the republican leadership continue to devolve American values from levels where freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law were held to their highest levels, to levels where torture, secret detention, ghosting prisoners and lying to the American public are standard operating procedures.

To hear Senator Frist get upset at the outing of the prisons, and not their existence or what happens inside their walls, is troubling. America used to be a shining beacon for the world to emulate. Now the world sees what America is doing and is recoiling. America has lost the high ground by sinking to levels reminiscent of the Soviets and America is exporting these techniques to countries we fought to free from such inhumanity.

And no, not everyone is against leaking. It has been the main tool for exposing corruption and law breaking in politics and business. A leaker who leaks to bring to light wrong doing is a hero, not a criminal. A leaker who leaks to do harm to someone is a criminal. Thus the difference between leaking the prison information and leaking Plame's identity. If this cannot be understood it explains why the Bush administration has been able to lead so many Americans astray. The tide though is turning as the polls show. You can fool the American people some of the time, and even all of the time as this administration has proven over the years, but you cannot fool Americans all the time as current events are proving.

Posted by: Sully | November 11, 2005 09:16 AM

The policy damages American security, not the person who exposes it my dear Al. Some time ago, "American security advocates" would have laughed at any indication that torture was a common practice in the "War against Terror". Now, the same people criticize those who expose this war for what it is citing "the end justifies the means." How pathetic...

Posted by: FromMacondo | November 11, 2005 09:21 AM

Dear Al, It is the policy not the leaker.It is a shame that the moral ground we kind of have before in the world has been smashed to pieces.Remenber people allways remenber what you did wrong not what you did right.This administration has rapidly diminished the influence the U.S has in the world.It is impossible now to stop,everything changes nothing ever stays the same, but for God's sake what is the rush to make the U.S so irrelevant in the future.Sometimes I think this goverment is working with our enemies, not against them.Everytime they make a move, they drop the ball.Mistake after mistake.Imconpetence,a complete failure.Speeches don't fix problems.Sound Policies that respect humanity are a better avenue.Sadly, I think this administration will never get it.

Posted by: Miguel | November 11, 2005 10:09 AM

It's American policies that are endangering American interests; don't blame the messenger. If Bush and company want to hold people in secret without trial and have them tortured, then don't feign surprise when word gets out and the rest of the world is outraged. Your country is hated as never before, and with Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in power, that hatred is richly deserved. Yours is a nation of torturers. Every American should feel deep shame over this. "Shining light for humanity"? Hardly. Why don't you take your self-righteous preaching to the rest of the world about "democracy" and "human rights" and start applying them to yourselves. The USA has zero credibility now.
Tom Kwasnyk
Melbourne, Australia

Posted by: Tom Kwasnyk | November 11, 2005 10:32 AM

I guess there is a question as to whether these prisons violate any American laws. If so then a lot might happen, but my guess is they do not.

Congress has oversight over the administration though. Frist's comments indicate he is more upset with the leaker than the prisons and basically said the prisons were ok, so I don't expect Congress to get involved and do any real oversight.

American's, remember this next year during the elections. The republicans are driving America to new lows. Only the American people can stop this slide and bring us back to the greatness we once had and the admiration our real values deserve. And don't let a "good" republican get your vote. That "good" republican allows Frist and Hastert to remain in power, control the committees which should be overseeing what this administration does, and determine what bills come to the floor.

The only "good" republican is one who looses an election.

Posted by: Sully | November 11, 2005 11:08 AM

This is after all a country led by a Manchurian frat boy whose forebears hatched MKULTRA.

Posted by: Sidney | November 11, 2005 11:14 AM

"Everybody is against leaking classified information right"
No! not by a long shot! When classified information shows that our nation is turning it's back on its core values, it should be leaked and leaked big time. What part of, torture is morally indefensible, doesn't this administration and its sycophants get? Please spare me the tired line about protecting American lives at all cost. While I love my family dearly and I am willing to go to great lengths to keep them safe, I am not willing to sell our soul to the Devil for protection.

Posted by: Norm | November 11, 2005 11:31 AM

This is what happens when the Main Stream Media becomes infected with the Neocon agenda a la Judith Miller, Richard Cohen, WaPo editorial page, the Sulzberger family and all those media stars who priased Bush after 9/11, cheered the War, McCain, embedding reporters and Miller and Cooper for refusing to testify.

I find it funny that (Not you Mr. Morley) now the MSM tells us about what the Bush Cabal is doing wrong. Where were they when after Powell lies to the UN all they had to do was show the same Powell just mere months before saying clearly that Saddam was not a threat or Condi "Mushroom Cloud" Rice stating that Saddam had centrifuges when mere months before She said clearly on TV!!! that Saddam was boxed in a not a threat to his neighbors, the US or the world. Best yet Where was the MSM when Donald "We know where the WMDS are" Rumsfeld shook Saddam's hands on TV again!!! in 1983 full of smiles and platitudes and then later casts Saddam as a greater threat than anything else in the world. Now They Tell Us.

Well it is too late. Dana Priest is a good reporter and got this huge scoop but if this is the first time she is hearing about US torturing prisoners in foreign jails then she is naive beyond belief obviously she missed the 80s of South and Central America and obviously never heard of the School of Americas in Georgia where torture was taught in advanced degrees to frienly regimes south of the border and practiced on leftist with such aplomb.

Now the Europeans and main stream Americans claim to be shocked, shocked!! to find the angelic US gov't condoning secret prisons and torture.

Posted by: | November 11, 2005 11:50 AM

Well put, Norm. Especially that last sentence.
At least some of us still are capable of thinking independently.

Posted by: wpr | November 11, 2005 12:06 PM

To get back to the point of Morley's post, I'm wondering how many countries have officially denied hosting these prisons.

Posted by: CKR | November 11, 2005 12:25 PM

Having been born under Hitler and generally a proud US citizen, I am relieved that Americans finally recognize the misguided nationalistic fervor and abuse of power that has plagued this nation for decades. Such behavior by those in the US government for whom sadism and power is the end in itself sabotages our national security, and its greed (as in Nazi Germany) will be its eventual undoing.

It is indeed a sad day in America when American citizens must appeal to and rely on foreigners to protect them from their own evil leaders. Perhaps someday Americans will again obtain a government that is as good as its people.

Posted by: erich | November 11, 2005 12:26 PM

Yes! Torture is illegal under American law!Check out Title 18 United states Code Chapter 113c- Torture Sections 2340A, 2340B, and 2340C. Torture is punishable by up to 20 years in prison by any U.S. National anywhere in the World. Should deaths that result from are subject punishment to Life in prison or death. This law was a response to the "Convention against Torture, Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment, or Punishment" Nov. 20, 1994 Treaty Document 100-20. I believe the torture memo that came out of the Justice Department makes the President, Vice-President, and the Secretay of Defense among others are subject to prosecution under that law.

Posted by: P. J. Casey | November 11, 2005 12:36 PM

To CKR all of the East European countries have denied hosting secret prisons but some of these denials seem artfully constructed. For example, Romania and Slovakia deny that the United States has ever asked permission to establish secret prisons in the country. When pressed, officials in these countries repeat the same thought in diffent ways: that the U.S. has not requested any such thing. That's not the same as saying that they don't exist.

Posted by: Jefferson Morley | November 11, 2005 01:18 PM

I dont live the in States but my wellbeing is in based on the sacrifices of a lot of Americans so i am gratefull for that .Up till resent times the American Values and standards were mine aswel but since 9/11 when President Bush started "his" war on terrorism and declared that "whoever was not with him was against him" , I got a funny feeling that times ahead could be rough. I was right.A lot of americans and many more non-americans feel that this administration is on the wrong track and I am convinced it is the track of Mr Cheney who is pulling the strings behind the screens by pushing Mr Bush .The real President is Mr Cheney who is the bad genius behind all that is going astray in the GOP administration . I hope Mr Bush will show in time his own insight and personal strength by turning the course of events in a more healthy direction so that the "world" can see the USA. again as the leading nation of this world.

Posted by: Fijka | November 11, 2005 01:21 PM

So the left-wing, feckless, appeasing and self-proclaimed "intelligensia" of Old Europe and the socialists of the New Europe are complaining about some unverifiable screed by a US-based reporter. Perhaps they should spend their time dousing fires and stamping out the riots that are occuring in that bastion of appeasement, France.

Posted by: Brad J | November 11, 2005 01:33 PM

"Poles "won't believe that there are any [secret prisons] in Poland until physical evidence of these camps is uncovered before their very eyes.""

Hey, this approach worked so well for them in the 40's.

Posted by: Jon H | November 11, 2005 01:45 PM

"Poles 'won't believe that there are any [secret prisons] in Poland until physical evidence of these camps is uncovered before their very eyes.'"

It seems like that's the approach of some Americans too (cf. the poster who dismissed Dana Priest's article as 'some unverifiable screed by a US-based reporter'). How can any fair-minded person still disbelieve the overall story (not which countries the sites are located in, but the fact that they do exist)? Has the Bush administration even issued an unambiguous denial of this? Wouldn't they do so instantly if they could?

Posted by: Beren | November 11, 2005 02:35 PM

I am an immigrant, US citizen. My former professor used to give me a lecture in 1976 on how Indira Gandhi usurped the Indian constitution and how Indians could learn from the US not to do such things.
I was ashamed then. I spoke to him recently and pointed to him the Patriot act related violations, CIA gulags and the prince of darkness, Dick Cheney's puppeteering. He was speechless and did not even try to defend.

Posted by: kumar | November 11, 2005 03:37 PM

To Brad J: Interesting you should mention French rioting. Didn't the US just have some looting in New Orleans? Maybe the problem is with Francophone cities.

Posted by: Turnabout | November 11, 2005 03:42 PM

There will always be those who defend this administration to the end, but as with Nixon, Bush has crossed a line where his word can no longer be trusted by most Americans and that is something he will not be able to regain. In this environment little will be done. House and senate republicans will begin distancing themselves from Bush. Bush's agenda items will only have support from those who believe in them and not the party's support, and democrats will feel emboldened to challenge any agenda item. So its a do-nothing government for the next three years. Probably a good thing considering the waste and bungling done over the last 5 years.

The only thing that could change this is if the republicans loose the house or senate majority next year. Then you'll see real investigations and probably a resignation or two.

Either way, don't expect tax cuts, major spending, new initiatives, or any major agenda items put forward. This administration has shot itself multiple times in the feet and can no longer stand. My only fear is that Bush will do something stupid to make himself a hero in the eyes of the American people and regain their trust. I wouldn't put it past him or his brain.

Posted by: Sully | November 11, 2005 04:10 PM

The world now knows just how bad the US has become. We have become that axis of evil that President Bush spoke about.

Posted by: Jackie | November 11, 2005 04:53 PM

I am still stunned -- and more deeply saddened than I ever thought possible -- that my country would be accused of torture; that the possibility of guilt would be so strong that the world would take those charges seriously; that the president of this country would have to deny these charges publicly.

This man said he would bring honor back to the Presidency. Instead he has stripped all honor from our -- from my -- country.

Posted by: jmk | November 11, 2005 06:08 PM

The following New Yorker article is more stunning than the unfolding story of the secret prisons. I doubt anyone would ever know what went in those prisons.

I read the article 3 times because I couldn't believe what I was reading.

Here is one of the most shocking statements:

"When one of the defense lawyers, Matthew Freedus, asked a witness, "What position was Jamadi in when he died?," the C.I.A. representatives protested, saying that the answer was classified. The same objection was made when a question was asked about the role that water had played in Jamadi's interrogation."

What has happened to this country.

Posted by: Karim | November 11, 2005 06:51 PM

The fact that no European country wants to admit that it has CIA torture prisons on its soil is clear evidence that these are taboo there, and rightly so. What is in question is more than just a crime against humanity it is a question of living by genuine moral values shared by all of humanity. Europe's experience of Auschwitz and Gulag is still fresh and so I am not at all surprised that they condemn torture so strongly.

It is all too easy to blame "Old Europe" and/or "New Europe" for their own complicity in torture in times past. However, instead of blaming Europe for condemning CIA-sponsored torture we must be grateful to them because those who are our allies act best when they help us correct ourselves.

So, America needs to change course. It must reveal the full truth about its torture chambers in Europe, Afghanistan, etc. and must embrace the letter and spirit of the Constitution, Bill of Rights and International Covenants. When we say, "All men (and women) are created equal," we must mean what we say otherwise we will look and sound like hypocrits.

Posted by: Jack K. | November 11, 2005 08:51 PM

Bush and Cheney have exposed the evil that is America.

Posted by: | November 12, 2005 01:03 AM

It now becomes clear why Donald Rumsfeld spoke so highly of 'new Europe' and cemented relationships with former Warsaw Pact countries at the expense of NATO as a whole. Quid pro quo.

Posted by: Nick S. | November 12, 2005 01:20 AM

Tom Kwasnyk,

You make some excellent points with which I and millions of other Americans agree, but then you had to make an idiotic remark obviously reflective of your personal biases and stereotypes in which you state that the U.S. is a "nation of torturers". Are you really ready to believe that every single person in the U.S. condones torture?

Looking at Australia's dismal record of treatment of its aboriginal peoples, which is by far the worst of any nation in the Western world, by your logic Australia is a nation of participants in genocide. I'm not ready to believe such a charge, but I'm pointing out where your logic can go.

I agree that there's a tremendous credibility gap for the U.S. and that torture is abhorrent. However, statements such as yours that alienate Americans who otherwise agree with you are counterproductive and do nothing to effect positive change.

Posted by: storm72 | November 12, 2005 08:27 AM

Torture in this case is a side of effect of this war.

In my opinion the fundamental problem is that America in general still glorifies war.

War is looked upon as something heroic and even cool, not as an exercise of killing other human beings and of destruction.

The Army even put ads on MTV for teenagers.

If torturing prisoners is wrong, how about dropping bombs on civilian cities like Baghdad?

How many civilians were killed during those bombings?

How many people were traumatized because of shootings, bombings and destruction?

Have you ever seen the faces of terrified children in Iraqi towns and houses while the Army is doing "its heroic job"?

I believe this is why the entire world opposed the war when the majority of Americans supported it, including its media (the Washington Post is among them) and even its elected congress.

Don't blame Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney alone in this mess.

The neo-cons simply took advantage of a prevailing mentality in America that tolerates and even glorifies war. It was as simple as that.

The very few Americans who initially opposed the war were labled "radical crazed leftists".

One becomes crazy and radical when they oppose a war in which human beings were going to die but sane and courageous (and let's not forget patriotic!) when they cheer it and support it.

Posted by: Karim | November 12, 2005 11:19 AM

Bush's Whitehouse has been totally hijacked by hardliners and military men. Bush is no JFK, he doesn't have the cajones to stand up to Rumsfeld, Cheney and co. Does anyone think he could have averted the Cuban Missile Crises?

Posted by: Lorry | November 12, 2005 11:33 AM

It's true we Australians have much to be ashamed of regarding our treatment of aborigines. But at least our political leaders do not openly advocate torture, as your president does today. If you don't like my observation that yours is a "nation of torturers," then prove it wrong by impeaching Bush and trying him for crimes against humanity. As long as that man remains in office -- along with Cheney and Rumsfeld -- as long as there is no sustained national uprising over the cruel, violent and illegal policies being openly advocated and pursued by your White House, I can only conclude that a majority of Americans support Bush and these policies. And I can therefore only conclude that the US is indeed, today, a nation of torturers.
That basic, ugly truth might well offend some Americans. Frankly, I don't care. Maybe it's time you stopped wrapping yourselves in the stars and stripes, set aside your delusional patriotism, and took a good, cold, hard look at what you have become.
Tom Kwasnyk

Posted by: Tom Kwasnyk | November 12, 2005 01:42 PM

Tom Kwasnyk wrote:
"Maybe it's time you stopped wrapping yourselves in the stars and stripes, set aside your delusional patriotism, and took a good, cold, hard look at what you have become."

That is hapening and why Bush's poll numbers are 25 points lower than they were during the 2004 elections. Before those elections, the Bush administation lied, cheated, obfuscated, attacked opponents and courted religious groups to maintain a majority. That majority is now mostly gone. Not only are Bush's actions being exposed but they are not being dismissed as unbelievable by Americans as they have been in the past. Once you have been shown to have lied, your credibility crumbles. Bush is now termed "untrustworthy" by 57% of Americans by one poll.

But polls are not good enough for you, you want American to prove they are not torturers by impeaching Bush. You do not understand democracy very well. Bush's power is quite small now. Few in congress openly support him. Just recently, a tax reduction bill, one he and his party backed, was pulled due to lack of support. His administration is effectively over.

Impeachment will not happen until the republican majority is replaced in the 2006 congressional elections, and many republican congressmen and senators are very worried because they now fear the American people's votes. That is democracy. If Americans were all tortures, we'd all be praising bush for creating these torture chambers. The fact the America is turning against Bush and the republicans is proof that American's do not condone torture.

I could say Australians condone their PM's scandals. Howard's ethanol scandal, the government's sanctioning of the AWB/Iraq oil-for-food scandal, the refugee detention centers and the lies by the Howard administration about refugees and immigrants. Look, we all have governments that need watching and corrections via the ballot box. Americans were truely fooled in 2004 and are showing via the poll numbers that they now see the truth. We are not a nation of tortures, but we can be called gullable by believing those who purposely lied to Americans. One is under indictment and another still being investigated. America has begun moving forward to correct its mistakes, and that movement is happening in spite of Bush.

Posted by: Sully | November 13, 2005 09:46 AM

That may well be true but we here in Australia do not claim, as you do in America, that our nation represents "a shining light on a hill" -- one with a "special duty" to "lead the free world" and which must therefore be exempt from the rules of international law. It's not good enough to claim that public opinion is moving away from Bush and that the composition of Congress will first have to change before anything can be done about the torture now being openly practised and advocated by your government. These are crimes against humanity, being committed in your name, and hardly anyone in America is doing anything to stop them. Until I see more outrage, more evidence that Americans will not tolerate crimes like torture being committed in your country's name, I will continue to believe that my assessment is correct: yours is a nation of torturers, and each and every one of you should be deeply ashamed of being American.
Tom Kwasnyk
Melbourne, Australia

Posted by: Tom Kwasnyk | November 13, 2005 02:56 PM


Americans ARE outraged. A bill was passed in congress 90-10, that no torture should be allowed in any American facilities. Our bastard vice president is fighting this bill and Americans are outraged and is yet another reason Bush's polls are falling.

What I guess you want is the republicans, who control both houses of congress, to impeach Bush. Well, so do I. But they won't because they are all republicans. Many are heading for defeat in 2006 because of their suport or inaction. But even if a majority of Americans believes Bush should be impeached it cannot happen without the majority in congress suporting it. They will pay the piper in 2006. That is all us outraged Americans can do without storming the White House, which I do not plan to do. Protest yes, but I would rather let democracy work. In the meantime the curtain has been pulled aside and Bush cannot joke his way out of what his administration is doing. Watch and see how America rights this wrong. I expect to see Bush and or Cheney punished for their evil deeds in the future and the torture to stop quickly.

Posted by: Sully | November 13, 2005 05:32 PM


Of course many (disgustingly, not all) Americans are appalled by the torture that is, as you rightly point out, being performed in our names by our government. And we're also doing everything that we can to try to get our legislative branch to stop this practice, since the executive won't listen to us. Some, who were already pretty sure a year ago that the government was doing this, voted against Bush even though they were life-long Republicans, in an attempt to stop these inhuman practices. Now more revelations come out, and even those who don't follow the news very well finally hear about what has been happening. As Sully pointed out, the Senate did pass its ban on torture by a 90-9 vote. They generally don't do things like that if they think public opinion is against them. I really hope that the House will pass matching legislation and these inhuman practices will be stopped. Someday (and may that day not be long delayed) there will be an accounting for what has happened.

But to go back to Sully's original point, with which I mostly agree, do you really think that you can claim that all of us, even those of us who oppose torture and do everything that we can within our political system to stop it, are still just 'torturers'? A thought experiment for you, then: You don't consider yourself a 'torturer'. Imagine yourself holding exactly the same views as you do now, but imagine yourself born to US parents, and thus a US citizen. Are you now a 'torturer' as a result? I'd be interested to know what you think.

Ultimately, what does Sully have to do, what do I have to do, for you to consider us innocent of these practices that we have done everything we could do to oppose? What would you do differently from us, if you were one of us?

As for your comment that we should stop wrapping ourselves in the stars and stripes and 'take a good, cold, hard look at what [we've] become', I agree with you entirely.

Thank you for posting.

Posted by: Beren | November 14, 2005 09:35 AM

I think that the Post did a miss deed in naming the countries who supposedly have these secret bases. We are dealing with terrorist and now the Post has maked them as targets.

I don't think that it is right to torture people but on the other hand we are dealing with people that don't see military targets they want mass distruction.

I ask people would you want your government to torture someone that knew about a possible bombing of your childrens schools or say we don't do that and let it happen. See Russia a few months ago.

The people we are dealing with are not opperating from the Genevia Convention on warfare.

I believe our country should take the moral ground on torture but it would depend on state of the safety of the country.

It is funny but Americans have been tortured in Germany, Japan, Vietname, and Iraq during wartime and we have stood by. Seems everyone is play by a different set of rules than we are and our citizens are paying the ultimate sacrifice.

Maybe we should take a look at what the world has become around us and treat it a little differently.

Posted by: Tee | November 14, 2005 02:46 PM

And just how do you know, "Tee," that the people being tortured by the Bush administration are indeed terrorists? They haven't been tried in a court of law so who's to say what the real story is. Perhaps you, "Tee," are a terrorist. Maybe someone with a score to settle against you will make the claim, in which case I guess by your logic, you would have to be tortured too.

Posted by: | November 14, 2005 03:53 PM

do the folks calling this a gulag even know what the gulag was? Here's a hint - it didn't involve a few 100 people, and it didn't involve military trials to determine guilt or innocence.

get some perspective. you can oppose these jails without making fools of yourselves.

Posted by: Ce | November 14, 2005 05:00 PM

These CIA detentions are very dangerous even if they do yield valuable intelligence. You could get the same or similar intelligence by legally holding these people in specially built and staffed U.S. prisons within the regular system, while they are awaiting trial and punishment and/or execution. The Congress should step in to outlaw this practice.

Posted by: George | November 14, 2005 07:31 PM

The interesting thing about this discussion is that the word torture is thrown around as if everyone agrees with what "torture" means. Those who oppose it it and think they are on some high moral ground should define it for us . . . and no, "degrading treatment" doesn't cut it. Some of you may think that taking away someone's Qu'ran is degrading, but I don't. So what exactly is torture these days? Please spare us the legalese and state exactly how you define it. Then maybe we can have a rational discussion on the subject.

Posted by: KB | November 15, 2005 01:39 AM

KB, here's your answer: strapping someone to a board and submerging them in water to the point where they think they are drowning, pulling them out only seconds before they actually do drown, then repeating the whole thing over again, is torture. That is what your government is doing, right now, to detainees held in secret and without trial. If that doesn't meet your definition of torture, I don't know what does. Meanwhile, your president and vice-president are arguing for more latitude to do more of the same. How can one conclude anything other than that the Bush administration, and the United States government by extension, is evil. Time to stop the denial, KB. Yours is a nation of torturers.
Tom Kwasnyk
Melbourne, Australia

Posted by: Tom Kwasnyk | November 15, 2005 09:51 AM

of Americans hold a passport. That is telling in itself.
America is now breaking international agreements, that it pushed for. We have all had the finger from America and it makes us very angry. The softwood lumber issue is very important to Canadians, the Americans broke the agreement and you can't even find anything in the American media on the issue. All we see are passive Americans, who have very little interest beyond their personal enclave.
For years I have wondered why Americans put up with their governments that infantalizes them. The flag waving is a form of internal propaganda.
I watch the American programs over the years and I am very tired of the fight beween the left and the right. The name calling is tiring, and seems to prevent any real change. I see nothing short of a revolution changing this most hated nation.
Despite this, I love Americans. They are like my loud, narcissistic neighbour. Difficult but they feel like family.

Posted by: Gael | November 15, 2005 12:16 PM

I can understand where Tom is coming from, being also "not American." It is tiring listening to American propaganda,saying they are the greatest nation on earth. That is insulting to everyone else. We come from countries with much lower crime rates, happier citizens, and fewer of our people in jail. Americans abuse their children more than any other country in the world. Yet despite these horrifying statistics, they continue to advertise their superiority.Americans torturing others, not a big leap. The hypocracy is hard to take. The dislike of America is everywhere and simmering.

Posted by: Gael | November 15, 2005 12:28 PM


I think you correctly and insightfully identify a serious problem when you write, "I watch the American programs over the years and I am very tired of the fight beween the left and the right. The name calling is tiring, and seems to prevent any real change."

In fact, the sound-bite driven culture war between 'left' and 'right' is a spectator sport that serves as a substitute for real political involvement by citizens. It goes part of the way towards explaining why the US can be so slow, sometimes, to confront what seems, from the outside, to be an ovbious and glaring issue (like torture). The issue gets fed into the neverending 'right v. left' shouting war.

Thanks for the observations from north of the border.

Posted by: Beren | November 15, 2005 01:33 PM

Tom, that's great, thanks for the fine definition. So I suppose anything beyond "waterboarding" is fair game? Can we deprive detainees of sleep or make them in any way uncomfortable? Is that also torture by your definition? How about if we have females interrogate them? Is that torture too if it's humiliating for them?

As far as being in denial, I am not at all. I don't really care if you or others think we are evil and you are entitled to your opinion. Regardless of world opinion, we are the most powerful nation on Earth at the moment and will continue to be through your lifetime, so you might as well get used to it.

Our moral standing may have been diminished in the eyes of world opinion, no doubt about that, but the world needs us as an economic engine so the long-term consequences will be minimal. Besides, who would the world have to hate if we went away, France?

It's interesting to note, also, that your democratically elected government has been one of our staunchest allies in this war.

Posted by: KB | November 16, 2005 03:41 PM

KB writes:

"Regardless of world opinion, we are the most powerful nation on Earth at the moment and will continue to be through your lifetime, so you might as well get used to it."

Rumsfeld used to talk this way. Even he has realized by now that he was wrong. "Most powerful" is not the same thing as "more powerful than everyone else combined" and it's definitely not the same thing as "free from needing the cooperation of other countries".

Be serious about this, because it's a serious matter. How will we continue to gather intelligence and preempt possible terrorist attacks without the cooperation of nations around the world? What do you suggest that we use to substitute for their assistance? How will we gather information about possible Al-Qaeda cells in, say, Hamburg, if the German government decides not to share its information with us?

I don't know how old Tom is, but unless he's very old, your comment to him could very likely turn out to be false. You know, it doesn't always take that long for a great power to lose its dominance. With the kind of debt we're running and the serious looming economic problems that we're (not) facing, it's not at all impossible that we could cease to be the dominant global power in the lifetime of people now living. And if that happens, words like yours will come back to haunt us. Prosperity is the time to make friends for when you'll need them, not the time to make enemies that will wait for an opportunity to harm you.

KB also writes: "Our moral standing may have been diminished in the eyes of world opinion, no doubt about that, but the world needs us as an economic engine so the long-term consequences will be minimal."

And we need the world too, to (among other things) finance our reckless spending. No nation can claim self-sufficiency and independence from all the others in the current global economy.

Posted by: Beren | November 16, 2005 07:46 PM

Beren, you write "No nation can claim self-sufficiency and independence from all the others in the current global economy." True and that is point. The world's economies are tied to ours, just as ours are tied to theirs. Industrial nations, China included, can ill afford the economic shock that would come from another catastrophic terrorist attack on the U.S. They will assist us because it is in their interest to assist us, just as it is in our interest to assist them.

They may not like us, but don't think for a minute that France, or even China, want to see a nuclear 9/11 in the U.S. Not to mention that the more countries these terrorists strike, the more nations will see it in their interests to assist us. Imagine what a difference a day made in public opinion in Jordan.

We will remain the world's most dominant power through our lifetime. At some point China may be able to challenge us, but the world's powerful nations are not going to unite against us in some anti-U.S. alliance because of this issue of "torture." They have too much to lose to turn against us. They may hem and haw, wring their hands, and call us evil, uncivilized barbarians, but that will be the extent of it.

I worry more about knee-jerk reactions to this issue at home that may constrain our intelligence abilities and embolden the terrorists.

Posted by: KB | November 16, 2005 08:55 PM

KB writes, "The world's economies are tied to ours, just as ours are tied to theirs. Industrial nations, China included, can ill afford the economic shock that would come from another catastrophic terrorist attack on the U.S. They will assist us because it is in their interest to assist us, just as it is in our interest to assist them."

Of course they don't want to see another terrorist attack on the US or any other major player in the world financial market. But if public opinion turns against us in some countries (remember that there are a lot of democracies around the world whose people are increasingly appalled by what we do) there will be less cooperation from them, and that will make it harder for us to combat terrorism. It's not an all-or-nothing issue. There are shades of cooperation. There are governments and governing coalitions that are more friendly to us, and those that are less so.

I don't want to duplicate another post, so I won't rail on about the way we help Al-Qaeda out by torturing and providing Bin-Laden with the best PR boost he ever could have dreamed of. But take a look at the last seven discussions or so of Emily Messner's "The Debate" blog on the WaPo site, where this issue is als being debated. As I said in one of those posts, I think, if this ever turns into "The Terrorists v. The Torturers", in the eyes of most of the world, we've lost the war.

You also write, "We will remain the world's most dominant power through our lifetime."

I don't know how old you are. But as far as I'm concerned, this statement isn't at all certain. I'm 27, and working on becoming a historian (working on my dissertation these days), and I can tell you that many great powers, whose might seemed like it could last for centuries, lost their dominance in much less than the ca. 50 years I might be expected to live according to our average life expectancies. Who, in 1910, would have predicted the end of British dominance of the seas? But in 1960, did Britain rule the waves?

More than anything else, I object to the way some, who argue the point much as you do, frame the question. They say, "Well, we're the strongest, so the rest of the world will have to go along with what we want. After all, they need us." It's like...what's a good's like driving a huge SUV and figuring that that means you don't need to worry about how you drive, since if you hit someone, they'll be damaged worse than you will. Yes. But you should drive carefully. The fact that the other guy got hurt worse isn't going to make you feel any better on the way to the hospital.

Thanks for your post.

Posted by: Beren | November 18, 2005 12:43 AM

KB writes: "Regardless of world opinion, we are the most powerful nation on Earth at the moment and will continue to be through your lifetime, so you might as well get used to it."
Know what, KB? That's exactly the kind of attitude that brought about 9/11. And exactly the kind of attitude that could very well bring about many more such attacks. Why are Americans dying by the thousands in Iraq? Why are other nations abandoning the U.S. in Iraq? Why are no Iraqis helping U.S. troops root out the insurgency? Why is America today the most hated nation on earth?
Go right ahead, keep fighting these "pre-emptive" wars based on lies, keep bankrupting your economy by spending trillions on your military, keep insulting the rest of the world by asserting your supremacy. Sure, you'll have the world's most powerful army, and for a while longer, at least, you'll still have the world's biggest GNP. But keep your current attitudes and policies in place and you will be ever more hated worldwide and, yes, ever less secure.
Throughout history, the best-armed, most arrogant empires have always fallen. Your empire will fall too. In fact, its decline is already under way. All the military hardware and jingoist bravado in the world won't change that.

Posted by: Tom | November 20, 2005 04:43 PM

Can't really disagree with your overall analysis. But you sound pleased enough about it that I am interested in asking whether you think it's such good news for Australia.

Thanks for posting.

Posted by: Beren | November 20, 2005 10:03 PM

I'm not especially pleased about it -- just stating reality as I see it. Of course I'd rather that the U.S. suddenly came to its senses and stop electing morons who wage wars of choice sold to your gullible, insular, semi-literate public on the basis of lies. But that would require such a wholesale change in your society -- and, especially, the emergence of a truly independent news media, something sadly lacking today in America -- that I frankly think any such prospect is highly unlikely. No, you'll keep electing dim-witted Republicans and pale Democratic imitations of Republicans who are desperately afraid to embrace the rule of law and desperately afraid to stop pumping trillions into your bloated armed forces for fear of being labeled wimps by the Fox Newses and the Pat Robertsons of this world. Fascist discourse (you call it patriotism) is strong in America. You have never appeared more doomed as a nation than you appear today.

Posted by: Tom | November 21, 2005 10:58 PM

["Poles "won't believe that there are any [secret prisons] in Poland until physical evidence of these camps is uncovered before their very eyes.""

Hey, this approach worked so well for them in the 40's.]

What is this remark about?? It were Poles who - in the 40s - tried in vain to inform the Western allies about concentration camps, Katyn and gulags...

Posted by: Nath | November 22, 2005 04:46 PM

Grrr...Sorry for the 4 postings, but it did not seem to work

Posted by: Nath | November 22, 2005 05:08 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company