Saturday, March 24, 2007


Irene KhanSorry for the coarse language, but some days I can't restrain myself. Who is Irene Khan? She is the seventh Secretary General of Amnesty International, premier Human Rights watchdog, and was sworn in in August 2001. She became instantly (in)famous in 2005 for stating, at the occasion of the publication of AI's Annual Report, that the Guantanamo facility was the "gulag of our times":

"The USA, as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyperpower, sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide,..." "When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity."

"The detention facility at Guantánamo Bay has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law," she said. " Guantánamo evokes memories of Soviet repression."

Applebaum's GULAGI have been a member of Amnesty International for over twenty years, but back in 2005 I was damn glad I was no longer in their files for the personal embarrassment would have been most unpleasant. To be sure, throughout its history AI has done excellent work - and I would wager that even today, many of its countless staffers and volunteers are doing their utmost best to alleviate the plight of tens of thousands of political prisoners across the globe, if only by providing hope for their release someday. And now and then, if the prisoner in question has become a symbol or otherwise has gained throughout the years a high enough "profile", release does occur. But like so many NGO's by and large, AI has stepped in the trap of vicious anti-western bias, and its ranks, especially the higher cadre, have been infested by that variety of leftists loons to whom every sense of proportion is a stranger. In the case of Mrs. Khan, there is an additional problem: she is a Muslim. And it shows. Islam is, after all, the politico-religious ideology which causes a deadly frenzy among its followers over 12 lame Danish cartoons but at the same time instills matter-of-factly acceptance among its practitioners over muslims butchering each other in the most heinous ways. It is therefore no surprise that a follower of the prophet is capable of producing the gulag/gitmo analogy, a comparison as utterly ludicrous as it is insulting to the gulag survivors. Everybody who has read one of the many books on the system of Gulag camps run in the former Soviet Union could teach Mrs. Khan a lesson in proportion. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's books come to mind, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962) and of course "The Gulag Archipelago", a three-volume masterpiece which appeared in 1973-1974. But there are many, many others. One of the most recent works is Anne Applebaum's "GULAG - A History" (2003), a compelling account, heavily leaning on hitherto classified documentation, of the history of the Gulag system (the word "GULAG" is an acronym which stands for Main Directorate of Corrective Labor Camps), beginning under Lenin in or around 1920 and lasting till the days of the USSR's last "czar", Mikhail Gorbachev. True, Mrs. Applebaum won a Pulitzer Prize for her book, but everybody has a bad day once in awhile.

Now, let us get some facts straight, and we will not even talk about the beneficial effects of the Gitmo and Abu Ghraib "scandals" which reportedly cost, throughout the world, the lives of 743 torturers, interrogation experts specialized in genital mutilation, and other beatup intel whizkids who died from laughing upon learning how Uncle Sam was lambasted for what were and are in essence gross PR screwups. Below you find a map of Cuba, with the exact location of the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba's southeastern corner. Cuba is an island with a surface of 110,860 sq km (sorry, I always have troubles with kloms/miles converting), or slightly smaller than Pennsylvania. The Naval Base comprises a small surface of some 45 square miles. The actual detention center consists of three camps, Delta, Iguana and X-Ray, which until now have received 775 detainees, of which as of today approximately 340 have been released (a couple of tens of them immediately returning to their jihad activities and ambushing an killing US and coalition troops) and a further 110 labeled "ready for release". That leaves around 325 inmates, of which some 70 will ultimately face trial, which means that it is only the status of the remaining 250 which remains unclear, read, they don't know how long they will be held. Generally, the highest number of detainees present at one time was around 500. For those sobbing and weeping over this horrendous fact I'd like to point out that German and Japanese POW's also didn't know how long they'd be held. However, public outrage over Obersturmbannfuehrer's Schweinkopf's sad fate shoveling horse shit in the desert of Nevada was less then because people realized a war was going on.


Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand below is a map of the former Soviet Union, surface 22 million kilometers or around 200 times Cuba, and the red specks represent the known prisoner complexes in the USSR. Keep in mind that one speck does not necessarily means one camp. The Mother of all Penal Networks would ultimately count 476 camps. The most notorious area of them all - at least the one known to the general public - was in Kolyma, in the desolate wastes of eastern Siberia. There, on a surface four times the size of France, around 100 camps were set up. The highest number of detainees held at one time is estimated at 5,000,000, or 10,000 times as many as in the "gulag of our times" - Americans are schoolboys. This peak was reached during the reign of Stalin, who actually used the Gulag system not only to get rid of political opponents but also as a means of keeping the populace in a permanent state of terror, a bit like George Bush is doing now.


sick gulag inmatesAnyone could land in some Gulag complex, from pranksters telling one unfortunate joke too many to kulaks over actresses refusing to sleep with commissars to rocket scientists. Throughout its existence, tens of millions passed through the camps, and the prison system became so huge that, apart from its punitive function, it assumed via its forced labor a not unimportant economical one. Indeed, already in the mid-twenties it produced a third of the country's gold, a great deal of its coal and timber, and a lot of almost everything else. By and large, however, economists agree that the gulag system, by withdrawing so many productive and qualified people from the USSR's working class, as well as by the huge costs to maintain it, actually was a drag on the Soviet economy.

In Chapter 16 of Applebaum's book, "The Dying", the author cites the testimony of a certain Tamara Petkevich, (who would miraculously survive the ordeal), upon arrival in a camp:

There behind the wire was a row of creatures, distantly reminiscent of human beings... there were ten of them, skeletons of various sizes covered with brown, parchment-like skin, all stripped to the waist, with shaved heads and pendulous withered breasts. Their only clothing was some pathetic dirty underpants, and their shinbones projected from concave circles of emptiness. Women! Hunger, heat and hard toil had transformed them into dried specimens that still, unaccountably, clung to the last vestiges of life.

frozen to death in a gulagWhat about the total number of deaths during the Gulag's existence? Numbers vary widely, not in the least because of the sheer size of the system and the impossibility to keep track of the deadly business taking place in it. In Applebaum's book, I failed to find a encompassing number for the almost 70 years of its existence and it is a testimony to her qualities as a no-nonsense, non-biased historical researcher that she refrains from giving a "grand total". The one number she cites is 2,749,163, and this is for the Stalinist period between 1929 and 1953. She adds however that "even the historian who compiled it points out that it is incomplete". Either way, this means that the final tally must surely be greater than that number, and there are others who project it as far larger. Already Robert Conquest (The Great Terror, 1968), Nicolas Werth in the French Livre Noir du Communisme and even the Russian rehabilitation commission under Aleksandr Yakovlev estimate the number of gulag deaths at over 20 million.

Whatever the number, it is safe to say it was larger than the possibly 5-10 thus far in Guantanamo, several of which were suicides. Mrs. Khan would not exactly qualify as a no-nonsense, non-biased historical researcher.

Now, Mrs. Khan's outrageous statements date from 2005. One could wonder why I breing them up again now. The reason is simple: on Friday, March 23 2007, one of Belgium's leading universities, the Rijksuniversiteit Gent (RUG) has awarded an Institutional Honorary Doctorate to Irene Khan. "By awarding the Honorary Doctorate to Mrs. Khan the Ghent University expresses her respect for the critical and independent way Irene Khan draws attention to Human Rights themes, unrelated to the dominating media or politics agenda. Dixit the Rijksuniversiteit Gent.

As for Irene Khan's critical and independent ways, some days before she was awarded the Honorary Doctorate she gave an interview to the Belgian press:

Irene Khan, AI Secretary General
GHENT - Europe uses two measures and weights with regards to human rights. [...] Europe and the US have since [since 9/11, MFBB] become, more than ever, "partners in crime". Western governments have quickly and sluggishly introduced anti-terror laws, with possible negative aspects for human rights. Europe may at its birthday party - the Treaty of Rome is fifty years old - boast that it is peaceful, safe and prosperous, but at the same time it cooperated with the secret CIA flights. Moreover, within the European boundaries, member states like Poland are not reprimanded if they violate human rights. Candidate member states like Turkey have to meet harsh requirements, but not countries which are already a member. That's what I call double standards. If Europe cannot live up to its own norms, it loses all credibility." And then she cites Islamophobia, a harsh immigration policy and bad living situations for Roma gipsies as examples.

I see... we are partners in crime, Poland violates human rights, Turkey is not (yet) admitted into the EU and we have no credibility for human rights because of our islamophobia, allowing secret CIA flights, and not letting even more muslims in. Mrs. Khan's ways are certainly critical. Whether they are independent is another matter. But let that be no problem for the gullible rector of the University of Ghent and his childish staff.

Would it be asked too much if Irene Khan paid somewhat less attention to human rights violations in Poland and focused on the prosecution of Hindus and Christians by muslim extremists in her native Bangladesh instead? In particular the countless Hindu rape victims? If the organization she is the Secretary General of claims it is also fighting for freedom of religion, would it be asked too much if the Secretary General herself would come up for christians in the country she wants so desperately to become an EU member, Turkey, for they are still second-rate citizens there? Maybe she could strive for the Turkish state to stop embezzling property belonging to the Christian Orthodox Patriarchate as well? Look, we are modest here with our demands. We don't even ask Irene Khan to begin to tackle the goddam thorny problem of the tens of millions of christians and people of other faiths living a daily nightmare in the countries where those of Khan's "faith" rule.

The bottom line of this story is that Irene Khan IS indeed a schtoopid cunt, and even if you still find a phrasing like that not done, I'm pretty sure the ghosts of the Gulag of past times agree with MFBB. In a perfect world, people like Irene Khan would not even be allowed on the lowest step in the hierarchical ladder of organizations like Amnesty International, which are supposed to be strictly nonpartisan.

But, obviously, this is not a perfect world.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Four years ago, on March 20, 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom began. On March 20, 2007, I still support it. Many are the reasons the Bush Administration and its supporters gave for the liberation of Iraq, and many are the arguments with which opponents tried to rebuke them. This is a discussion which has taken place a billion times on as many fora, and I do not intend to restart it here. Personally, I refuse to call explaining the reasons for my stance a "defence", since this might give the impression I need some self-assurance, feel an urge to apologize, or simply stick to my POV because admitting I was wrong would mean shamefully losing face. Nothing of that at all. My belief in the righteousness of the US's cause - yeah, I know, there was a coalition of 40 countries in 2003, but let's cut the crap, OIF was 80% a US operation - remains rock solid.

I do not know how many people knew of Saddam Husseins existence in 1990, the year he made the fatal mistake to invade Kuwait. I bet there weren't many. As for me, I knew about Saddam in 1980, when I was fifteen years old. And I knew the Sultan of Oman was a fella named Qaboos bin Said. And I knew where the Strait of Hormuz was, or what was going on between the Polisario Front and the Moroccan government. Or that Libya's tank force was 3,000 vehicles strong (even though Khadafi had less men able to drive them, but whatever). I may know zilch or very little about baseball, soaps or the hottest bar in town, but these are the things I know, or knew, and since then I've been a relatively keen observer of the Middle East, among other things. After more than twenty years of observation I'd say that this generally cursed region outperforms every other place on earth in just one field: the export of oil and terrorists.

Back in 2003, Charles Krauthammer had an excellent column in TIME in which he admitted the US had in the past tried to "police" the Middle East and its inherent problems through propping up seemingly pro-western dictatorships and trying to befriend the theocratic nutters, read KSA - even though we knew they'd urinate on us or worse, if they could. That was the time a female US Air Force pilot serving in the godforsaken hellhole could be forced to wear a veil or accept the company of a male chaperone when off-duty. And wo, in the back of my mind the thought crystallized that the Middle East, with its backward medieval and mysogynic culture and "religion", could never become a decent place of its own, what with 270 million arabs not being able to live in peace with a couple of million jewish pioneers and Holocaust survivors, living on 0.5% of the region's surface.

Then came 9/11, and I had this mental click just confirming what I had suspected all along. SOMETHING had to be done there, and it certainly wasn't trying, for another twenty years, to make tactics work which had proven their uselesness the previous decades. Therefore Operation Iraqi Freedom was a bold change of course, and one worth trying.

Four years later, what seems like a stalemate does not undo the corectness of the 2003 approach. On the one hand, it does not mean that if something does not go as smoothly as one would wish, it's better to change course. That might be so if the adversary is clearly too strong or smart to allow for stubbornly trying to beat him "the old way". But the US, and its allies, are not dealing with such an enemy. They are dealing with a ragtag collection of barbarians, who found their match in marketgoers, blindfolded and tied up prisoners or toddlers. But whenever faced with the West's military, they bite the dust. On the other hand, in March 2007, one can argue about OIF, about the tactics, about the strategy, or if it wouldn't have been better to strike here or there after 9/11. But if you are a sane person, you can't argue about the fact that you are still at war. Far too many think that if only we'd roll our mats, call it quits, say sorry and go home, it would be 1995 again, when our kids watched Toy Story and all we had to worry about was American astronauts in a leaky Mir Space Station. I'm sorry, but those days are gone forever. The War On Terror goes on, in Iraq and in Afghanistan and in London, Brussels or Washington, whether you like it or not.

Lt. Ben Colgan, with wife Jill and daughtersI still have a TIME Europe subscription, though I am getting increasingly annoyed with their outragous leftist bias. Anyway, towards the end of 2003 there was an article in it, which dealt with the sad fate of Lt. Ben Colgan, 30, of Kent, Washington. Colgan, who was with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Division, was serving in Iraq and responding to an RPG attack when he was killed by an IED. He left behind his wife Jill and two infant daughters, Grace and Paige... and I feel immensely humbled by this exemplary hero.

In the years since, I have earned well and generally had a good time. I will readily admit that, when cheering for the war, I have often asked myself whether it was morally right to do so, when the lives of young, promising men like Lt. Colgan were dramatically cut short while I sat in an as yet safe and comfy environment. And, I have come to the conclusion that I just may not have that moral right. But I am convinced I can come up with an intellectual justification, and it is that the sacrifices of men like Lt. Colgan, apart from making us all safer, also avoid future casualties which would be far greater. In 1936 Hitler invaded the Rhineland, counting on the passivity of the western allies to let him have his way, altough he was not allowed to cross the Rhine because of the Treaty of Versailles. Militarily opposing this invasion, of which the German dicator admitted that a forceful reaction would have totally quashed the Nazi plans, might have cost the British and French 500 KIA. But it might have saved humanity the horrors of World War II with its 55 million dead. Suppose now that America had done nothing after 9/11 - would it be safer today? Would not the islamist barbarians have reasoned like Hitler, calculating that every other violent act without response would weaken America's will to stand up to the next, worse provocation? As we all now, in 1939 even the most stubborn pacifists finally came to the conclusion that Hitler needed to be reined in militarily - but by then the monster had grown too strong... and the price to undo it got so high, that the world still reels today. Now, at the core of the Islamic world is the arab world, and they have a saying: "a falling camel attracts a thousand knives". By going to war, America has shown its enemies that it still has teeth. By going on the offensive, its enemies were forced to defend.

America, and the free world, cannot let go.

And Operation Iraqi Freedom was an important, and entirely defendable, major operation in this War.