Former Soviet dissident — and gulag prisoner — Pavel Litvinov rejects the comparison in today's Washington Post.
By any standard, Guantanamo and similar American-run prisons elsewhere do not resemble, in their conditions of detention or their scale, the concentration camp system that was at the core of a totalitarian communist system.Litvinov, an Amnesty supporter who was himself a "priosoner of conscience," was solicited by Amnesty to defend the "gulag" charge and refused, as there is no basis for the comparison -- a fact at least some Amnesty officials acknowledge off the record.
Litvinov further echoes the claim that Amensty's reckless comparison can only hurt the organization.
There is ample reason for Amnesty to be critical of certain U.S. actions. But by using hyperbole and muddling the difference between repressive regimes and the imperfections of democracy, Amnesty's spokesmen put its authority at risk. U.S. human rights violations seem almost trifling in comparison with those committed by Cuba, South Korea, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. . . .
Words are important. When Amnesty spokesmen use the word "gulag" to describe U.S. human rights violations, they allow the Bush administration to dismiss justified criticism and undermine Amnesty's credibility. Amnesty International is too valuable to let it be hijacked by politically biased leaders.