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Bringing Communist Human Rights Violators to Justice:

During a recent visit to Poland, I met a Cracow taxi driver who - upon learning that I was born in Russia - told me that he had spent three years as a forced laborer in the Soviet Union. Unlike in the case of Nazi war criminals, and more recent human rights violaters in Rwanda, Bosnia and elsewhere, there has been very little effort to identify and punish human rights violaters from communist regimes.

Part of the reason is that some of the greatest communist atrocities occurred many years ago, during the era of Lenin and Stalin. However, the Polish taxi driver I spoke to did his forced labor in the early 1980s. Nor was he an isolated case. Large-scale use of forced labor - both inside and outside Gulag-style concentration camp systems -was a common feature of communist states well into the 1980s, as Arch Puddington documented in this 1988 book. In Cuba and North Korea, it remains so to this day. Other massive human rights violations also occurred in quite late communism's history, notably large-scale Soviet war crimes in Afghanistan, repression and execution of dissidents in Eastern Europe, and mass murders in Cambodia and Ethiopia.

The perpetrators of many of these atrocities are still alive and their offenses are recent enough to investigate and punish. That is surely likely to be true of the Soviet and Polish communist officials who ran the forced labor program that scooped up the Cracow taxi driver.

But with the important exceptions of Romania's execution of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and some of his key henchmen, and Ethiopia's efforts to prosecute some of its former communist officials for their role in the terror famines of the 1980s (trials that I admit I don't know enough about to comment on), there has been remarkably little effort to bring the perpetrators of communist atrocities to justice. Germany has tried some former East German officials, but most of those convicted received ridiculously short sentences or no prison time at all. Far more effort has been devoted to efforts to punish much lesser offenders from right-wing regimes, such as those in Chile and Argentina.

I understand, of course, that it is not possible to punish all the offenders, and that sometimes valid political considerations weigh against doing so. Nonetheless, I think that it is surely possible to get to at least some of them. At the very least, advocates of strict enforcement of human rights norms and especially advocates of "universal jurisdiction" for major human rights violations should make far more effort to bring communist human rights abusers to justice than they have so far. Not only might doing so help bring to justice some of the world's most egregious criminals; it could also rebut claims that international human rights law is just an excuse to flagellate right-wing regimes and Western democracies, while ignoring far greater abuses by communist and other anti-Western governments.

UPDATE/CONFLICT OF INTEREST WATCH: I suppose I should mention that my own father did a few weeks of forced labor on a Soviet collective farm in the 1970s. This kind of thing was so much a part of ordinary life in the USSR - even in the relatively less oppressive post-Stalin era - that its relevance did not occur to me until after I had written the original post. Nonetheless, it was forced labor, and is a human rights violation under international law. At the same time, I should stress that my father's experience, while quite unpleasant, is not really comparable to what the Polish taxi driver endured (he spent three years in the mines of remote Magnitgorsk). And neither was as bad as what happened to people who did forced labor in Gulags and similar camps outside the USSR.

UPDATE #2: When I say that right-wing regimes such as the military governments in Chile and Argentina were guilty of "lesser" offenses than communist ones, I mean that the number of their victims was much smaller, not that each individual case of murder, torture, etc., was lesser; unfortunately my wording was not as precise as it should have been. The former governments each killed several thousand innocent people. By contrast, the communist governments I discuss in the post each killed at least ten times more than that, even if one excludes the even bloodier Stalin-era crimes. For example, the Ethiopian communist regime killed at least 500,000 people (see book linked under Ethiopia above), North Korea several million, and the Brezhnev to Gorbachev era Soviet Union at least several hundred thousand. For detailed figures, see the Black Book of Communism, and statistical analyses by political scientist Rudolph Rummel. An innocent person killed by right-wing generals was just as much a victim as one killed by the communists. But there were a great many more of the latter.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Bringing Communist Human Rights Violators to Justice:
  2. The Real Che Guevara:
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It would be interesting to know why we're still going after geriatric concentration camp guards, even if we can't quite prove who they are, instead of more recent, more awful people.
Maybe the answer is in the Che thread.

Communism, to the human rights folks, wasn't all that bad, piles of dead notwithstanding.
8.13.2007 8:49pm
Elliot Reed:
Another interesting question would be why we don't see much of a push by conservatives to enforce human rights laws in any context. That might help rebut claims that conservatives don't care about human rights.
8.13.2007 8:52pm
Ilya Somin:
Another interesting question would be why we don't see much of a push by conservatives to enforce human rights laws in any context. That might help rebut claims that conservatives don't care about human rights.

I don't think that's true, though it depends on how you define "human rights law." Many conservatives advocated intervention to punish human rights violaters in Bosnia and Sudan, among other places. On the domestic front, conservatives have been more aggressive than liberals in arguing for stronger protection for property rights and freedom of speech, among other rights. I would not say that the record of conservatives is anywhere near perfect. But it's not correct to say that they haven't pushed for enforcement of human rights law in "any context."
8.13.2007 9:07pm
scote (mail):

Communism, to the human rights folks, wasn't all that bad, piles of dead notwithstanding.

I really don't get the impression that is the position of Amnesty International.

I think our own inability to investigate allegations of torture based on such doges as States Secrets privilege (as in the Maher Arar case) and because of opposition from the ruling party, that we have some small insight into how these kinds of abuses can start.
8.13.2007 9:40pm
Justin (mail):
I agree that we should bring communist human rights violators to justice. Indeed, I will go on the record as for bringing communist fascist theocratic oligarchist liberterian human rights violators to justice.

PS - Is there any reason to (re)engage Richard Aubrey in his engagement against a lampooned, fictional "other"?
8.13.2007 9:49pm
The Good Democrat (mail) (www):
Before we go searching for the bad guys who employed forced labor in the Soviet Union and such, perhaps we ought to look in our own backyard first and make sure we're clean.
8.13.2007 9:55pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):
Does anyone else think there is a tension between "forced labor" and a system that is supposed to prevent workers from being exploited?

I am on board with the idea that human rights violators should be prosecuted, when it is politically feasible (i.e. sometimes immunity for officials will be the price to get a regime to step down).

One the other hand, I do not see why Mr. Somin describes the atrocities that occurred in Argentina and Chile as "much lesser offenses."

Here is a good excerpt from Wikipedia about Argentina's so-called "Dirty War."


After Perón's death in 1974, government was left in the hands of his widow, Isabel Martínez de Perón, who signed a number of decrees empowering the military and the police to "annihilate" left-wing subversion. Martínez de Perón was ousted in 1976. Starting that year, the juntas led by Videla until 1981, and then by Roberto Viola and Leopoldo Galtieri, were responsible for the illegal arrest, torture, killing or forced disappearance of thousands of people (mostly trade-unionists, students and other activists).

According to the Nunca Más report issued by the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP) in 1984, about 9,000 people were "disappeared" between 1976 and 1983. An estimate by the Argentine security services in mid-July 1978, which started counting victims in 1975, gave the figure of 22,000 persons — this document was first published by John Dinges in 2004 [2] Estimates by human rights organizations place the number to 30,000. By comparison, the Argentinean security forces lost 775 dead. CONADEP also recorded 458 assassinations (attributed to the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance) and about 600 forced disappearances during the period of democratic rule between 1973 and 1976.[3][4]

Besides the actions on Argentine territory, the Argentine security forces and death squads worked hand in hand with other South American dictatorships in the frame of Operation Condor: many Chileans and Uruguayan exiles in Argentina were murdered there by Argentine security forces (including important figures such as General Carlos Prats in Buenos Aires in 1974). CIA documents released in 2002 show that Argentina's brutal policies were known and abided by the United States State Department, led by Henry Kissinger under Gerald Ford's presidency, and that the Argentine military knew the U.S. supported the repression.[5]

There has been a long-running debate in Argentina over the issue of amnesty for officials of the Dirty War. A form of amnesty was controversially adopted as law after the reinstatement of democratic rule and the trials of the top military leaders of the juntas in 1984, during Raúl Alfonsín's presidency (1983–1989), but it has remained unpopular. In June 2005, the Supreme Court overturned the amnesty laws, called Ley de Punto Final ("Full Stop Law") and of Ley de Obediencia Debida ("Law of Due Obedience"), opening the door for prosecutions of former junta officials.[6] The Punto Final law had been voted on 24 December 1986, under Alfonsín's presidency, and extinguished any charges for human rights violations for all acts preceding 12 December 1983.[7]


Or what about Chile under Pinochet? According to the Velach Report, which has a relatively narrow definition of torture, over 30,000 people were tortured by the right wing Pinochet regime.


Repeated beatings
Deliberate corporal lesions
Bodily hangings [suspensions]
Forced positions
Application of electricity
Threats
Mock execution by firing squad
Humiliation
Stripping down to nakedness
Sexual aggression and violence
Witnessing and listening to torture committed on others
Russian roulette
Witnessing the execution of other detainees
Confinement in subhuman conditions
Deliberate privation of means of existence
Sleep deprivation or interruption
Asphyxia
Exposure to extreme temperatures


The Velach Commission also heard testimony from 3,399 women, "almost all of whom said they were the object of sexual violence."

How did one become detained? According to the Velach report:

Practically everyone who testified before the Commission stated that they were detained with extreme violence, some in front of their children, in the middle of the night, with shouts, blows and threats of death made to the detainee and other family members, creating an atmosphere of terror and anguish.


In addition, the Pinochet regime murdered over 3,000 dissidents, often after torturing them first.

One can correctly argue that human rights violaters in former Communist countries should be prosecuted without describing the atrocities that occured in both Chile and Argentina "much lesser offenses."

Overall, it appears to me that Ilya Somin is nothing more than a propogandists. Somin recently compared Che Guevara to mass murderers.

The truth, however, is that Che was no less a brutal killer than other communist leaders. If he failed to rise to the same "heights" as Lenin or Mao, it was largely for lack of opportunity.


The only people that Che arguably wrongfully killed (i.e. not in battle) were between 156 and 550 people that were ordered executed.


José Vilasuso, an attorney who worked under Guevara at La Cabaña preparing indictments, said that these were lawless proceedings where "the facts were judged without any consideration to general juridical principles" and the findings were pre-determined by Guevara.[29][30]


But it should be noted that many of the targets here were not all innocent. They included members of the Batista regime and members of the secret police.

Mr. Somin bizarrely blames Che Guevara for the executions and the incarcerations that occured in the 1960s. But Che left Cuba in 1964. But notice Mr. Somin's use of weasel words:


the regime Che helped set up executed over 100,000 people, and incarcerated some 350,000 political prisoners


It is true that Che Guevara helped set up the regime. But that does not mean that all actions of the regime can properly be attributed to him. In fact, the neither Mr. Somin or the CNSNews piece by the anti-Che Guevara author reference by Mr. Somin actually link Che Guevara to any of the executions. You would think that if there was any evidence of a link, that these anti-Che Guevara individuals would have mentioned it. There are more weasel words CNSNews piece.


the real Guevara - the man who directly helped Castro put into place a communist regime responsible for at least 102,000 deaths and which has cycled 500,000 people through its gulag.


Isn't this sweet propoganda. Without actually linking Che Guevara to the executions of the regime, both Mr. Somin and his fellow propogandist use language that makes it seem as though Mr. Guevara is responsible. We can thus be certain of one thing. There is no evidence that Mr. Guevara is in fact responsible. If he was, I am sure they would say it instead of playing word games. This is nothing short of dishonest.

So, let us recap. Che Guevara is as bad as Stalin and Mao. He just didn't have the opportunity. This despite the lack of evidence linking him to any executions except for those involving members of the Batista regime and members of the Cuban secret police.

But, in contrast, the murders and tortering engaged in by right-wing death squads are "much lesser offenses."

There is something seriously screwed up here. Mr. Somin is an ideological hack when it comes to this issue. First, he uses deceptive language that tries to make Che Guevara responsible for the actions of the Castro regime (without mentioning that there is no evidence linking him to those actions). Then he calls the mass killings and torture of tens of thousands of people by right wing death squads in Argentina and Chile "much lesser offenses."

Something is not right here. Never trust an ideological hack with an agenda.
8.13.2007 10:02pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):

On the domestic front, conservatives have been more aggressive than liberals in arguing for stronger protection for property rights and freedom of speech, among other rights.


Apparently, Mr. Somin also thinks that anyone who agrees with Kelo is against human rights.

Can you say propoganda.
8.13.2007 10:06pm
Bleepless (mail):
There is nothing surprising about Communists getting a pass on slavery and mass murder, because there is nothing new about it. Ever since the first Leninist crimes, liberals and social democrats have been all-too eager to excuse their pals. Aside from a few honorable exceptions, the "democratic" Left has loved, trusted and excused Communists. On the rare occasions when pro-Communist propagandists such as the New York Times felt called upon to mention such crimes, they were excused as sad but understandable reactions to -- you guessed it -- us. Now that Communists are being increasingly marginalized, the beneficiaries of this appalling nonsense are Islamists, people with social ideals and practices the pinkos prefer not to mention or, when mention cannot be avoided, almost never denounced -- except to blame it all on us.
8.13.2007 10:13pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
The key problem with Ilya's post is that he assumes that right wing regimes were "lesser offenders". In fact, while Stalin is in a class by himself, with Hitler close behind, when you get beyond that, there were plenty of really bad right wing and left wing governments. Mr. Impressive's statistics on Chile and Argentina are a good example. There is also Batista in Cuba. There are the right wing death squads in the 1980's in El Salvador and Guatemala. Suharto in Indonesia. Ferdinand Marcos. Apartheid in South Africa. Franco in Spain.

The fact is, we should care about holding ALL of these people to account, but too often ideologues on BOTH sides care more about getting the other guy, because they are less interested in justice and more interested in winning the historical argument as to which side was worse.

The other thing I should mention is that many times, whether you can bring people to justice depends on the way the government fell. It is easiest after a war and conquest a la World War II. But when people are induced to step down semi-voluntarily, there are often explicit or implicit understandings negotiated about what will happen to those who served in the dictatorship.
8.13.2007 10:23pm
Elliot Reed:
Ilya--of course not. I was merely mocking your rhetorical tactic of implying that something is the case by attributing it as a belief held by unnamed others.
8.13.2007 10:35pm
Zacharias (mail):
As a native Paraguayan who has lived and worked in Argentina and Brazil, I second all that Mr Impressive has to say. We need to clean up the US first by prosecuting the likes of Henry Kissinger, who is considered a war criminal throughout the Southern Cone. Only then can we begin to earn the right to complain about human rights violations in other countries.
8.13.2007 10:36pm
neurodoc:
It would be interesting to know why we're still going after geriatric concentration camp guards, even if we can't quite prove who they are, instead of more recent, more awful people. [Richard Aubrey]
I am not sure I grasp your meaning. What those Nazi concentration camp guards did took place a long time ago, those still alive are geriatric, and we ought no more go after them than after Klansmen who committed brutal murders in this country decades ago motivated by despicable racism? We should be certain beyond a reasonable shadow of doubt that anyone convicted of a horrible crime is in fact the same person who committed the crime they were charged with? What those concentration camp guards did wasn't as awful as crimes committed more recently by "more awful people," whom you did not specify? As for whom should be gone after and prosecuted for human rights violations, do you part company with Pat Buchanan in any significant way?
****************
Indeed, I will go on the record as for bringing communist fascist theocratic oligarchist liberterian human rights violators to justice...Is there any reason to (re)engage Richard Aubrey in his engagement against a lampooned, fictional "other"? [Justin]
On this I expect we differ little, if at all. I would ask, though, who might be the "liberterian human rights violators" that you would like to see brought to justice along with the "communist fascist theocratic oligarchist"? I do not exalt "property rights" above just about every other societal value, so I don't see how I could be counted a "libertarian" anything like some who blog and post here, but I can't think of any "liberterian human rights violators," or none that have violated what most would agree are fundamental human rights in the name of "liberterianism." Have there been any, and if so would you please name them.
8.13.2007 10:41pm
Ella (www):
While it may not be a satisfactory answer, I think the reason there isn't much pressure to prosecute those who violated human rights under Communist regimes is that those regimes lasted longer than Hitler's or Milosevic's. In the case of the former USSR, most, if not all, of the surviving perpetrators and victims were born and raised under the Communist regime. Arguably, the perpetrators were raised in a moral, political, and legal system that not only validated but extolled some of the human rights violations as moral necessities. The line between collaborating with an evil regime and serving the motherland is less clear when you and your parents never knew a more moral regime. Prosecuting these people may be seen as similar to prosecuting Thomas Jefferson for holding slaves.

More likely, at least in the former Soviet Union and some of Eastern Europe, the reason there's little push to prosecute human rights violators from the previous regime is that there is a great deal of ambivalence about the Communist era. The Communist era doesn't look so bad to many of the current citizens. The successor regimes in many of the post-Soviet states have not been models of respect for democracy and human rights (Belarus, much of the former Yugoslavia, Tajikistan, Russia, etc.) and the economic changes have not been uniformly positive. A hundred years hence, when (we hope) these states have reaped the rewards of democracy and capitalism, they may see it differently, but it's hard for the people caught up in the transition to generate the moral outrage necessary to force Nuremberg-style trials of human rights violations carried out during the Communist era.
8.13.2007 10:46pm
neurodoc:
we ought to look in our own backyard first and make sure we're clean. [The Good Democrat]
Curious, I clicked on that link you provided ("our own backyard"), which brought me to that website (IraqSlogger.com). How ineffably rich it is to open the "about us" tab there and see that the first name listed among those behind it (Praedict) is none other than that of Eason Jordan. Mr. Jordan, of course, is the person who was forced to resign as president of CNN News when it came out what lengths CNN had been going to for years in order to suppress that news from within Iraq that might have displeased Saddam and caused CNN to be tossed out of the country. (And there was a great deal that would have displeased Saddam and cost CNN its privileged place in the country.) Jordan's apologia in the NYT was a beaut, something that Walter Duranty himself might have been proud of. If anything deserves to be called "beyond chutzpah," Eason Jordan as rapporter on Iraq surely qualifies.
8.13.2007 11:03pm
ChrisIowa (mail):
What is it that makes a totalitarian state right-wing as opposed to left-wing?
8.13.2007 11:09pm
sashal (mail):
big deal. I went through that forced labor just like your father, 2-3 weeks in the year, while in college.
Lot's of drinks and sex. great when one is 18-22.
And can't compare to what your driver described.
8.13.2007 11:22pm
AppSocRes (mail):
ChrisIowa:

What is it that makes a totalitarian state right-wing as opposed to left-wing?

Right-wing dictatorships usually kill far less of their citizens (as absolute numbers and as percentages of population) than do left-wing dictatorships, they tend not to persist as long, and they usually provide most of their citizens with far more material comforts than left-wing dictatorships. Note that Pinochet killed far less people than Castro, his regime lasted a few years as oppposed to over half a century, it was replaced by a constitutional, liberal democracy, and under Pinochet's dictatorship Chile's economy turned around from a moribund disaster to the most successful in South America. Comparisons with the legacies of glorious peoples' republics (whether defunct or still limping along) lead to obvious conclusions.
8.13.2007 11:28pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
My mother's uncle is, just now, beginning to speak of his almost-three-years of forced labor in Kazakhstan, after WWII. When the war in Europe ended, he started walking from the Eastern Front to his home in Austria. He got as far as Bratislava -- just across the Danube from Austria -- when he was captured by partisans and turned over to the Soviets. I have yet to understand how one can be captured as a prisoner-of-war when the war is already over.
When, in the wake of the Borat movie, Kazakhstan started to run full page ads in the NY Times, boasting of their modernity and success, I thought about contacting them to send a few reparations my uncle's way.
8.13.2007 11:33pm
Ricardo (mail):
I think the reasons for failure to prosecute former communist human rights abusers are practical more than ideological. The claim that more effort has been put into prosecuting officials of right-wing dictatorships does not ring true: Chile set up a truth and reconciliation commission that wound up pardoning most of the military officers involved in the dictatorship in a process later imitated by post-Apartheid South Africa with the blessing and direct involvement of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

Pinochet's prosecution never really did get off the ground. Under Chile's constitution, Pinochet had immunity from prosecution -- crazy, maybe, but no crazier than the immunity granted to those pardoned by the U.S. President. That immunity was removed only with extreme pressure from both domestic and foreign sources.

For those rights-abusers who live in their own countries, whether they were abusers under left-wing or right-wing dictatorships, the policy seems to be that of forgive and forget with a few exceptions. As far as aging concentration camp guards go, the only thing the U.S. does is revoke their citizenship or green cards and send them back to whatever country wants to take them. Whether they wind up in prison is someone else's business.

I don't think the failure to prosecute communist rights abusers is anything more than lack of domestic will (and remember, Poland is a country with few people who long for the Communist past) and the extreme weakness and undeveloped state of international law.
8.13.2007 11:40pm
Ella (www):
Ricardo - You put it much better than I.
8.13.2007 11:43pm
Justin (mail):
I put liberterian in there to be funny, neurodoc. Come on, for liberterians to commit human rights violation, they need to have power :)
8.14.2007 12:08am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The problem, neurodoc, is that the old geezers take up more than their share of resources. The case of John Demjanjuk (sp?) is a case in point. In addition to screwing the pooch on due process, OSI promoted him as Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka. Finding he was not, they demoted him to Ivan the Less Terrible. Presumably, Ivan the Less Terrible was a bad guy, too, but whether he was Demjanjuk appeared to be incidental. He may have been a bad guy, or he may have been a drafted guard who did nothing.

In the meantime, we have a whole Eastern Europe full of worse guys, and nobody knows how many of them can come and go to the US or anyplace else without let, hindrance, inquiry, or any concern at all.

The Arar case is a hoot, if that's the one who was sent to Syria.
The Mounties had one of their patented we're-sorry self inquiries about how on earth this innocent guy was reported to the Americans as a terrorist. And when Dudley DoRight tells us some guy's a terrorist,what are we supposed to do? And he couldn't have been treated poorly in Syria. Syria was on the UN Human Rights commission at the time. Possibly the chair. So nothing could have happened to Arar.
8.14.2007 12:13am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Right-wing dictatorships usually kill far less of their citizens (as absolute numbers and as percentages of population) than do left-wing dictatorships, they tend not to persist as long, and they usually provide most of their citizens with far more material comforts than left-wing dictatorships

Well then how do you explain Suharto, Marcos, the Shah, Idi Amin, and most South American countries during the cold war? Compared to the most of South America, Cuba was much better off by almost any measure until the military juntas finally began to fall in the nineties.
8.14.2007 12:20am
ChrisIowa (mail):

Right-wing dictatorships usually kill far less of their citizens (as absolute numbers and as percentages of population) than do left-wing dictatorships, they tend not to persist as long, and they usually provide most of their citizens with far more material comforts than left-wing dictatorships.


So you know you're in a right wing dictatorship because fewer of your neighbors are disappearing?

Doesn't work as a definition for me.
8.14.2007 12:24am
Justin (mail):
Chris, no. You know you're in a right wing dicatorship because fewer of your neighbors are disappearing, but they're disappearing quickly - and you get their stuff!
8.14.2007 12:33am
anonVCfan:
My intuition is that whether a prosecution happens depends to some extent on the degree of visceral outrage one feels. Slavery is awful, so is genocide. Forced labor of this type is also awful, but in a way that permits questions, I think. In many countries, all able-bodied adult males have to do a few years of military service. The work can be grueling and people can be forced to live away from home, yet the human rights prosecutor types are generally ok with that. Forced labor in the mines of Magnitogorsk, when it's temporary and not directed at an ethnic group for the deliberate purpose of persecution may look more like compulsory military service than slavery to some of the prosecutors.

I'm sure there's something elementary that I'm missing. I know very little about international law and relatively little about the specifics of the Soviet Union's history.
8.14.2007 12:36am
NicholasV (mail) (www):
"...the Shah..."

Funny, pretty much all the Iranians I know (and this may be a biased sample) would be falling over themselves with joy if the Shah turned up alive after all these years and kicked the Mullahs out.

Not that he didn't do bad things (I'm sure he did), however all the evidence I have is that he was by far the lesser of the two evils.
8.14.2007 12:39am
neurodoc:
The problem, neurodoc, is that the old geezers take up more than their share of resources. The case of John Demjanjuk (sp?) is a case in point. In addition to screwing the pooch on due process, OSI promoted him as Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka. Finding he was not, they demoted him to Ivan the Less Terrible. Presumably, Ivan the Less Terrible was a bad guy, too, but whether he was Demjanjuk appeared to be incidental. He may have been a bad guy, or he may have been a drafted guard who did nothing. [Richard Aubrey]
Sorry, but I'm still not sure I understand what you are saying.

If, as you say, "the old geezers take up more than their share of resources," would you prefer to see more resources committed to bringing such criminals to justice, even if belatedly, or these efforts abandoned altogether? If the latter, at what point would you have abandoned them or reduced the resources committed and efforts made even below what they were - 10 years after the war?, 20 years?, 30 years? (How much of it is for you an issue of "fresh" vs "stale," and how much the importance you would ever have attached to prosecution of those below the level of "major" war criminals?)

Demjanjuk lied about his past in order to gain admission to this country, didn't he? At what point(s) along the way did he get less "due process" than others similarly charged and facing deportation? What support do you have for your assertion that OSI "screw(ed) the pooch on due process" in Demjanjuk's case?

"OSI promoted him as Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka." You think it was a corrupt prosecution, that OSI tried to frame him?

"Finding he was not, they demoted him to Ivan the Less Terrible. Presumably, Ivan the Less Terrible was a bad guy, too,..." You're withholding judgment on that one?

"...but whether he was Demjanjuk appeared to be incidental."
The prosecution of Demjanjuk amounted to a show trial in your opinion? (When guilt or innocence is an incidental consideration in a prosecution, as it must be if having the right person in the dock is not much of a concern, that is a show trial, is it not?)

"He may have been a bad guy, or he may have been a drafted guard who did nothing." When it was concluded that he was Ivan the Terrible, he was freed, was he not, in the same way that individual's found not guilty in this country are released from custody. And though he lied when seeking entry to this country originally, for which he could be excluded, he was permitted back into the US, wasn't he?

"As for whom should be gone after and prosecuted for human rights violations, do you part company with Pat Buchanan in any significant way?" [Neurodoc] It would be helpful if you would answer that question forthrightly. Buchanan was, of course, an outspoken critic of OSI's efforts where Demjanjuk was concerned, as well as OSI's efforts generally, believing as he does that Nazis weren't all that bad because they were a foil to Communists. Indeed, he has argued at length that the US should have stayed out of WWII, opposition to Naziism not a reason to have gotten involved. Again, do you part company with Buchanan in any significant way with respect to the prosecution of war crimes and human rights violations?
8.14.2007 1:00am
Ilya Somin:
In brief response to the various comments on Argentina, Chile, and other similar regimes, I stand by what I said in the post. These governments each killed several thousand people. While some of these people were genuine members of left-wing terrorist organizations, a large percentage were not, and so the regimes that killed them deserve condemnation and the people who did it deserve punishment. Each of these regimes also tortured or otherwise harmed perhaps 2-3 times the number of innocent people they killed.

By contrast, however, the communist regimes I mentioned each killed SEVERAL HUNDRED THOUSAND or even more innocent people. Some 500,000 in the case of Ethiopia, several hundred thousand in the case of the Brezhnev era USSR, and so on. And used far larger numbers than that for forced labor. There is an order of magnitude difference between them and the likes of Pinochet. Therefore, there is every justification for my statement that the right-wing regimes in question committed crimes that were "much lesser" than those of the communist regimes I mentioned in the post.

Finally, in regards to Che Guevara, the books I cited noted that he was in fact PERSONALLY responsible for the execution of over 1000 prisoners, and that he helped set up the secret police institutions and prison camps that later killed many more. It is true that much of this killing took place after he left Cuba. However, he helped set up the institutions that did it, and knew and approved of their later results. His guilt for the later killings is more attenuated than his guilt for those he personally supervised, but neither was he wholly innocent of them.
8.14.2007 1:10am
neurodoc:
I put liberterian in there to be funny, neurodoc. Come on, for liberterians to commit human rights violation, they need to have power :) [Justin]
Yes, I suspected that was your intention. But supposing "real" libertarians did achieve temporal power (has it ever happened), how might they go about "commit(ting) human rights violation(s)" or stumble into them? Through benign or not so benign neglect? By serving up nothing but Ayn Rand all the time? I realize "liberterian" does not equal "anarchist," but I have a hard time picturing how libertarians would go about governing in the improbable event they were ever afforded the opportunity to do so.

I don't think that Dennis Kucinch has "evil" intentions. He is just so incompetent that in the impossible to imagine event that he was installed in the White House, I expect we would likely see such disasterous consequences that we would have something tantamount to "human rights violations." Do you think that liberterian government would so undermine us and our institutions that the unintended, "non-evil" by-product would also be something close in effect to "human rights violations"? (Am I being sufficiently provocative with my not so well-informed musings about libertarian possibilities?)
8.14.2007 1:25am
Harry Eagar (mail):
The US government signed away (over protests) the rights to compensation of American slaves of the Japanese, who are trying , with overwhelming lack of success, to get redress.

How about we clean up that before we go looking for trouble elsewhere?

James Parkinson's 'Soldier Slaves' lays it out. See my review at Amazon.
8.14.2007 1:28am
Ilya Somin:
Apparently, Mr. Somin also thinks that anyone who agrees with Kelo is against human rights.

I never said that. One can agree with Kelo on the grounds that the issue in question is not covered by the Constitution. However, Kelo-style takings are a violation of the human right to property even if they do not violate legal rights set up by the Constitution. Property rights are human rights too.
8.14.2007 1:41am
SocratesAbroad (mail):
While Mao has been briefly touched upon, I am curious as to why modern China seems to have escaped any reproach - then again, I live here, so I imagine the issue is more obvious to me personally.

I find the lack of criticism on China astounding. Amnesty Int'l lambasts the US for its death penalty and HR stances and yet just how many protests, vigils, or marches has AI held here on the mainland? Similarly, I hear feminist voices in the States decry potential threats to reproductive freedom while their Chinese sisters must apply for a state-issued permit to give birth, and then so only once. And those vaunted journos of the West warn of creeping fascism and a "chilling effect" without ever encountering the Great Firewall and total state-run media or seeing the inside of a jail cell for being critical of the state.

Mind you, modern China is a far, far cry from the horrors of a Soviet gulag. Nevertheless, the Chinese state is unabashedly communist and has restrictions that would chafe at anyone accustomed to Western freedoms. And yet China often escapes with nary an unkind word, which in and of itself is surprising. Much, much worse is the acquiescing of Western companies and even governments to the regime's demands as it further entrenches its hold upon the citizenry. Astounding, absolutely astounding.

One tangential note: with all due respect, Mr. Impressive, citing Wikipedia as a source is akin to listing your mother as a reference. The site might prove persuasive if I couldn't simply edit it myself to say whatever I wish.
8.14.2007 1:42am
TokyoTom (mail):
Obviously we should be going after all human rights violators, both communist and fascist. Unfortunately, as a country we are simply unable - this Administration has no interest, has flushed all credibility down the drain with its own actions, and empowered further abuse by many others. A start would be to get Congress to stop passing laws that forgive past criminal behavior and broaden the Administration's ability to interfere with our own liberties. Then we have a long slog ahead.
8.14.2007 2:19am
Henri Le Compte (mail):
Socrates:
Ah, yes. You point out again the truth that narrow-minded bigots refuse to see, despite it's screaming obviousness. Again and again on this thread you see the same phenomenon-- "...but the US can't criticize anybody because, um, well... what about slavery? What about the Indians? Until we straighten that out, we have no right to talk about anybody!!" What is sad is that there are actual "adults" out there who think this type of argument is persuasive, and morally subtle. Slavery preceeded Hitler, so there's your crushing argument against us getting involved in WW2. In fact... the Indians! Don't you see that the Indians prove we're no better than Hitler?

After all these years, and there are still people who get all touchy and defensive about the horrors of the gulag. Still can't even bring themselves to simply, wholly, viscerally and without reservations, condemn them.

Pathetic.

Then there is the equally bizarre and offensive tendency of some to insist that literally every totalitarian regime-- from Hitler to Idi Amin-- is "of the Right" simply because it is not explicitly Communist. What Idi-frickin'-Amin has to do with free market Capitalism, strong property rights, a strong military, a weak central State, and other tenets of the Right is beyond me.

There is more to winning arguments than just throwing mud at your opponents, then proclaiming "At least I'm not that dirty!"
8.14.2007 5:12am
Henri Le Compte (mail):
Oh, and Mr. Impressive (I'm assuming the irony is intentional):
Perhaps before you go around calling other people "ideological hacks" you ought to do something about that "hack" that stares back at you from the mirror each morning.
8.14.2007 5:16am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Less than impressive, Mr. Impressive.

Mr. Somin bizarrely blames Che Guevara for the executions and the incarcerations that occured in the 1960s. But Che left Cuba in 1964.

Well seeing as how he left Cuba so that he could start bloodbaths to install totalitarian communist regimes in Congo and Bolivia I don't see how that helps your case. It's not like he publicly condemned what was going on in Cuba after he left, which was basically a continuation of what he was involved in when he was there.

So, let us recap. Che Guevara is as bad as Stalin and Mao. He just didn't have the opportunity. This despite the lack of evidence linking him to any executions except for those involving members of the Batista regime and members of the Cuban secret police.

Basically. He was proceeding to start violent and bloody campaigns to install totalitarian communist regimes in other countries. He didn't publicly disavow what was going on in Cuba after he left, which was basically just a continuation of what was going on when he was there. I haven't seen any evidence that he criticized what Stalin and Mao were doing. In fact if I remember correctly I seem to remember statements attributed to him asserting that Stalin wasn't going or hadn't gone far enough. If your claim is that Che was horrified by and disagreed with what was going on in Cuba after he left and in Russia, China, and other countries where is your evidence?
8.14.2007 7:15am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Justin-

I put liberterian in there to be funny, neurodoc. Come on, for liberterians to commit human rights violation, they need to have power :)

Plus they would have to violate the core libertarian values of non-aggression (with the exception of self-defense) and honoring the rights of others, including human rights. At that point they would cease to be libertarians, even if they were still calling themselves libertarians. :)
8.14.2007 7:19am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Neurodoc. I use Demjanjuk to illustrate the degree to which this government goes after Nazis--and not communists. Goes after individuals who have a possible but not proven part in an atrocity while ignoring those whose actions were far worse. Diff being nazi employee vs. commie employee.
Since resources are not unlimited, the choice is an indication of what the gov't finds most compelling. To the extent they go after nazis, they can't go after commies. Why the choice? Are there actually no communist liars in this country? None? The point is not the excessive interest in a wheezing nazi GS-1. The point is the lack of interest in communist GS--say, nines.

I don't have time to go into details, but the prosecution used suspect Sov intel, some of which seemed faked, and made this guy their poster child for their work. What on earth? There's nobody worse around here?
I don't follow Buchanan, so I have no idea what he thinks.

I am aware the legal charge was lying to get into the country, but the charge was brought because of Demjanjuk's history. That would be fine, if he had a history, which was in dispute.


Tokyo. This administration is unique in flushing, etc? Clinton started the renditions. Interesting how history started in January of 2001.
8.14.2007 7:40am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
anonVCfan-

In many countries, all able-bodied adult males have to do a few years of military service. The work can be grueling and people can be forced to live away from home, yet the human rights prosecutor types are generally ok with that. Forced labor in the mines of Magnitogorsk, when it's temporary and not directed at an ethnic group for the deliberate purpose of persecution may look more like compulsory military service than slavery to some of the prosecutors.

I think whether or not there is compensation and the level of that compensation is probably a big factor here. Along with the duration - usually the compulsory military service periods are pretty short.

Keep in mind that if the forced labor were directed at certain ethnic groups and required the seperation of the sexes some genocide arguments might apply, since long term seperation of the sexes can be considered a form of genocide. The period of forced labor can also reach toward these issues, since the older you are when you are released the lower your birthrate is likely to be. So long term incarceration periods meant to take up as much of the reproductive years as possible could be a quasi-genocidal policy.
8.14.2007 7:41am
xlt (mail) (www):
there was some tries to convict some in Latvia but with no big succes. And with loud protest form Russia officials and politicians.
8.14.2007 7:53am
neurodoc:
I use Demjanjuk to illustrate the degree to which this government goes after Nazis--and not communists. Goes after individuals who have a possible but not proven part in an atrocity while ignoring those whose actions were far worse. Diff being nazi employee vs. commie employee. [Richard Aubrey]

Do you like the way the Chinese go about criminal prosecutions? They rarely bring anyone into court who turns out to be not "guilty." And if the person standing in the dock has the temerity to protest their innocence, it may go very badly for them, since Chinese courts see unwillingness to confess as clear evidence of a lack of contrition. I take it that you think the Chinese system of justice is demonstrably superior in this regard to ours in that they do not "(go) after individuals who have a possible but not proven part in a crime." John Demjanjuk is as "not guilty" of unspeakable crimes as O.J. Simpson is of two brutal murders.

You are confident that our government is "ignoring those whose actions were far worse" than the Nazi criminals among us it has gone after. We know the names of the few Nazis (ex-Nazis) living in this country the government has gone after, to whom you think too much time, effort, and money has been devoted, but not the names of any of those Communist war criminals living amongst us whom our government has shown no interest in pursuing. So would you name a couple of "those whose actions were far worse" than the Nazi wars criminals deported from these shores. Surely some would have been identified by those with knowledge of their crimes. Have there been any requests from the countries were those crimes were committed for the extradition of individuals who served Communist regimes and "who have a possible but not proven part in an atrocity"? (Luis Posada, whom the US has declined to deport, is most definitely not a Communist.) If you could serve up just a few names here to support your case, if you have one, that would be appreciated.

"I don't follow Buchanan, so I have no idea what he thinks."
I am frankly surprised by that, since you sound so much like him.
8.14.2007 9:02am
neurodoc:
Plus they would have to violate the core libertarian values of non-aggression (with the exception of self-defense) and honoring the rights of others, including human rights. At that point they would cease to be libertarians, even if they were still calling themselves libertarians. :) [American Psikhushka]

Thank you for that clear statement of what I was struggling to say about the impossibility of being at one and the same time a "libertarian" and a servant of a totalitarian state of whatever stripe.
8.14.2007 9:09am
Justin (mail):
[offtopic] This is all way off topic, but I've already posted in the past about how liberterians have tended to support bloody, murderous right-wing regimes. Furthermore, David Kopel's style of liberterianism which promotes the sale of large scale ammunitions to rebels in Africa, and most liberterian support for the privitization of food, water, and basic power to export in zones of poverty in Africa, are all MAJOR human rights violations (under CIL) that have lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands. Not to mention that many prominent liberterians supported the war on Iraq, which has lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. How do you guys manage to be so flexible, patting yourselves on the back for things you've only done in theory all the time? [/Offtopic]

Also, to argue that a paid taking is a human rights violation irrespective of any discrimination (i.e., I'm not trying to argue that a taking can never be a human rights violation, or more to the point a tool to commit human rights violations) is to set the bar of human rights violations as to make the word go away. Why wouldn't taxation then be a human rights violation? Would it be a human rights violation for a government to own a factory, which lets out some pollution which could lower the life expectency of local citizens? What if the taking was to build a hospital in support of universal health care (note: the right to health care, social security, etc. is covered under Articles 22-27 of the Universal Declaration, and are considered, like property rights, to be second-generation human rights)?

And what, exactly, would distinguish (in terms of the human rights violation, not the constitutional violation) a Kelo private-private taking from a regular private-public taking?


Sorry, I get grumpy in the morning. But I can't let some of this stuff go when it doesn't even pass the straight face test.
8.14.2007 9:55am
Justin (mail):
Correction - Kopel's argument in support of war profiteering is a violation of CIL. The taking away of water, power, food are covered under Articles 22 and 25 of the Universal Declaration.
8.14.2007 9:58am
Justin (mail):
One final correction - the Universal Declaration itself is CIL. When I was referring to CIL in the above two posts, it was meant more as "common law" human rights. But I don't think anyone should have too much difficulty seeing how the right not to be slaughtered in refugee camps could be considered a human right, no? Let's just call it an interpretation of Article 3.
8.14.2007 10:02am
Justin (mail):
Final, final correction - obvious the argument itself that Kopel makes is not in favor of human rights. And I'd prefer we didn't get in a tangent about rights-in-conflict, but yes, modern concepts of human rights, like any rights-based (vis a vis restrictions-based) theory of law, will end up with rights-in-conflict.
8.14.2007 10:25am
Justin (mail):
God I hate mornings. is not in VIOLATION of human rights.
8.14.2007 10:26am
rarango (mail):
Excuse me: is the issue human rights violations irrespective of who commits them or is it more important which particular political ideology is in power when human rights violations occur. I am having a hard time discerning this distinction from the comments on this thread.
8.14.2007 10:44am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
<i>Can you say propoganda.</i>

Apparently not.
8.14.2007 10:50am
rarango (mail):
Mr. Impressive: Not
8.14.2007 10:52am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
I'd love to see the STASI etc brogght to justice, but I'd settle for Communist human rights violators not being brought to the US as guest professors and speakers.
8.14.2007 10:54am
SocratesAbroad (mail):

Do you like the way the Chinese go about criminal prosecutions? They rarely bring anyone into court who turns out to be not "guilty." And if the person standing in the dock has the temerity to protest their innocence, it may go very badly for them, since Chinese courts see unwillingness to confess as clear evidence of a lack of contrition. I take it that you think the Chinese system of justice is demonstrably superior in this regard to ours in that they do not "(go) after individuals who have a possible but not proven part in a crime."


Actually, neurodoc, the para. above is spot on - about the Japanese, though, rather than the Chinese. The Japanese are the ones boasting a 99% conviction rate - thanks to only prosecuting slam-dunk cases - due in some part to questionably obtained confessions. The recent Kagoshima vote-buying prosecution debacle makes Nifong look almost competent.
Proverbally, the Japanese police use phone books as interrogation tools but at least try to go after only the bad guys. The Chinese ignore any pretense of law or justice altogether.
8.14.2007 11:06am
Seamus (mail):
I have yet to understand how one can be captured as a prisoner-of-war when the war is already over.

Well, if one is a member of an army that just surrendered unconditionally, and no treaty of peace or other act ending the state of war has been executed, then one has become subject to detention as a prisoner of war.
8.14.2007 11:17am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Justin-

This is all way off topic, but I've already posted in the past about how liberterians have tended to support bloody, murderous right-wing regimes.

I haven't seen these statements, so I couldn't comment on them.

Furthermore, David Kopel's style of liberterianism which promotes the sale of large scale ammunitions to rebels in Africa

The only discussion I've seen close to this was one where the issue of arming the victims of the Janjaweed(sp?) in the Sudan came up. Under the right conditions I would support that - people being subjected to genocide certainly have a right to defend themselves.

and most liberterian support for the privitization of food, water, and basic power to export in zones of poverty in Africa, are all MAJOR human rights violations (under CIL) that have lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

What's the CIL? It wasn't in the acronym dictionary.

Not to mention that many prominent liberterians supported the war on Iraq, which has lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. How do you guys manage to be so flexible, patting yourselves on the back for things you've only done in theory all the time?

Well you've brought up a big controversy. I didn't support the invasion or occupation of Iraq and don't think there is any justification for it in libertarian philosophy. The hyperbole about back-patting could be said about most people, especially a lot of liberals and conservatives.

Also, to argue that a paid taking is a human rights violation irrespective of any discrimination (i.e., I'm not trying to argue that a taking can never be a human rights violation, or more to the point a tool to commit human rights violations) is to set the bar of human rights violations as to make the word go away.

Not at all - read Locke. Property is intimately related with human survival. Someone without property rights is indistinguishable from a slave. In fact the lack of property rights was a major component of most slavery systems.

Why wouldn't taxation then be a human rights violation?

I think at certain levels it should be. And of course taxes targeted at certain racial, ethnic, religious, etc. groups likely is.

Would it be a human rights violation for a government to own a factory, which lets out some pollution which could lower the life expectency of local citizens?

It depends on a lot of variables. In some circumstances it could be.

What if the taking was to build a hospital in support of universal health care (note: the right to health care, social security, etc. is covered under Articles 22-27 of the Universal Declaration, and are considered, like property rights, to be second-generation human rights)?

To an extent what you mention seems to be an effort to force socialized medicine by codifying it in human rights law. I don't agree with socialized medicine. Generally, some compensated takings might be OK if strictly for a public purpose and the compensation was above market value.

And what, exactly, would distinguish (in terms of the human rights violation, not the constitutional violation) a Kelo private-private taking from a regular private-public taking?

Strict, last resort public use with compensation above market value - think hospitals and necessary roads, not stadiums and malls.

Correction - Kopel's argument in support of war profiteering is a violation of CIL. The taking away of water, power, food are covered under Articles 22 and 25 of the Universal Declaration.

Need the background on what you mean here.

But I don't think anyone should have too much difficulty seeing how the right not to be slaughtered in refugee camps could be considered a human right, no?

Hence Kopel's argument that the refugees and genocide victims be allowed to be armed. (And my agreement under the right conditions.) So you agree then?
8.14.2007 11:20am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Ilya, how many people died in Apartheid South Africa, a cetifiable right wing dictatorship supported by movement conservatives throughout the world, during its reign? How many people were enslaved?

How many people did Batista kill or enslave vs. Castro?

Look, we can do this all day. The fact is, you were a victim of communism with right-leaning political views so you want to get communists. You don't seem to care as much about holding murderous anti-communists to account. That's not any type of standard of justice, it's simple bloodlust and a desire for historical vindication that in many cases your side does not deserve.
8.14.2007 11:28am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
neurodoc.

Get a grip. The reason I know any oldtime criminals against humanity is that they get prosecuted and make the news.
The point is, the commies aren't in the news because they're not getting prosecuted. They're not even, apparently, listed as criminals. There's more info available on them, and the Stasi files have been open for a decade at least.

Stalin was worse than Hitler--possibly because he had a longer run--but nobody calls someone on the right with whom they disagree a "stalin". Ever wonder why? IMO, it's a reluctance to see any enemies on the left, even if when forced, one admits the crimes of the commies. Admit under pressure, but not actually be concerned.

And what the hell is the point about Chinese courts supposed to apply to?
8.14.2007 11:38am
Fub:
neurodoc wrote at 8.14.2007 12:25am:
Yes, I suspected that was your intention. But supposing "real" libertarians did achieve temporal power (has it ever happened), how might they go about "commit(ting) human rights violation(s)" or stumble into them? Through benign or not so benign neglect? By serving up nothing but Ayn Rand all the time? I realize "liberterian" does not equal "anarchist," but I have a hard time picturing how libertarians would go about governing in the improbable event they were ever afforded the opportunity to do so.
I can't speak for Justin, but this is way too easy. Under a libertarian regime:

Friends of the state would be redefined as enemies of the state.

Friends (now enemies) of the state would receive polite letters urging them to report to volunteer labor camps for voluntary brutal re-education. Those who failed to report would be brutally forced to live in their own homes and make a living in some manner they chose.

At the camps, internees would be served free lunches provided by volunteer unarmed guards who would sadistically remind them that the lunches weren't really free, and that they were required to either stay and earn their keep, or go back home and make a living some other way.

Those who chose to stay would face the daily horror of voluntarily reading, memorizing and reciting passages from Ayn Rand, for which they would receive free lunches at the following rates:

One indicted ham sandwich for each line recited.

One unindicted ham sandwich for every two lines.

Extra mayo, tomatoes and an occasional slice of Swiss would be awarded for reciting voluntary assignments with a straight face.

Vegetarian volunteer prisoners would be permitted to trade their ham sandwiches for garden salad, tofu and oatmeal in the free market.

Volunteer prosecutors would organize volunteer prisoners into grand juries, with good behavior credit for service, to indict ham sandwiches as needed.
8.14.2007 12:10pm
neurodoc:
Professor Somin, you first wrote:
Far more effort has been devoted to efforts to punish much lesser offenders from right-wing regimes, such as those in Chile and Argentina. (italics added)
Later:
Therefore, there is every justification for my statement that the right-wing regimes in question committed crimes that were "much lesser" than those of the communist regimes I mentioned in the post. (italics added)
I hope by "much lesser" you meant "fewer in overall numbers" (quantity) rather than "not as grievous" (quality). The former I can accept, the latter I cannot.

(BTW, what we have here is an example of why the disappearing "less" vs "few" distinction is worth preserving.)
8.14.2007 12:20pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
neurodoc.

You make a good point about less vs. fewer.

But you forget. Either one is subject to interpretation. What unspeakable things happen in barbarian torture dungeons pale by comparison to, say, panties on the head, wrapped in an Israeli flag, red ink masquerading as menstrual blood.

So, in fact, we also have to be alert to bogus comparisons.
"lesser" could very well mean "lesser", once the details are sorted out. But when you need to punch up the numbers, details aren't that important.
8.14.2007 12:40pm
Justin (mail):
American Psych,

There's just too much to respond to that's just way too off topic on your post, which is unfortunate, because you both ask some interesting questions and show a willingness to learn, and you also make some statements which show (in my opinion) misconception or error - in other words, a great dialogue starter. But this is not the place.
8.14.2007 12:50pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> The US government signed away (over protests) the rights to compensation of American slaves of the Japanese, who are trying , with overwhelming lack of success, to get redress.

> How about we clean up that before we go looking for trouble elsewhere?

It's unclear why we have to choose.

It's interesting that suggesting that the US do something about communist thugs always brings out the "why doesn't the US go after {another target}" and "the US is no better".
8.14.2007 12:53pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
If I'm not mistaken, "CIL" = Customary International Law, which by definition is unwritten. Therefore no written declaration of rights could be CIL, unless it's just documenting the current state of customary law.
8.14.2007 12:56pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> Furthermore, David Kopel's style of liberterianism which promotes the sale of large scale ammunitions to rebels in Africa

How dare he. They're supposed to lie back and enjoy being slaughtered, make sure to provide good looking corpses for photoessays, and wait for the "international community" to "take care" of the remaining goodlooking children.
8.14.2007 12:56pm
Zathras (mail):
It is good to note the light punishment of Stasi members etc. linked to atrocities in East Germany. However, it should also be noted that once Germany took over the task of punishing ex-Nazis involved in atrocities that many many people got off scot-free or received similarly light sentences. The Germans have shown themselves to be equally (and excessively) lenient to people across the spectrum.
8.14.2007 1:04pm
Seamus (mail):
I am not sure I grasp your meaning. What those Nazi concentration camp guards did took place a long time ago, those still alive are geriatric, and we ought no more go after them than after Klansmen who committed brutal murders in this country decades ago motivated by despicable racism?

In fact, I *don't* think we ought to be going out of our way to make sure that no octogenarian Klansman gets to die peacefully at home. If it's an open secret that Billy Bob over on Maple Street actually put the noose around Leo Frank's neck, then, no, you can't just pretend not to know that fact, but if Billy Bob has lived an exemplary life ever since the Frank lynching, then I think the resources needed to investigate his participation in it and to prosecute him could be much better spent putting away criminals who are still actively preying on the citizens.

But if we are going to hunt down Nazis and Klansmen in their nursing homes, are we going to widen the net to, say, Chinese immigrants who committed atrocities during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution? (John Derbyshire's novel, "On Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream," has as its protagonist a Chinese immigrant to the United States who, as a Red Guard, participated in a pretty appalling rape-murder of the daughter of a class enemy. I think it extremely plausible that there are people among us today who have such skeletons in their closets, but I am in no way advocating that we root them out and punish them. The Cultural Revolution, like World War II, was an extraordinary event, and I am not sure how many of us, thrown into similar situations, would acquit ourselves very well.)

And no, I didn't support the baying for the heads of Pinochet and Honecker.
8.14.2007 1:05pm
Zathras (mail):
A couple of people have noted the discrepancy between the US's efforts of going after communists and the same involving Nazis. However, there is an important evidentiary issue being ignored here. With the Nazis, we have every piece of evidence possible to incriminate them. We don't have anything like that for many former Communists. We have general impressions, etc., but there is very little hard evidence. I believe this fact is a more accurate explanation of the discrepancy than one dependent on prosecutorial bias.
8.14.2007 1:09pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
zathras.

We have so many possibilities that there must be a few for whom the evidence is sufficient to at least look with disfavor.

But then we'd hear about "witch hunts", ignoring the inconvenient facts that witches don't exist.
8.14.2007 1:16pm
Justin (mail):
CIL isn't always unwritten, though it is not itself a specific code. It's universally recognized that the Universal Declaration is part of CIL, for instance.
8.14.2007 1:16pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Nice try, Andy. The difference is that the ex-slaves being ignored are AMERICANS. America first!

Is that rightwing enough for you?
8.14.2007 1:30pm
Justin (mail):
Okay, the DK stuff some people are making some comments that are probably uninformed (which is no fault of theirs, since nobody has yet informed them). Oddly, there was a VC post that discussed this stuff a few weeks ago, although in a somewhat vapid context of why liberals are bad.

So I'll re-educate those who missed my earlier comments in that previous thread. This time, in order to save time, I will just use links, as to save both my own time and those who are uninterested/already well-informed.

PS - I realize that these sources are not always unbiased. And I included reports from AI and HRW, despite the cliched attacks they get on this site, on the assumption that serious people are actually interested in information.


Arms exports to Congo (Report)

Darwin's Nightmare (Slideshow)

JSTOR Required report by Keller and Nolan

Pro/con report by Amnesty International that notes severe flaws in the implementation of arms sales

Human Rights Watch Arms Page (good general resource).
8.14.2007 1:30pm
Hans Bader (mail):
Contrary to what Dilan Esper suggests, Castro's non-communist predecessor, Batista, did not kill remotely as many people as Castro.

The Chilean dictatorship of Pinochet did not kill as many people as Castro.

No Latin American right-wing dictatorship killed as many people as the Communists did in Ethiopia, nor did they kill remotely as many people as the Communists killed in Cambodia, China, or Russia.

In China and Russia, the Communists killed tens of millions of people, causing millions of deaths through torture and state-engineered famines (starvation) in places such as the Ukraine.

Mao would regale associates with tales of how he enjoyed watching political prisoners being flogged to death.

Stalin's secret police would torture parents to death in front of their children, and vice versa.

In the Ukraine, the dictator Stalin deliberately engineered an artificial famine that killed 8 million people. Families were first tortured by Soviet police to force them to turn over all of their grain to the state. Then they were allowed to starve to death -- men, women, and children. They starved even while they could smell grain rotting in nearby storage facilities guarded by communist troops. Stalin let them starve to break their spirit.

(The founder of the ACLU, Roger Baldwin, defended Soviet abuses, saying that "communism is the goal," and once the communists obtained power, they should use whatever force was necessary to maintain it. During the Brezhnev era, the ACLU supported sending a teenager back to Russia, even though his opposition to the regime could have led to his being sent to the Gulag or death)

The communists also helped dictators in little tiny countries kill off large fractions of their people. They helped the paranoid dictator of Equatorial Guinea kill or torture to death one-fourth of his subjects, turning one of the most modern countries in Africa into one of the poorest by the time he was ousted by his own family members. Some people went insane just listening to the screams of the people being tortured and beaten to death in the prisons.
8.14.2007 1:45pm
Siona Sthrunch (mail):
Somin writes: "One can agree with Kelo on the grounds that the issue in question is not covered by the Constitution. However, Kelo-style takings are a violation of the human right to property even if they do not violate legal rights set up by the Constitution. Property rights are human rights too."

I do not understand Somin's "take" on Kelo. If the taking in Kelo was not for public use or if there was no just compensation, then the taking violated the 5th Amendment. So is Somin's position that a taking of property for public use with just compensation can itself be a violation of a human right to property?

I have never heard this argument. Most detractors of Kelo argue that the taking in Kelo was not for public use and so its taking violated the Takings Clause of the 5th Amendment. But Somin is arguing that *even if* Kelo did comport with the Takings Clause, it nonetheless (a) violated human rights and (b) was Constitutional.

Position (a), as I said, seems novel. If (a) is correct, however, then (b) is incorrect. The Constitution does protect human rights under the Ninth Amendment, or perhaps under the doctrine of substantive due process. Does Somin believe that the human right to property is not protected by the Ninth Amendment (or by substantive due process)?
8.14.2007 2:00pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
the ACLU supported sending a teenager back to Russia, even though his opposition to the regime could have led to his being sent to the Gulag or death)

Actually the ACLU supported his parents' rights to take Walter Polovchak back to Ukraine. The US government stalled legal action till Walter turned 18 and was free to stay. Polovchak later opposed Janet Reno support of a father's rights to have Elian Gonzales sent back to Cuba. I'm still not sure how living under Communism met the "best interests of the child" standard, but I was touched by the liberals' concern for parental rights.
8.14.2007 2:05pm
neurodoc:
Richard Aubrey, I am disinclined to weigh the monstrousness of Hitler vs Stalin vs Mao, seeing little point to the exercise and preferring to leave it at they were all extraordinarily monstrous. (I do wonder, though, about those who would seek to discount Hitler's monstrousness in any way. They tend to sound a lot like Pat Buchanan, who as perhaps you know ran for president in 2000 and may have brought about the election of George W. Bush, if only inadvertently. That same Pat Buchanan was called out by William Buckley as a prototypic anti-semite in an issue of the National Review largely given over to that subject.)

"The point is, the commies aren't in the news because they're not getting prosecuted." And, of course, you don't mean ordinary "commies," you mean those who have personally perpetrated significant crimes in the service of that ideology or Communist governments. But while you are so certain they are here living among us, you can't offer any support for your contention other than "they must be here." You don't find it at all improbable that those who perpetrated those crimes managed to get into the US, never in its history a very welcoming place for Communists, establish themselves here, and conceal their identities and their pasts so well that they have never come to any attention?

Tthe Vatican had a "rat line" to get Nazis out of Europe where they might have faced prosecution for their crimes and to the New World (Latin Ameica) were they were for the most part safe. (Eichman was an exception because Israel went to great lengths to get him and bring him back to stand trial. Do you think he got an adequate measure of "due process"?) The US did allow a number of "valuable" Nazis, especially scientists like Werner Von Braun and his NASA superior Rudolph, into the country. And there were those, like Demjanjuk, who gained entry here under false pretenses and without the assistance of our intelligence services. Do you know of any organizations or government programs to provide Communist war criminals to gain safe haven in the US? I thought the FBI was pretty devoted to catching "commies," especially non-native ones. If you could identify any such organizations or government programs that helped bring Communist criminals to this country from abroad or helped them with cover once here, we might accept that as some proof of your contentions in the absence of any names. Can you identify them for us?

I brought up Chinese courts to contrast them with our own. You complained that US prosecutors in their efforts to find any Nazis who made it here without our knowing about them were "going after individuals who have a possible but not proven part in a crime." In this country, those accused of crimes are supposed to be afforded a presumption of innocence, and thus all who stand in the dock accused of being criminals are "individuals who have a "possible but not proven part in a crime." In China, there are few or no prosecutions of those who are not "guilty" before they ever have their day in court, for what that is worth. Now do you understand?

And as for your counsel that I get a grip on myself, I think I have a very good grip already, thank you.
8.14.2007 2:30pm
neurodoc:
But you forget. Either one is subject to interpretation. What unspeakable things happen in barbarian torture dungeons pale by comparison to, say, panties on the head, wrapped in an Israeli flag, red ink masquerading as menstrual blood. [Richard Aubrey]
I didn't see this before my last post, but it does go along way to dispel any doubts about where you might be coming from. Thanks for the clarification, now I understand.
8.14.2007 2:37pm
neurodoc:
Actually, neurodoc, the para. above is spot on - about the Japanese, though, rather than the Chinese. [SocratesAbroad]
I take your point, though I think what you really meant to say is something like, "about the Japanese too, not just the Chinese." And, IMHO, that would still be a bit overstated. Japan does not execute the great numbers (any?) that China does and we have never heard that they have a program of organ harvesting in conjunction with their capital punishment one, nor that the Japanese demand payment from the families of those they execute for the bullet used to accomplish it. But though I see China as coming out ahead(?!) of Japan in this contest of which has the most egregious approach to criminal investigations and prosecutions, I share your harsh view of the Japanese one.

I was really shocked to read within the past few months a NYT account of how it is in Japan. Shocked because I found it hard to believe that this was Japan in the 21st century, >60 years after their society was so greatly transformed, and shocked that I had been unaware of how their system of justice works. Can't think what I might do about it (not buy Japanese products, while buying Chinese ones?!, but I have it in my mental files so that next time I hear pacific, victimized Japan favorably compared with bellicose, victimizer US, I can throw this one in. (I try to maintain such mental files on all those countries which are held up as exemplars in order to disparage the US, its government and citizenry.)
8.14.2007 2:59pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
neurodoc.

"going after" means investigating and prosecuting. Has nothing to do with guaranteed guilty verdicts. As you know.

Is anybody downplaying Hitler's crimes? My point is that the number who are appalled at Hitler's crimes, or who speak as if they are, is hugely greater than those who are appalled at Stalin's crimes. The latter is not generally considered the gold standard for crimes against humanity, although if you count the bad things done, he and Mao ought to lead Hitler. Of course, we should handicap Hitler's numbers by referencing his shorter time in the saddle. Perhaps he, given more time, would have set the record. He has two he's looking at from behind, but he gets the bulk of the attention. Why do you think that is?

Do you have any reason for thinking any kind of ratline is necessary for former commie criminals to get into the US? The FBI went after CPUSA and espionage personnel. Do you know of any mechanism dedicated to catching, say, gulag guards trying to get into this country?

So, where am I coming from when I differentiate between panties on the head and slow flaying? My point is when people say "lesser", they may well mean "lesser". The question then becomes, if the difference is substantial, why is the lesser considered to be the same?
8.14.2007 3:23pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Hans:

Stalin is in a class by himself, and I freely admit that no right wing regime-- unless one wants to characterize the Nazis as right wing-- was as murderous.

But you are just wrong about Batista. There was a reason the Cuban revolution happened, and it's because under Batista, if you weren't white and in Havana, you were a slave or a prostitute. And all the money went back to a few rich Cubans and the mafia. And nobody except the very rich got an education or health care.

Cuba actually presents a great lesson for the right wing. If you guys hate left wing governments so much, don't sponsor and support governments that are so abusive that they lead to peasant revolutions. This has repeated itself in Venezuela and Bolivia more recently.

I would add one more thing to the list. The website that Ilya links to says that the Portuguese dicatatorship-- which was clearly RIGHT-wing, was one of the biggest murderers in history.
8.14.2007 3:34pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Dilan. Biggest in history? How come there are any Portuguese left?
8.14.2007 3:38pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ref the Portuguese issue:

What makes the tyranny right wing?

Conservatives like freedom, usually a republic with a broad franchise, and free markets.

Why was the Portuguese dictator "right wing"? Free market? Franchise? Rule of law? Freedom of religion?

Far as I can figure, a right wing tyrant gets himself up in dress uniforms--see the Argie junta, and Pinochet--while a left-wing tyrant garbs himself in something like fatigues--see Fidel.
Otherwise, it's all tyranny. Except the lefties try to export theirs while the righties are content to stay home. The Falklands being an exception.

And did the slow-mo coup mounted by Chavez in Venezuela count as a peasant's revolution? Or is somebody thinking of another ruction?
8.14.2007 3:48pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):
Here is the definitive and only sensible last word.

Torture is torture. Murder is murder.

It doesn't matter who does it, they should be punished for their crimes. Period.
8.14.2007 4:19pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Mr. Impressive. Okay. Got it. Except some folks insist that stuff which would not raise eyebrows at a fraternity initiation be considered "torture" if the US does it.
Hence, the point that "lesser" may well mean "lesser" and not "fewer".
8.14.2007 4:24pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):
Richard Aubrey,

Lesser might really mean lesser in some instances. But not in the contexts of the right-wing regimes in Chile and Argentina.

You know that you have real torture going on when it sometimes results in death.
8.14.2007 4:34pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Mr. Impressive. I know that mistreatment resulting in death is likely to be torture. Point is, some apologists for lefties will haul in the "lesser" stuff in a vain attempt to reduce the gap between the leftwing tyrannies and the rightwing tyrannies.
Just as the lefties in this country pretend that the flag-wrapping really is torture. Otherwise, they have nothing to talk about.
So, unappetizing as it is, I prefer details when the issue is so loaded. Just in case somebody is trying to sell "lesser" items.
8.14.2007 4:43pm
Hans Bader (mail):
The left-wing "peasant revolutions" Dilan celebrates in his last comment were in countries -- Venezuela and Bolivia -- that had recently held elections, not right-wing dictatorships.

It's hard to justify circumventing democracy.

Of course, the Bolivian ruler, Evo Morales, came to power democratically, and has yet to dispense with democratic formalities, so "revolution" may be an overstatement in any case. (And much of the impetus for his election came from farmers' opposition to restrictions on commerce -- such as attempts to eradicate the production and sale of coca -- rather than support for socialism).

The Portuguese dictatorship killed a lot of people principally because it was fighing (colonial) wars in Africa. It was a vicious regime, although not on the scale of communists like Mao, Stalin, Kim Il Sung, or Pol Pot.

But I don't think leftists similarly hold, say, North Vietnam, or other communist governments responsible for loss of life during the wars they wage (as opposed to peacetime), since they believe that the end (winning the war) justifies the means (or at least mitigates responsibility for the resulting deaths).
8.14.2007 4:44pm
Mr. Impressive (mail):
Richard Aubrey,

The most significant fact in my mind about whether a regime that murders and tortures people is that it murders and tortures people.

That a regime is leftwing or rightwing strikes me as utterly insignificant compared to that fact.

There is nothing inherently leftwing or rightwing about murder and torture. And murder and torture should be condemned wherever it is found.

I am sure that there are those on the left who excuse or otherwise try to justify murder and torture by leftwing regimes. I am sure that there are those on the right who excuse or otherwise try to justify murder and torture by rightwing regimes.

These people, both left and right, are stupid. They put ideology before everything else.
8.14.2007 4:58pm
Elliot123 (mail):
What specific benefit has come fom any of the prosecutions of human rights volators?
8.14.2007 5:02pm
TDPerkins (mail):
It's hard to justify circumventing democracy.


Tell it to the Founders.

The Constitution is specifically setup to do that in many differing ways. Circumventing democracy is within the bounds of circumventing majoritarianism.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.14.2007 5:13pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Eliot.

Depending on how specific you want to be, possibly none. Which, depending on how specific you want to be, could be the answer about prosecuting any number of other crimes.
8.14.2007 5:33pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Justin-

There's just too much to respond to that's just way too off topic on your post, which is unfortunate, because you both ask some interesting questions and show a willingness to learn, and you also make some statements which show (in my opinion) misconception or error - in other words, a great dialogue starter. But this is not the place.

Well since they were responses to subjects raised in your questions, their "off topic-ness" would seem to be a result of your pushing the dialogue there. I find it odd you would ask a question in an off topic direction and then claim that I am raising off topic subjects when I address them. So in my opinion your response is an evasive cop out.

Your wording also appears somewhat condescending. You also showed a "willingness to learn" and also "made some statements which show misconception or error".(I pointed some of them out.) But then you claim that the topics that you raised are off topic when I responded to them.
8.14.2007 10:48pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'Why was 'the Portuguese dictator "right wing"?'

Obscurantist Roman Catholic
8.15.2007 1:13am
Jerry F:
"When I say that right-wing regimes such as the military governments in Chile and Argentina were guilty of "lesser" offenses than communist ones, I mean that the number of their victims was much smaller, not that each individual case of murder, torture, etc., was lesser; unfortunately my wording was not as precise as it should have been."

This point seems completely wrong, in my opinion. Consider that Stalin killed 60,000,000, Mao killed 100,000,000 and Pol Pot killed 2,000,000 (or one third of the population). These Communists clearly were engaging in massive, systematic mass-murder of large groups of people who presented no threat to the regime. Contrast this to Pinochet, who killed only 3,000 dissidents. By killing such a comparatively small number of people, it seems fairly clear that Pinochet was targetting primarily people who posed an active threat to the regime (certainly many innocents must have perished under Pinochet, but only with Mao or Stalin, there had to be much better reasons to at least suspect that the victims were a threat.
8.15.2007 2:41am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Fub-

Friends of the state would be redefined as enemies of the state.

So? If a regime were truly libertarian no one would have a problem with them as long as they weren't violating anyone's rights.

The rest of what you claim doesn't reflect libertarianism either.

Volunteer prosecutors would organize volunteer prisoners into grand juries, with good behavior credit for service, to indict ham sandwiches as needed.

What's the deal with equating libertarianism with volunteers? People committing crimes and violating rights are un-libertarian and criminal, regardless of whether they are volunteers or not.
8.15.2007 3:21am