Much has been ballyhooed recently about the detainees the U.S. forces have been capturing in our War on Terror. If you follow the media, you will hear accusations that the detainees are not being accorded their rights guaranteed by the Geneva Convention. But as I have explained before, these detainees do not qualify for Geneva Convention protections as they are housed in the base at Guantanamo, Cuba, commonly called “Gitmo.” And it has been getting some nasty press recently.

The recent press about Gitmo is not the first time the Left has made an inaccurate and extreme comparison. President Bush is constantly being compared to Adolf Hitler. The Marxist Left is so enamored with this Bush/Hitler comparison that liberals will often turn a simple hand-wave into a Nazi salute. Ludicrous comparisons like Bush/Hitler or other extremes show both a contempt and ignorance of history.

Speaking of contempt and ignorance, here’s a gem of a quote from Amnesty Secretary General Irene Khan: “Guantanamo has become the gulag of our time.” When people objected to this comparison, Amnesty International stood by the claim and wouldn’t budge. John Podhoretz did a very good job of comparing Gitmo with the Soviet gulag.

Number of prisoners at Gitmo: approximately 600.
Number of prisoners in the Gulag: as many as 25 million, according to the peerless Gulag historian Anne Applebaum.

Number of camps at Gitmo: 1
Number of camps in the Gulag: At least 476, according to Applebaum.

Political purpose of Gulag: The suppression of internal dissent inside a totalitarian state.
Political purpose of Gitmo: The suppression of an international terrorist group that had attacked the United States, killing 3,000 people while attempting to decapitate the national government through the hijack of airplanes.

Financial purpose of Gulag: Providing totalitarian economy with millions of slave laborers.
Financial purpose of Gitmo: None.

Seizure of Gulag prisoners: From apartments, homes, street corners inside the Soviet Union.
Seizure of Gitmo prisoners: From battlefield sites in Afghanistan in the midst of war.

If it is valid to compare Gitmo with the Soviet gulag and declare them to be equivalent, then we would also be justified in comparing a paper-cut with a beheading, or a sunburn with being burned alive. Paul Mirengoff of Power Line Blog points out that this gulag quote from Amnesty International was merely an attempt to grab publicity:

Now we have the answer — it was a publicity stunt. As the Washington Times notes, Amnesty International’s Executive Director William Schulz basically admitted as much on “Fox News Sunday.” Unable to defend his gulag analogy, Schulz instead observed that if his group hadn’t asserted that analogy, he wouldn’t “be on this station, on this program today.” To which Chris Wallace responded, “So you’re saying if you make irresponsible charges, that’s good for your cause?”

People are free to say what they want, but there is an equivalent responsibility not to mislead. Something happens when the trivial is compared with the tragic — the comparison minimizes the scope of the tragedy. If I had relatives who had died in the Nazi death camps, I’d be spitting mad at the boors who have the temerity to compare the “three hots and a cot” the detainees get at Gitmo with the ovens of Dachau.

Not to be outdone in the rush to be outraged, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) rushed forward to claim his 15 minutes of fame by tearing into the guards at Gitmo:

“If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.”

What is the torture to which Senator Durbin is referring that is worthy of comparison to Hitler, Stalin, and Pot? Mass graves? Beheadings? Brace yourself for the horror that makes Gitmo equal to these human horrors: detainees in Gitmo are subject to cold and hot rooms, standing, poking in the chest with a finger, water on the head, satirical puppet shows, American flags, and *shudder* Christina Aguilera music. Yeah, I’d rank that right up there with the ovens at Dachau. James Lileks does a grand job of showing just how stupid this comparison is.

Still, Sen. Durbin is a hero to the Marxist Left in the nation. Markos “Screw ‘Em” Moulitsas is trumpeting his support of Sen. Durbin on his well-visited site. He views what is happening in Gitmo as torture. “The torture that was so bad under Saddam, is equally bad under U.S. command. And Dick Durbin had the balls to say it so on the Senate floor.”

Earth to Kos — there is a difference between real torture and what goes on in Gitmo. Let’s compare and see if you can spot the difference:

Torture Not Torture
  • beheading with a knife
  • fed feet-first into a wood chipper
  • hands and feet chopped off
  • tossed off the top of a building
  • acid baths
  • watching wives and children raped and killed
  • poked in the chest with a finger
  • Christina Aguilera music
  • water on the head
  • standing
  • satirical puppet shows
  • pictures of 9/11 victims

As John Hinderaker of Power Line Blog points out, you can tell the real thing from the fake based on the number of people who die. So let’s have one last comparison between Hitler, Stalin, and Pot with what is going on in Gitmo:

Hitler, Stalin, Pot Gitmo
  • Adolf Hitler – About 9 million dead
  • Soviet gulags – About 2.7 million dead
  • Pol Pot – About 1.7 million dead
  • Gitmo – five instances of Koran abuse by prison guards
  • Gitmo – 15 instances of Koran abuse by prisoners
  • Gitmo – zero dead

Not much of a comparison, is it?

[warning: the following links are graphic and disturbing]

To paraphrase Sen. Benson: “Senator, I’ve seen torture. I knew torture. Torture is a horror of mine. Senator, this is no torture.”

Addendum (6/21/2005): Two quick updates: first, Senator Durbin apologized for having crossed the line in his comments last week. If he never intended any disrespect to the soldiers serving in Gitmo, why did he say what he said? And secondly, Cox and Forkum do a good job of showing what Sen. Durbin stands for.

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