A prettty depressing op-ed piece by Vladimir Bukovsky, who spent a number of years in Soviet prisons:
One nasty morning Comrade Stalin discovered that his favorite pipe was missing. Naturally, he called in his henchman, Lavrenti Beria, and instructed him to find the pipe. A few hours later, Stalin found it in his desk and called off the search. “But, Comrade Stalin,” stammered Beria, “five suspects have already confessed to stealing it.”
This joke, whispered among those who trusted each other when I was a kid in Moscow in the 1950s, is perhaps the best contribution I can make to the current argument in Washington about legislation banning torture and inhumane treatment of suspected terrorists captured abroad. Now that President Bush has made a public show of endorsing Sen. John McCain’s amendment, it would seem that the debate is ending. But that the debate occurred at all, and that prominent figures are willing to entertain the idea, is perplexing and alarming to me. I have seen what happens to a society that becomes enamored of such methods in its quest for greater security; it takes more than words and political compromise to beat back the impulse.
The fact that we are having this discussion at all is what is troubling. The Germans surrendered to the Americans rather than the Soviets in WW2 because they knew the difference between the way each treated their prisoners. I wish that difference was as well-defined today as it was then. The fact that this Administration wanted exceptions to the no torture laws speaks volumes about the degradation of our national character by the current office holder. Now we have secret laws that no one knows about, secret tribunals that judge without review and warrant-less searches. And we are just supposed to believe that these guys are somehow immune to the same impulses that plagued every other human being in history that was given these sorts of powers over their fellow man? We are supposed to trust them. Well, our government was set up by men who really did not trust the impulses on men given too much power. They set up a divided government to keep power from being concentrated and misused. Too bad the American character is so far degraded that it stands by while an imperial Executive branch decides for itself which laws to ignore and then tells us just to trust them. Sorry, I would not trust EITHER party given this much control and power.