First, tomorrow night I’ll be on web radio at Buzz Tok. You can participate in the show by going here. I have no idea what we’re going to talk about.

On to the topic — I’m glad Steve Chapman brought up Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s conservatives wanted to rub Solzhenitsyn in everyone’s faces. Which was aggravating, because liberals were thoroughly appalled at what Solzhenitsyn had to endure in the Soviet Union.

So now, as Chapman says, our government is doing the same awful things that were done in the gulags, and conservatives defend it. The argument seems to be that it’s OK because it’s us doing it.

Be sure to read “My Tortured Decision” by Ali Soufan.

2 thoughts on “Solzhenitsyn

  1. Way long ago when I read The Gulag Archipelago, I recall that there was some controversy because it was a literary exploration of the camps and thus subject to some interpretation, and there really were no hard records to back it up; just one very angry but very articulate guy, and some corroborating stories.

    Then came Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum. Applebaum’s book, as I recall, was the first history based on the KGBs own records.

    When I read that book, and thought back to Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, it struck me that these totalitarian types really like to keep detailed records of their deeds. They document everything: the legal “justifications” for what they are doing, precisely what they have done to precisely whom, all in this dead bureaucratic language. Very detailed, very complete, all their “rules” carefully spelled out.

    And that’s what’s struck me most about the torture memos. The rules: you can use this much water for just that long for only so many days in a month, all in bland bureaucrat speak. And the details kept: so-and-so was waterboarded 83 times (not “over 80” or “nearly 100” but precisely 83); this makes me certain that they have a detailed log on the subject.

    And they all had/have their toadies: “Well, the government had to do this, right? Because these are bad guys; dear leader said so. It’s all justified.” (In the case of the Soviets, to be fair, going along was a survival tactic; speak up and you might be next. It became such a habit that I understand they still don’t talk about it.)

    And totalitarians are so sure of their justifications and methods that they never destroy their records on the way out of power. (The CIA did violate this one by destroying video tape, but the CIA was always that way.)

    What a lot of parallels.

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