Monday, March 06, 2006

Self-loathing, wilful blindness

Further to Douglas Murray's points made below, an interesting mismatch is in evidence on Google News between the number of stories on Guantanamo Bay, where 500 terrorist suspects are being held in conditions scrutinised by the Red Cross, and other prison systems.

The laogai in China, for example, holds an estimated 4-6 million prisoners, including those held for their religious beliefs, Catholic, Protestant and Falun Gong. There are rumours of organ harvesting from executed prisoners, the death penalty is about to be imposed for robbery, and the inmates are involved in forced labour producing everything from coal and steel to plastic sandals and toys.

Cuba's prison system is notoriously brutal and, despite Castro's mendacious claim to hold only criminals, it is full of political prisoners, arrested for such crimes as "dishonouring patriotic symbols." Inspection by the Red Cross have not been allowed for the last 15 years.

In Zimbabwe, Chikurubi prison has long been a by-word for brutality and repression. The number of prisoners incarcerated at any one time is hard to specify, but conditions are appalling, 25 men squeezed into cells measuring 9m by 4m. Some prisoners are being held for confessions extracted under torture for apartheid era spying - three of these are Philip Conjwayo, Kevin Woods and Mike Smith, imprisoned since 1988.

On any scale, these three examples (and there are others as bad around the world) are infinitely worse than Guantanamo. Although America dominates the world, one might expect something approaching parity of treatment where human rights - that universal panacea - applies.

So, Google News on Guantanamo Bay, 9,430 hits. On the laogai, 6 hits. On cuban prisons, 2 - but only one story. On Chikurubi, 8 hits, 6 of them from Zimbabwe.

Obviously, American stories receive greater coverage, but it is sickeningly hypocritical for bien pensant opinion to castigate Guantanamo Bay as the 'gulag of our time' when abuses that are infinitely worse on every conceivable level pass calmly and smugly beneath the media radar.

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