Wednesday, June 22, 2005

German Diplomat Says
Gitmo Is Worse Than Gulag

From Opinion Journal. Bret Stephens describes his brunch with a "senior German diplomat:

... meeting a relatively senior German diplomat posted to the New York consulate. My wife--also German--knows his wife socially; our children use the same playground. They had invited us to their home for Sunday brunch.

I should say here that I speak almost no German, and it quickly became apparent that the diplomat's wife spoke almost no English. So it was perhaps natural that, soon after we arrived, she and my wife took to one corner of the spacious apartment while the diplomat ushered me into his study. Less natural was the conversation that followed. I made the normal chitchat of first encounters: praise for the unobstructed (and million-dollar) views of the Hudson River; a query about what he did at the consulate.

But the diplomat had no patience for my small talk. Apropos of nothing, he said he had recently made a study of U.S. tax laws and concluded that practices here were inferior to those in Germany. Given recent rates of German economic growth, I found this comment odd. But I offered no rejoinder. I was, after all, a guest in his home.

The diplomat, however, was just getting started. Bad as U.S. economic policy was, it was as nothing next to our human-rights record. Had I read the recent Amnesty International report on Guantanamo? "You mean the one that compared it to the Soviet gulag?" Yes, that one. My host disagreed with it: The gulag was better than Gitmo, since at least the Stalinist system offered its victims a trial of sorts.

Nor was that all. Civil rights in the U.S., he said, were on a par with those of North Korea and rather behind what they had been in Europe in the Middle Ages. When I offered that, as a journalist, I had encountered no restrictions on press freedom, he cut me off. "That's because The Wall Street Journal takes its orders from the government."

By then we had sat down at the formal dining table, with our backs to Ground Zero a half-mile away and our eyes on the boats on the river below us. My wife and I made abortive attempts at ordinary conversation. We were met with non sequiturs: "The only people who appreciate American foreign policy are poodles." After further bizarre pronouncements, including a lecture on the illegality of the Holocaust under Nazi law, my wife said that she felt unwell. We gathered our things and left.

When so many senior officials in the governments of Western nations are saying such outlandish things, it's hard not to worry that our civilizations is losing it's collective mind.

One thing to note here is he is absolutely wrong about Gitmo inmates having no trial. Read this.