Kudos to yojoe for airing his views, but as with my strong disagreement with the conclusions of Michael Moore’s Sicko, there’s often another way to skin a cat. While I find merit in yojoe’s conclusions, I’m not sure he’s taken the most virtuous route to that conclusion (and I ascribe no fault to him–but to factors detailed below). And so I’m left disagreeing with his conclusion in this particular case.
Without going in great depth for professional and other reasons, readers trolling over to the New York Times, one of yojoe‘s sources, will notice the following language not cited by yojoe: “Three of the Russian men released with Mr. Odizhev have since been arrested, and the other three have apparently fled Russia because of police harassment or torture, according to Human Rights Watch, a private American organization, which has investigated their cases.”
Lest readers be mistaken that Human Rights Watch doesn’t intersect with the U.S. Government’s concerns, on May 24th, Department of State Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Fried testified before the U.S. Helsinki Commission about Russia’s current trajectory, and this is what he said:
Under the guise of demanding reforms, Russia has proposed changes to the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)], the effect of which would be to cripple its democracy promotion efforts. The United States disagrees strongly with this Russian approach . . .
Suppression of genuine opposition, abridgement of the right to protest, constriction of the space of civil society, and the decline of media freedom all represent serious setbacks that are inconsistent with Russia’s professed commitment to building and preserving the foundations of a democratic state. The unsolved murders of journalists and critics are equally disturbing.
The State Department has publicly protested, including at the OSCE Permanent Council, the recent police brutality employed to break up opposition marches in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Nizhny Novgorod. The EU also protested those actions. Authorities sought to prevent the marches from taking place at all: they denied permission to stage the events or tried to marginalize them by changing their venues; they harassed and detained Russians traveling to participate in these peaceful rallies; on the day of the events, disproportionate police presence wielded undue force against the protestors as well as journalists reporting on the events. Some of the same efforts were directed against members of the Russian opposition seeking to express their opinions ahead of the EU-Russia Summit in Samara May 18. The fact that the authorities allowed pro-Kremlin youth groups to engage in activity from which opposition activists were prohibited demonstrated selective use of the law.
. . . The increasing pressure on Russian journalists is likewise troubling. Vigorous and investigatory media independent of officialdom are essential to dynamic, healthy processes in all democracies. In Russia today, unfortunately, most national television networks media-the primary source of news for most Russians -are in government hands or the hands of individuals and entities allied with the Kremlin. The growing agglomeration of print media in the hands of government officials or those allied with them likewise undercuts press freedom. Attacks on journalists, including the brutal and still unsolved murders of Paul Klebnikov and Anna Politkovskaya, among others, chill and deter the fourth estate.
. . . Last year, the Duma enacted amendments to the criminal and administrative codes redefining “extremism” so broadly and vaguely as to provide a potent weapon to wield against and intimidate opponents; greater self-censorship appears to be a major goal in this effort. We note, for example, that Dissenters’ March leader Garry Kasparov has already been questioned by the FSB in its investigation into “extremist” activity. Even the most cursory analysis of Russian national broadcast media shows news reporting skewed decisively in favor of Kremlin-approved parties and groups.
Given all this, yojoe, are we really to lean so heavily on the F.S.B.’s reporting of the death of a freed Guantanamo detainee that we’re led, inexorably, to conclude that imprisonment is the better option? Your cites appear (I coudl be wrong) to not support your assertions of Mr. Odizhev’s anti-Russian terrorist status, and none for his involvement in Nalchik, save for the F.S.B.’s own assertions. It’s a stretch to expand this not-so-“karmic” death to conclude that others, once released, would cause Americans to face a stark choice of them either killing us, or being killed by us. That might be true in some cases–I don’t buy it here. This tale isn’t cautionary — but it is, probably, quite a tale.
Perhaps, on very deep reflection, imprisonment is the better option. Certainly there was concern about Guantanamo’s Chinese Uighurs’ safety had the U.S. returned them to China. We didn’t. (They were sent to Albania.)
Then again, the binary choice of whether to (1) incarcerate in Guantanamo, or (2) return to Russia, may not the right question to be asking.
Food for thought.