Last Thursday in Vladivostok, after watching Russian war exercises in
the Sea of Japan, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said, “The
(Russian) government has undertaken to rebuild and strengthen the
military might of the state in response to both external and internal
threats.”

For the last two months the Kremlin has been mobilizing soldiers and
distributing 21st century weapons to its military. This buildup
includes the transfer of 500 AS-15 Kent cruise missiles from Ukraine to
Russia along with 11 strategic bombers. It includes the coming
unification of Russia with Belarus. In recent months Russia has
conducted an unprecedented series of missile tests and all-arms military
exercises. But aside from these war preparations, Prime Minister Putin
also mentioned an “internal threat.”

What internal threat does he mean?

Because of the bombings in Moscow, and last summer’s Islamic
incursion into Dagestan, Russia has been mobilizing troops and personnel
of the Interior Ministry and the secret police. In other words, the
events of last summer have presented the Kremlin with a chance to
reinforce an existing police state with fresh reserves of strength.

Are you surprised to hear “democratic Russia” referred to as a police
state?

Michael Slackman, the Moscow correspondent for Newsday, recently
wrote a story about the police in Yeltsin’s Russia. According to
Slackman’s Oct. 27 Newsday article, “Each year, about one of every six
Russians are detained in a system where police rely on torture as their
primary investigative tool.”

In other words, during the last 12 months 25 million Russians have
been detained by a police state that tortures innocent people.
Slackman’s article quotes a Moscow federal judge who says that torture
is commonplace in Russia. Slackman also quotes detective Igor
Ogorodnikov, who says, “I don’t think there is a single (Russian)
detective who hasn’t used torture.”

What do you call a country where the police routinely use torture to
solve crimes? There are a number of words that could be used, but
“totalitarian” comes quickly into mind.

“If you want a picture of the future,” wrote George Orwell in 1984,
“imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” That was Orwell’s
characterization of the totalitarian state. In fact, Marxism has
produced a number of regimes of this type — from Cuba in the West to
North Korea in the East. And for all of these regimes Russia is the
mother country, the totalitarian original.

The Russian state is not civilized. If we want to be accurate,
Russia is a missile-ready barbarism looking ahead to a future conflict
with the civilized world. In fact, Russia’s leaders are thugs and
criminals. Russia’s citizens have no rights. Every truth in Russia is
twisted; every official statement is deceptive. Militarism and hate are
the foundations of the Russian system. Communism is its secret
ideology.

I asked the highest-ranking defector from the Russian General Staff,
Col. Stanislav Lunev, if there were any decent people at the top of
Russia’s surviving Communist structures. He answered, “These are not
human beings. These are crazy persons.” I got a similar answer from
the Chinese dissident, Harry Wu, when I asked about the Chinese
Communists. Harry Wu said, “They are butchers.”

But there is worse than butchery.

Imagine being thrown into a small cell the thickness of one brick.
The door is slammed behind you. Your forehead is pressed against the
brick wall. You are left in darkness for 48 hours. After a few minutes
you feel panic. You cannot sit and you cannot turn around. You are
quickly overcome by feelings of claustrophobia. The hours drag on as
your limbs ache and your back is filled with pain.

Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats, in her book, “The State Within a
State,” writes about similar tortures endured by innocent Russian
prisoners who are forced to stand perfectly still for many hours. No
movement is allowed. Movement is punished by severe beating. After
standing still for a long time the victim’s legs become inflamed with
pain. Eventually the sensation becomes so unbearable that the prisoner
loses consciousness.

Another method used by the Russian police is called “crucifixion.”
It involves handcuffing a suspect to a metal bed frame and zapping the
frame with electricity. The prisoner suffers a series of traumatic
physical jolts. These occur at irregular intervals, which is said to
have a profound “neurological” effect. Another favorite is called the
“little elephant.” In this form of torture a Russian police
interrogator fits the prisoner with a gas mask. The mask is then pumped
full of insecticide.

In Yeltsin’s Russia torture is also used to coerce the testimony of
witnesses. Under this system a suspect cannot escape conviction. The
law, in fact, has no meaning in Russia. The police can destroy any
person they choose. The only workable defense for a Russian citizen is
the good offices of a friendly apparatchik. As with all totalitarian
states, anyone outside the power structure is at risk.

The human rights problem in Russia can be cross-checked by anyone who
cares to do a little homework. According to the U.S. State Department’s
March 1996 Human Rights Report on Russia, “The human rights record of
the (Russian) government is entirely without parallel, with reverses and
deterioration in some areas. …”

According to Avraham Shifrin, author of “The First Guidebook to
Prisons and Concentration Camps of the Soviet Union,” the Gulag system
has been expanded under Boris Yeltsin. In mid 1997 Shifrin’s
correspondence with Christopher Story was excerpted in the May 1997
issue of Soviet Analyst. Shifrin is quoted as saying, “Basically the
situation in the camps of Russia, the Ukraine (as well as other parts of
the USSR with the exception of the Baltic States) has not changed.”

The infamous Gulag labor camps of Stalin continue to operate. We
have shamefully forgotten the millions who suffer hunger and persecution
under one of the world’s worst criminal regimes. It is sad to say, but
the West has foolishly accepted the Kremlin “reforms” as genuine.

Of course, many Americans will refuse to believe the truth. Many
will shake their heads and deny the reports of police repression in
Russia. But those who imagine that the Soviet camps are closed, that
the Gulag is a thing of the past, need to be splashed with a bucket of
cold water.

Several months ago I spoke with a former member of British parliament
who served on the human rights committee of the North Atlantic
Assembly. He was part of a delegation sent to witness the closing of
the “last” Soviet labor camp. He said that his delegation was given
nothing but a pack of excuses. They never saw any political prisoners
being released. They could not visit the camps. The Russians
complained of “administrative failures.” The Western delegation
couldn’t wait forever. Eventually the delegates went home. The closing
of the Gulag never happened. But the Western press had already reported
the event. That’s all the Kremlin wanted. Once the story appeared on
the front pages of the Western press, the matter would be dead forever.
The torture, the murder and the lies could continue without
consequence. There would be no economic sanctions, no embargoes, no
difficulties in acquiring new technology or industrial equipment from
America.

Most Americans have not read the literature of Russia’s prison
system. Most Americans know little about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s
three-volume work, “The Gulag Archipelago.” They do not know that
Russian inmates — called “zeks” — were crammed body-to-body into
freezing cattle cars transported thousands of miles, forced to soil
themselves because there were no toilets and few stops along the way.
American readers cannot imagine the taste of nettle leaf soup, or grass
porridge, or the nearly indigestible corn meal that is given to
prisoners. Americans don’t know that the floors of some KGB dungeons
are slippery with excrement, that prisoners often sleep with bed bugs on
straw sacks. Americans know nothing whatsoever of the freezing cold,
the lice, the kicks and punches of sadistic guards.

The Chinese system is equally brutal. Not as well known as the
Russian Gulag, the Chinese prison system is called “Laogai” — which
translates as “Reform Through Labor.” Even as I write these words, 20
million Chinese prisoners are suffering under unspeakable conditions
while Western businessmen make deals with the Beijing butchers.

The literature of the East is rich with the stories of survivors —
Chinese and Russian. Harry Wu, the most outspoken of the Chinese
dissidents, spent nearly 20 years in the Chinese Laogai. His books
include “Bitter Winds” and “Troublemaker.” The Russian poetess, Irina
Ratushinskaya, sentenced to seven years hard labor in 1983, wrote a book
entitled “Grey is the Color of Hope.” It is an emotionally gripping
book, filled with beauty and pain.

On my desk I have an old copy of Michael Solomon’s memoir,
“Magadan.” He was sentenced to 25 years hard labor in the Russian
Gulag. His book should be required reading for all American school
children. Why should it be required? Because the barbarism inflicted
on Solomon could be unleashed on America. In fact, we have allowed
totalitarians to sneak into our universities, to penetrate our
government and insinuate their prejudices into our media. Our people
need to be told the truth. They need to see the danger before it
engulfs them. Once totalitarianism takes hold there is no cure. It is
a disease that corrupts its victims so that no turning back is possible.

America needs to be educated. It needs to understand the planet we
are living on. We need to stop listening to senior idiots from the
Carnegie Endowment for National Suicide, and from the Clinton
administration, who keep telling us that Russia is a struggling
democracy. If we permit these lies and distortions to continue, then
our future might be, as George Orwell predicted, “a boot stamping on a
human face — forever.”

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