Unlike McCain, who was tortured by the enemy while a prisoner of war, Bukovsky, a former Soviet citizen, was tortured by his own government. He was, you see, a "guest of the state" in prisons, political gulags and psychiatric hospitals for over a decade due to his nonviolent human rights activism.
He has a few thoughts on torture as a matter of public policy, which he shares with us in an op-ed in today's Washington Post.
(Warning for those of you with weak stomachs: the article contains a harrowing description of torture, under the guise of "medical treatment"--brutal force-feeding--inflicted on Bukovsky after he went on a hunger strike. You've been warned.)
Here's an excerpt:
If America's leaders want to hunt terrorists while transforming dictatorships into democracies, they must recognize that torture, which includes [cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment], has historically been an instrument of oppression -- not an instrument of investigation or of intelligence gathering. No country needs to invent how to "legalize" torture; the problem is rather how to stop it from happening. If it isn't stopped, torture will destroy your nation's important strategy to develop democracy in the Middle East. And if you cynically outsource torture to contractors and foreign agents, how can you possibly be surprised if an 18-year-old in the Middle East casts a jaundiced eye toward your reform efforts there?Torture's Long Shadow (Vladimir Bukovsky, Washington Post, Dec 18 2005)
Finally, think what effect your attitude has on the rest of the world, particularly in the countries where torture is still common, such as Russia, and where its citizens are still trying to combat it. Mr. Putin will be the first to say: "You see, even your vaunted American democracy cannot defend itself without resorting to torture. . . . "
Off we go, back to the caves.
- Biography of Vladimir Bukovsky (at The Gratitude Fund)
- "The Soviet Archives" (compiled by V. Bukovsky) at INFO-RUSS
- Conservatives Debate: Is the Threat of Islamic Terrorism More Dangerous to America than Communism Was? (Vladimir Bukovsky, Daniel Pipes, Paul Hollander and Michael Ledeen) - History News Network
...which includes this highly quotable gem of an observation from Bukovsky: "The West’s response to radical Islam is as bad as it was to the communist challenge. Essentially, this is because the West is poorly suited to fight ideological war of any kind. It always fights itself more than it fights the enemy. It cannot define the goals and the means, the nature of the threat, a coherent strategy to deal with it, possible consequences and inevitable sacrifices. In short, the West is not terribly good at fighting wars as such, least of all the ideological ones."
- An Open Letter to President G.W. Bush (Vladimir Bukovsky and Elena Bonner, 2003)