Saturday, November 05, 2005

More on the ‘Polish gulags’

Polish officials deny existence of camps, but say that planes did land (pictured: Szymany airstrip?)

Human Rights Watch’s accusations (see previous two posts) that secret camps in Poland are holding terror suspects on behalf of the CIA have been denied by the Polish government. But they are not disputing that planes on route to Guantanamo Bay from Afghanistan did touch down in Poland. AP reports:

Polish authorities…confirmed Friday that a plane carrying Americans touched down at a little-used airport on the day when, a human rights group says, flight logs indicate that a C.I.A. aircraft landed there. Airport officials and border guards said that on Sept. 22, 2003, a Boeing passenger plane carrying seven people with United States passports touched down at midnight at Szczytno-Szymany Airport, a former military base in the northeastern pine forests. Szczytno-Szymany is not an operating airport, but planes may land if arrangements are made in advance.

The 737 – which was on the runway for about an hour - took on five other people traveling on United States passports with business visas attached.

AP reports that a former director of the airport, Mariola Przewloczka, says that the occupants inside the plane did not get off, but guards went out and boarded the 737.

HRW’s evidence is not just from flight logs, which they claim to have seen. The NGO says that it has matched the records with information gained from interviews with detainees at US camps.

The Red Cross expressed concern “at the fate of an unknown number of people captured as part of the so-called global war on terror,” whom, it said, were held at undisclosed places of detention.

In the US – where Bush’s approval ratings have hit an all-time low due to Republican in-house scandals, the war in Iraq, and incompetence in the aftermath of the hurricanes which lashed New Orleans and other parts of the southeast – is under yet more pressure because of the ‘Polish gulag’ allegations.

On the Australian ABC television’s Four Corners programme, David Hicks –who was an inmate at Guantanamo Bay - claimed that he had been taken to one of these ‘black sites’ prisons, but didn’t know where it was.

Washington has refused to say whether these camps exist or not.

If the allegations turn out to be true then Poland will be in a particularly difficult position politically, as this would contravene EU and human rights agreements which it has signed.


gumish said...

beatroot - poor poor poor journalism or some strange bias - this is definitely not Szymany airstrip - demand your explanation

beatroot said...

It says that on the photo page I got it from...

beatroot said...

I went and looked for photos of szymany again, and that picture keeps coming up. I have put a question mark by the caption, though.

And anyway, what's 'strange' about my biases...?(though I am not pretending I don't have biases...this is a blog, not gazeta...

gumish said...

sorry beatroot I could have been more forgiving - this is the website of Szymany airport:

my good advice - read before you post - a report you included in this article says the airstrip is little-used and even not operating (there are no regular flights there), another bit says it is located in pine forests and was formerly a military air-base - does it all fit the picture you posted?
Check your sources more carefully :)

You could also have put your own oppinion on the possibility of existence of such 'gulags' in Poland, putting it also in some reliable background.

As for the bias I have mentioned - putting a wrong picture deliberately would have been quite a strange bias to me in this case :)

I know foreigners know not that much about Poland and I can understand a sense of superiority they feel about Poles but sometimes it seems to me educated Brittons or Americans are far more naive than Poles. I would just mention Becca :)

Becca said...

Interesting sterotype of foreigners as naive coupled with a sense of superiority.

I'm sure you're grateful for the journalistic advice Beatroot. I agreee, it's good to read before you post... own opinions... reliable background. Useful stuff, thanks gumish.

beatroot said...

Gumish. If you ever, ever, make personal remarks about anyone again on my blog then I am just going to delete them. So don't bother.

And since you are so full of advise about my 'journalism' - and I must remind you that blogging is not journalism - then please can you direct me to something that you have done journalically. A link to one of your four acronym for pleasure sites says that there is no such URL.

Anonymous comments are just chicken shit.

StefanMichnik said...

Maybe I missed something but I can't find any comments of European Comission spokeperson on the situation in France. Will the Comission monitor the situation in this country and when it will be needed deprive Paris its votes in the Council?

We, citiziens of the United Europe warlmy welcomed Mr. spokeperson's wise remarks on mounting problems with violation of the basic human rights in Poland. Of course one cannot compare this wild, backwarded, Catholic Poles with the mother of enlightment - Republique Francaise - situation at Vistula river's banks is of course far worse! But remark on France would be needed!

beatroot said...

You are right, Mr Michnik, the EU has said nothig about France burning, but it has lots to say about many Polish politicians being immature bigots.

And note to Gumish: If you look back at the comments in this blog then you will see that people like Mr Michnik do not like some of my opinions.

But he does is it in a way that debates ideas...and he is never personally insulting. And that is why he is always welcome on my blog.

But if anyone wants to make personal comments, then please sod off to another blog.

StefanMichnik said...

Churches are burning in France...But of course it is a minor issue in comparsion with Polish - how did you put it - "immature bigots".

Or maybe burning churches are a symptom of a new enlightened European humanism?:)

And if we talk about bigots, secular state and so one - I bet that even a small city or village in Poland is "Amsterdam" when it comes to tolerance to homosexuals in comparison to French, Italian, German, Bristish Spanis muslim subburbs....The reason for this is that the west is not able to defend even its own values. And it will be punished severly for its weakness.

beatroot said...

"The reason for this is that the west is not able to defend even its own values."

I agree with that, one hundred percent. The rise of religious extremism is not because of any strength in religion, but a relativism in the west and a loss of faith in enlightenment values.

Hans said...

Mr. Michnik, do you have suburbs in Poland ?

beatroot said...

Hans...that was a bit cryptic...what do you mean? Sorry if I am being a bit dim...

Hans said...

have you got banlieues in Poland filled with 3rd generation immigrants ? If not, what makes you think you might be better equipped in the future than e.g. France to handle this ? Don't tell me you will close the borders ;-)

beatroot said...

I see what you mean now, Hans. So, you are suggesting that Poland would not cope any better than France at the moment.

Poland - since 1945 - is virtually monoethnic, with 95% claiming to belong to the catholic church. It wasn't always like that - in fact, Poland was once one of the most multicultural places in Europe. Sadly, no more.

But there are some black people - mostly from Africa - here and some muslims - mostly from Syria, Turkey... There are many physical attacks on blacks..something that is not reported often in the press, and an issue we will be dealing with on the beatroot in the not too distant future.

michael farris said...

A couple points.
he 95% catholic figure is IMHO wildly overrated (a topic I should get to someday over at my rundown place).

Also, I'd say the physical infrastructure of Poland makes french/italian style ghettos pretty unlikely. The kinds of housing estates that poorly assimilating (or non-assimilating) immigrants live in in France are still full of Poles and likely to be so for a good long time yet. The housing market has broadened a lot in the last few years, but there's still a housing shortage. Immigrants (still a small group) who want to live near each other find it hard, the available apartments just aren't that close to each other yet.

As for immigrants, the numbers are a lot smaller than in western europe for obvious reasons (smaller economy, no safety net). The largest group I think are those from ex-Soviet countries and they usually assimilate very fast and all but disappear as a distinct group within a generation or so.

The great majority of Muslim immigrants in Poland are either former university students and/or small businessmen who are on the whole pretty secular. I'm not aware of them living in large numbers around each other.

Another large group (comparitively speaking and maybe not as large as before) are the Vietnamese, but they keep as low a profile as possible. They often do seek housing close to other Vietnamese (in warsaw a lot live in the accordeons on grzybowska) but they also assimilate pretty rapidly (Vietnamese children in Poland speak Vietnamese with their parents but Polish with their siblings).

Blacks in Poland are also mostly current or former university students (maybe some other kinds in Warsaw). Attacks aren't uncommon (more in some parts of Poland than others, where I live is I think considered one of the safer cities).

Gustav said...

I believe the Vietnamese are the biggest minority in Warsaw.

And they DO tend to stick together. And I don't know if they assimilate because they're just there. I hardly see them mingling, associating, or even interacting with anybody other than each other. They seem to be out in the city during the day, or manning their stands near Hala Mirowska or whatever, but then they go away. I see them everywhere, but I've probably only talked to one or two in all my time here.

And honestly, that scares me. Despite the fact that their children may speak Polish, I think the populist crowd, which reared its ugly head in the recent elections and which will grow stronger as it is pandered to by the buffoons in the current government, may feel empowered and justified to start violence towards this very un-Polish-looking yet prevalent minority. Their isolation may not be the best way to engender understanding.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming the Vietnamese - I think the distinct "Polishness" of just about everyone here is very threatening. I'm fortunate that I'm white, and could pass for Polish. The Vietnamese look clearly different, and with all of the discriminations they endure, it's easy to understand why they find it more comfortable not to mix. But it's unfortunate.

michael farris said...

gustav, the degree to which Vietnamese mix is a complicated question. On the one hand, there's a cultural desire to take care of in-group business entirely in-group.
On the other hand, the "isolation" is not entirely desired, IME they're quite open to the idea of mixing more in Polish society if more Polish people would just cooperate.
On the other hand, the adults' working hours are insane and they don't have so much free time (unlike Polish people, the Vietnamese have a compulsive desire to Keep Busy).

Like all immigrant groups, the adults assimilate less than the children (a matter of concern for parents of teenage daughters ...) I'd be interested to see how the kids do or do not mix in school but don't have access to that particular milieu.

Another contributing factor has been Polish academia's disinterest in Vietnamese (Asian studies in Poland mostly begin and end with Chinese and Japanese) and Polish universities disdain the practically motivated. You'd think the influx of Vietnamese in the 90's would motivate universities to ramp up Vietnamese studies but that was prevented more than once (my being 'out' here limits what I can say...).

This has meant that there are _very_ few "experts" to call on in interpreting them for the rest of society (a necessity in Poland, where the expert is King). I will say though (trumpets, confetti) I've helped in my small way in establishing the first Vietnamese major in a Polish university (though ironically enough in Poznań where there are very few Vietnamese). I'll also say the Warsaw Vietnamese business community has also been very supportive of us so far. It may not be much yet, but it's a start.

The recent antics of PiS though are a cause for concern, not so much from PiS itself but from its enabling behavior toward far worse parties. The only party currently in Polish politics that scares me is LPR and I keep hoping they'll implode (the recent nazi kerfuffle with their youth auxiliary certainly helps).

Bassizzzt said...

Interesting blog topic here.

I know for a fact that Radomskie, a town in Poland, hosts a US holding facility for terrorists. Technically, it is comprised of four separate locations there.

That picture of the airport - not sure. Is there an airport near Radmoskie that looks like this?

I have a friend who specializes in guard duty assignments for the operations in Radomskie Poland and also for others in Eastern Europe.

beatroot said...

Are you serious? There is 'black site' camp holding 'terror suspects'?Radomskie ,

gumish said...

Well I definitely was a bit into fight and I have already forgiven myself for that. Yes I could have been far more understanding and shown much more goodwill. I'm sorry.
I have some strong feelings about manipulation to explain myself a little.
As for the comment about Becca - well one is generally as stupid as one thinks of others - so I hope to get wiser. Sorry Becca.

btw there is no such town as Radomskie - Radomskie is a region around the town of Radom or former district of Radom. there is a town called Radomsko not far from Czestochowa. As far as I know there is no air base around Radomsko but there may be some around Radom i suppose. There are topographical 1:200 000 maps issued by Military Cartographic Editing Company that include all polish air bases. You just need to find ones that cover Radom area.

beatroot thank you for trying to be objective about polish affairs.
This is responsibility to pass judgements but I think journalists have some other responsibility as well - to speak out when someone is lying or trying to manipulate.

my name is Daniel Buszyński...

and Stefan Michnik is a name of a stalinist era prosecutor who lives in Sweden now, a brother of Adam Michnik as far as I know.

I may be wrong about the Radomsko and military airfield

another PS - some interesting points to consider for disbelievers of global plots and conspiracy theories are to be found in Anatoliy Golitsyn case. Use google for a start.

beatroot said...

Hi Daniel

Thanks for that. Hope you drop by again.

Anonymous said...

If the attacks on Blacks are not reported in the mainstream press, from what source are you getting this information? I'd like to read this information. I'm Black and have been contemplating visiting Poland due to the recent discovery of Polish ancestry, but I've heard differing reports about safety there. I'm planning to visit Podlasie and Krakow where my ancestors lived. Should I be concerned?

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