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Scattered Ruins of the Lost Empire


Good article on the escape from an Afghani prison of four members of Al-Qaeda. Addicted to secrecy, the Bush administration has of course not been as forthcoming as a reasonable person might expect. This is what fascinated me, though:

At the time, several officials said, construction crews had been working to expand and reinforce the prison, a cavernous aircraft machine-shop built by the Soviet military during its occupation of Afghanistan and converted by the American military into its primary screening center for terror suspects captured overseas. The breakout took place only days before a series of tougher security measures, including surveillance cameras and brighter lighting, were to be put in place.

Why does it seem that so much of the infrastructure of the War on Terror is built on the ruins of the Soviet empire? Air bases in Central Asia, secret prisons in Eastern Europe, Soviet financed prisons in Iraq, Soviet trained torturers in countries around the world, and old Soviet bases in Afghanistan. There’s certainly no intentionality to it, and I don’t doubt that each decision to use an old Soviet facility can be justified on its own merits. Nevertheless, it is fascinating and disturbing that the United States seems so ready and able to pick up and dust off the rusty tools of Soviet imperialism.

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