December 19, 2004

Insane difference

I was reading a review of Anna Politkovskaya's book Putin's Russia containing the following passage:
For old Soviet specialists, there is the surreal re-emergence of the Serbski institute of psychiatry and Dr Pechernikova. She was notorious for putting away anti-Soviet dissidents in the 1960s and 1970s for "schizophrenia"; in other words, being mad enough to question the regime. Thirty years later she pops up, again doing her duty for the authorities by examining an army officer accused of the rape and murder of a 15-year-old Chechen girl. To the public delight of the military hierarchy, he was diagnosed by the good doctor as having had "a temporary mental breakdown" that night.
I couldn't help thinking, in the week of David Blunkett's resignation and the subsequent verdict of the Law Lords, that we just lost a Home Secretary whose major achievement has been to lock people up in Belmarsh Prison without charge or trial and with the outcome that four of them - so far - have lost their sanity.

I wonder. Who do I think the winner in this particular sprint towards the ethical basement? Is it she who locks people up and claims that they are mad? Or he who locks them up until they are?


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