Wednesday, December 10, 2008

If you think providing the State virtually unlimited power over individuals is permissable...

.... then you haven't been paying attention to what the State is doing with that power.

Bruce Fein [via AWC] has the lowdown on the prisoners at Gitmo, many of whom were never really security risks in the first place. Here is a snippet, but to be convinced you need to read the whole thing:

But let facts be submitted to a candid audience. Approximately 780 suspected enemy combatants have been detained at Guantanamo Bay since 2001. More than 500 have been voluntarily released....

In 2006, the Associated Press located 245 of the freed detainees. Of that number, 205 had been released without charge or exonerated of charges related to their Guantanamo detentions. The AP report elaborated: "Only a tiny fraction of transferred detainees have been put on trial. The AP identified 14 trials, in which eight men were acquitted and six are awaiting verdict. ... The Afghan government has freed every one of the more than 83 Afghans sent home. ... At least 67 of 70 repatriated Pakistanis are free after spending a year in Adiala Jail. A senior Pakistani Interior Ministry official said investigators determined that most had been 'sold' for bounties to U.S. forces by Afghan warlords who invented links between the men and Al Qaeda. ... All 29 detainees who were repatriated to Britain, Spain, Germany, Russia, Australia, Turkey, Denmark, Bahrain and the Maldives were freed, some within hours after being sent home for 'continued detention.' "

The United States has conceded that 17 Uighurs, whose detentions continue at Guantanamo Bay after seven years, are not enemy combatants and pose no danger to the United States. Conservative U.S. District Judge Richard Leon recently ordered the release for lack of evidence of five Algerian detainees held at Guantanamo since January 2002 after capture in Bosnia.

Maj. Gen. Michael Dunleavy, the leading military commander at Guantanamo opined one year after Sept. 11, 2001, that up to 50 percent of the detainees were mistakes, including mental cases and a few teenagers.

Then there is the little matter of torture by other means than waterboarding, especially at our franchised detention facilities in other countries, which comes here thanks to Waldo [and nobody I can think of is laughing this time, old friend]:

On the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights musicians are uniting against the use of music to torture by joining The Zero dB project (zero decibels = silence) was launched today by legal charity Reprieve which represents over 30 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Many of Reprieve’s clients - and hundreds more held in US secret prisons across the world - have been subjected to deafening music played for hours, days and often months on end in order to ‘break’ them.

Zero dB aims to stop torture music by encouraging widespread condemnation of the practice and by calling on governments and the UN to uphold and enforce the Convention Against Torture and other relevant treaties.

Zero dB is backed by the Musicians Union which is calling on British musicians to voice their outrage against the use of music to torture.

The UN and the European Court of Human Rights have banned the use of loud music in interrogations, but it is still being widely used. Prisoners describe the experience as harder to bear even than physical torture.

Reprieve’s client Binyam Mohamed from North London - still held in Guantanamo Bay - suffered 18 months of torture in a Moroccan secret prison. During this time his penis was routinely slashed with razor blades, yet he describes the sensation of feeling his sanity slip during psychological torture as even more horrific. He spoke to Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith, his lawyer, in Guantánamo Bay:

“They hung me up. I was allowed a few hours of sleep on the second day, then hung up again, this time for two days. My legs had swollen. My wrists and hands had gone numb.... There was loud music, [Eminem’s] ‘Slim Shady’ and Dr. Dre for 20 days.... The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night.... Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off.”

Here's the thing: the defense that Dubya did it, or that only conservatives did it, or that only crazed CIA operatives did it, will not hold water in the light of history.

We did it. The U-f**king-nited States of America did it. There were plenty of Ordinary Americans willing to uncritically accept the fact that all those damn muslim ragheads had to be guilty about something that there were enough people ready to torture our enemies. As for the rest of us--including me!--what the hell did we do but whine occasionally on a blog? What did we really do? Did millions of letters pour in to our representatives? Did we muster the courage to talk about it around the water cooler.

What did you say when somebody said to you, "Those are terrorists down there, they don't have rights, feed 'em pork, goddamnit."

And for those of you who want to play the equivalence card with the supposedly worse abuses conducted by FDR and Lincoln, bring it on--but try to do so with some real facts. Find me officially sanctioned torture.

And when you do, try to figure out how to explain exactly why our ancestors failure to stop bad deeds in the name of our country is anything other than a challenge to us to do better.

This is the Libertarian answer: no politician, no military leader, no bureaucrat, and no State can be entrusted with the power to torture.

Two footnotes for those interested in utilitarian arguments who don't give a damn about the morality of the issue:

1) The "ticking bomb" scenario [or just about any scene from "24"]: curiously enough, there's not a shred of available evidence that any prisoner incarcerated at Gitmo or the rest of our pleasure palaces has ever had time-sensitive operational intelligence, nor is there any professional literature that suggests torture is an effective method of getting such information out of suspects.

2) The old "they ain't Americans, goddamnit, they got no rights." Do yourself a favor and check the 14th Amendment, especially this sentence: "nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Note for the record that earlier clauses in the 14th Amendment had used the word citizen and not the word person, which makes the change appear intentional. This means that the 14th Amendment explicitly does not limit due process protections to American citizens, as uncomfortable a concept as that may be for some folks to grasp.

1 comment:

Waldo said...

The whole point of American exceptionalism should be that we treat people better than the norm, better than we must, because we are just better people ourselves. We ARE the shining city on a hill. We used to not even contemplating to the tawdry tactic of less developed nations Now we subcontract them to do our dirty work for us. It's the free market after all.