Posts Tagged ‘Torture’

“We Do Not Torture”

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

From the Miami Herald:

In a first, a military judge ruled on Tuesday that a Guantánamo detainee’s confession was extracted through torture, and excluded it from the trial of a young Afghan detainee at the war court.

Afghan police threatened the family of teenager Mohammed Jawad while he was undergoing interrogation at a Kabul police station, said Army Col. Stephen Henley, the judge, in a three-page ruling.

Jawad, now facing trial by military commission, is accused of throwing a grenade inside an Afghan bazaar in December 2002, which wounded two U.S. soldiers and their Afghan interpreter. None were killed.

Henley found in the ruling that there was reason to believe Jawad was under the influence of drugs at the time of his capture and forced confession.

He also accepted the accused’s account of how he was threatened, while armed senior Afghan officials allied with U.S. forces watched his interrogation.

”You will be killed if you do not confess to the grenade attack,” the detainee quoted an interrogator as saying. “We will arrest your family and kill them if you do not confess.’”

Counterproductive and damned.

U.S. Attitudes Toward Torture

Monday, September 15th, 2008

There have been many distressing political developments over the past seven years, but the one I find most upsetting is the acceptance of torture as a tool of the U.S. government. The Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan has an alarming post on the subject today. Evaluating the results of a World Public Opinion survey on torture, he writes:

A new survey of global public opinion [PDF] reveals the appalling truth. Americans are now among the people on earth most supportive of government’s torturing prisoners. The United States is in the same public opinion ballpark as some of the most disgusting regimes on the planet:

Support for the unequivocal position was highest in Spain (82%), Great Britain (82%) and France (82%), followed by Mexico (73%), China (66%), the Palestinian territories (66%), Poland (62%), Indonesia (61%), and the Ukraine (59%).   In five countries either modest majorities or pluralities support a ban on all torture:  Azerbaijan (54%), Egypt (54%), the United States (53%), Russia (49%), and Iran (43%).  South Koreans are divided.

So America’s peers in the fight against torture, in terms of public opinion are Azerbaijan, Egypt, Russia, and Iran. This is what America now is: a country with the moral values of countries that routinely torture and abuse prisoners, like Egypt and Iran. Even the Chinese, living in a neo-fascist market state, oppose torture in all circumstances by 66 percent, compared to Americans where only 53 percent do! More horrifying: a higher percentage of Americans – 13 percent – believe that torture should generally be allowed than in any other country save China, Turkey and Nigeria. And in the last two years, as the American president celebrates and authorizes the torture of people who have not been allowed a fair trail, support for torturing terror suspects has increased from 36 percent to 44 percent.

The only other countries where support for torturing terror suspects has grown are India, Nigeria, Turkey, South Korea and Egypt. In all other developed countries, support for an absolute ban on torture has actually risen in the past two years. America is now leading the way in legitimizing and celebrating torture as a legitimate tool for governments.

Released Detainee Recounts Guantanamo

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Jumah al Dossari has an op/ed piece, “I’m Home, but Still Haunted by Guantanamo,” in today’s Washington Post. In the article, he recounts his mistreatment while in U.S. custody, from the time he was imprisoned in Afghanistan to the day of his return to Saudi Arabia.

We were taken to Camp X-Ray, which consists of cages of the sort that would normally hold animals. Imprisoned in these cages, we were forbidden to move and sometimes forbidden to pray. Later, the guards allowed us to pray and even to turn around, but whenever new detainees arrived, we were again prohibited from doing anything but sitting still.

Physical brutality was not uncommon during those first years at Guantanamo. In Camp X-Ray, several soldiers once beat me so badly that I spent three days in intensive care. My face and body were still swollen and covered in bruises when I left the hospital. During one interrogation, my questioner, apparently dissatisfied with my answers, slammed my head against the table. During others, I was shackled to the floor for hours.

In later years, such physical assaults subsided, but they were replaced by something more painful: I was deprived of human contact. For several months, the military held me in solitary confinement after a suicide attempt. I had no clothes other than a pair of shorts and no bed but a dirty plastic mat. The air conditioner was on 24 hours a day; the cell’s cold metal walls made it feel as though I was living inside a freezer. There was no faucet, so I had to use the water in the toilet for drinking and washing.

I was transferred to the maximum-security Camp Five in May 2004. There I lived — if that word can be used — in a cell with cement walls. I was permitted to exercise once or twice a week; otherwise, I was alone in my cell at all times. I had nothing to occupy my mind except a Koran and some censored letters from my family. Interrogators told me that I would live like that for 50 years.

Hundreds of detainees received similar assurance that they would be imprisoned for the rest of their lives. Many, including al Dossari, attempted suicide during their time at Guantanamo. But despite the government’s assurances that these were terrorists—”the worst of the worst”—the majority have since been released.

All of these prisoners were brutalized by America’s fearfulness. We should familiarize ourselves with each of their stories in the hope that their undeserved misery will provide some small innoculation against torture and tyranny during our next crisis. This is what happens when you don’t care about what happens to people because they’re “bad.”

Immigrant in U.S. Custody Ignored to Death

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

What the hell is wrong with our country? From the New York Times:

 In April, Mr. Ng began complaining of excruciating back pain. By mid-July, he could no longer walk or stand. And last Wednesday, two days after his 34th birthday, he died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a Rhode Island hospital, his spine fractured and his body riddled with cancer that had gone undiagnosed and untreated for months

In federal court affidavits, Mr. Ng’s lawyers contend that when he complained of severe pain that did not respond to analgesics, and grew too weak to walk or even stand to call his family from a detention pay phone, officials accused him of faking his condition. They denied him a wheelchair and refused pleas for an independent medical evaluation.

Instead, the affidavits say, guards at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I., dragged him from his bed on July 30, carried him in shackles to a car, bruising his arms and legs, and drove him two hours to a federal lockup in Hartford, where an immigration officer pressured him to withdraw all pending appeals of his case and accept deportation.

A political party has seen fit to unleash our collective lizard brain for political gain. Many more monstrous things are sure to happen as a result.


Monday, July 28th, 2008

The most recent Taser victim? A 16-year-old in Missouri who’d fallen off a bridge, breaking his back. Upon arriving to the scene, police tasered him 19 times for lack of compliance.


Congressional Clowns

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post has today’s gut-punch article, “Let the Games Begin,” in which he compiles the ways that Republican Congressmen Steve King and Darrell Issa used parliamentary tactics to derail a Judiciary Committee hearing on torture architect (and “fucking stupidest guy on the planet,” according to General Tommy Franks) Doug Feith.


Our Diminished Democracy

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

In his White House Watch column for the Washington Post, Dan Froomkin does a good job of summing up the Bush administration’s disastrous response to September 11. In doing so, though, he also  summarizes how these actions reflect not just a response to difficult circumstances, but rather a conscious power grab on the part of Cheney and his advisors.

Froomkin’s daily column remains a valuable resource for following the misdeeds of the current administration. Every installment raises a painful question: why isn’t the media more interested in exposing this lawbreaking?


The Worst of the Worst?

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

The McClatchy newspaper group has done excellent independent reporting on the excesses and illegalities of the Bush administration. A recent series, Guantanamo: Beyond the Law, highlights the travesty of the United States’ Cuban-based detention center. As a comprehensive series of stories, interviews, photos and videos makes clear, many of the prisoners that have spent years detained in harsh conditions had little or no connection to terrorism. Many were instead turned over to U.S. forces for reward money or revenge for local slights.


Putting Out The Unwelcome Mat

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Blanche DuBois would have a tough time (well, an even tougher time) in modern America, as kindness to strangers doesn’t seem to be much of a motivating factor for anyone anymore. As the New York Times reports, an Italian man coming to the United States to visit his girlfriend received the common Customs response of being treated like a criminal for no reason:

But on April 29, when Mr. Salerno, 35, presented his passport at Washington Dulles International Airport, a Customs and Border Protection agent refused to let him into the United States. And after hours of questioning, agents would not let him travel back to Rome, either; over his protests in fractured English, he said, they insisted that he had expressed a fear of returning to Italy and had asked for asylum.

Ms. Cooper, 23, who had promised to show her boyfriend another side of her country on this visit — meaning Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon — eventually learned that he had been sent in shackles to a rural Virginia jail. And there he remained for more than 10 days, locked up without charges or legal recourse while Ms. Cooper, her parents and their well-connected neighbors tried everything to get him out.


An African Ordeal

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Paul Salopek has an amazing story, “Lost in the Sahel,” in the April issue of National Geographic. While traveling to the Darfur region of Sudan to write about the human rights crisis taking place there, he and his companions are captured by militia members.

Accused of being a spy, Salopek is beaten and detained by his government captors; it is only through persistent diplomacy that he and his companions are eventually released. The shock of his ordeal haunts the rest of the piece, which explores culture and deprivation throughout the Sahel, the strip of land bordering the souther edge of the Sahara.