You Wouldn’t Do This To A Dog

November 17, 2008 at 9:42 pm | Posted in Office of the President, torture | Leave a comment
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Our Government — we — have been doing things to people you wouldn’t do to a dog. It’s long past time that it stopped. And that we acknowledge and apologize for — and punish — the horrendous crimes committed and failure to comply with the rule of law and — let’s face it — common human decency.

Lots of people have posted a quote from Judge Wald who wrote the intro to the report titled “Guantanamo and Its Aftermath, US detention and interrogation practices and their impact on former detainees,” issued by The Human Rights Center of the University of California, but I thought I would lay it out a little more thoroughly, because it’s been a sore bone in my craw for a long time now.

The report lays out in gruesome detail what we have done — the different ways we have tortured other human beings, mentally and physically, over a long period of time — “many of whom government officials believe were imprisoned in error.”

That’s some fucking error.

The intensive study conducted between July 2007 and July 2008, in which 62 former detainees held without trial in Afghanistan and Guantánamo were interviewed, was intended to “record the experiences of these men, assess their treatment in detention, and explore how the conditions of their incarceration affected their subsequent reintegration with their families and communities.”

Researchers also interviewed 50 former and current US government officials, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, attorneys representing detainees, and former US military and civilian personnel stationed in Guantánamo or at detention facilities in Afghanistan, comparing what what they learned from the 112 interviews to what was reported in the media about former Guantánamo detainees as well as Department of Defense documents, reports by the US government and independent organizations.

The conclusion reached is that there are “serious flaws in the system created by the Bush Administration for the apprehension, detention, interrogation, and release of suspected members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda taken into U.S. custody since the attacks of September 11, 2001.”

Well, duh.

“One of the most egregious aspects of this system was a series of high-level directives issued between September 2001 and April 2003 authorizing the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Many of these interrogation methods—whether used individually or simultaneously over prolonged periods of time—appear to have violated international and domestic prohibitions on torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.”

Double duh.

The recommendation is for the “establishment of an independent, non-partisan commission to investigate and publicly report on the detention and treatment of detainees held in U.S. custody in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantánamo Bay, and other locations since the attacks of September 11, 2001.”

Are you grinding your teeth? I’d like to just move straight to the War Crimes Trials.

But the grownups who wrote the report recommend that the commission, “armed with subpoena power, [have] full access to classified material, and the power to determine whether further criminal investigations of those allegedly responsible are warranted, [that] the work of the commission must not be limited by the grant of pardons or other shields from accountability [and that] [t]he focus of such a commission should be retrospective — to determine what went wrong and why and who was responsible — as well as prospective — to recommend new polices and best practices for screening, detaining, and interrogating those who pose a serious threat to the nation’s security.”

I could get behind that, slow a process as it might be, because how you get there can be as important as where you ultimately arrive.

The report lays out areas of investigation for said commission which include but are not limited to:

1) The lawfulness, appropriateness and/or effectiveness of procedures, if any, used in the screening of suspected “unlawful enemy combatants.”

2) The use of monetary bounties and what effect the decision not to apply the Geneva Conventions had on apprehension and screening of “detainees,” many of whom had no connection to Al Qaeda or the Taliban but were simply swept up. And whether laws were broken.

3) What was going on with the treatment of the detainees, how did the decision not to apply the pesky old Geneva Conventions contribute to what Americans were doing to these prisoners (many whose only “crime” is having been in the wrong place at the wrong time), what was the role of medical and psychological personnel in all of this, and how much and why interrogators were “deviating” from “the ‘golden rule’ standard articulated in the Army Field Manual which states that no interrogator should use a technique that the interrogator would not want used on a US soldier.” And whether laws were broken.

4) Determine the actual responsibilities of civilian and military officials in creating programs of “abusive treatment including torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” since September 20, 2001 when President Bush declared “war on terror!” And what laws were broken.

5) No compensation has been given to anybody we have tortured and falsely imprisoned. Most have returned to shattered lives — homes, businesses and families gone, and in some cases, believed to be spies for the Americans, they are treated as pariahs in their former communities. Few are able to find work. They all continue to be haunted by what they endured. The report recommends we examine more closely what has happened to the people who have been released and ask what can/should we do to compensate those treated so heinously, suggesting that the commission “make recommendations for further criminal investigation of those responsible for any crimes at all levels of the chains of command.”

I have not included here the gruesome details of the report. I recommend you go read it yourselves. I guarantee it will make your hair stand up and your stomach flip.

Supporters of the anything-goes mentality of the “war on terror” justify these actions by repeating ad nauseam that “our enemies” intend “to destroy our way of life.” They themselves have done more to “destroy our way of life” than any “enemy” ever could.

It is past time that we decide whether we are content to abandon our founding principles — that all people are created equal, that we each have an inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that no person may be imprisoned without due cause and that each person has a right to challenge that imprisonment. At the very least.

Not “each American.”

“Each person.”

There is not a lot us “regular folk” can do. But we can pick up our phones or write a letter or a postcard. Let your Senators and your Congress people know that you want accountability and you want torture of human beings to be finally, once and for all, recognized as illegal and that anyone engaging in such behavior should be prosecuted and harshly punished.

There is no excuse. You wouldn’t do this to a dog.

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