Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Examining Camp X-Ray

I'd like to understand the specifics of the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo. I have this sense that there is a type of imprisonment that amounts to torture. I think that U.S. prisons are mostly horrifying and unacceptable.

Of course, torture is notoriously hard to define in terms of its actions. Perhaps it has to be defined in terms of its goals.

The Amnesty International Statement

I am struck by Jeff Sessions claims to the effect that we cannot release these prisoners because they are prisoners of war. One doesn't release prisoners of war so that they can go back and kill your own troops. Jeff Sessions, "The Treatment of Prisoners at Guantanamo" They've 'only' been there about 3 years or so.**

The odd thing, of course, is that they are not being extended the Geneva conventions. So they are not prisoners of war. Nor are the criminals. They exist in the grey zone of the illegal combatant.

And, of course, the U.S. declared war on Afghanistan but not all the foreign nationals in Afghanistan were there to fight the U.S. Some got stuck there, some were there specifically to fight the U.S., some were there to be trained as terrorists, some were there to fight in the local struggle between Taliban and Northern Alliance. Etc. Well, we'd know more if we were allowed to know more but we are allowed to know very little about these prisoners and their circumstances.

A few others notable claims Sessions makes. (1) We've spent a lot of money on that prison. He seems to think this shows the prisoners must be getting humane treatment. That's absurd. (2) He claims the prisoners have been screened carefully so that we can be sure those left are 'the worst of the worst.' That could be true. If anyone was able to know the specific facts--if they were put on trial, for example, then we could be sure it was true. That's why we have trials. (3) 12 of those who were released were then rearrested as they attempted to engage in acts of terrorism. I've never heard that so I plan to do more research.

My own speculative view is that we put these prisoners there without much clear thinking and that it was somebody's very bad idea to refuse them the Geneva conventions. (Granted, there were some grounds for that because of the issue of illegal combatancy. But they should not have been allowed to carry the day.) Now they are a major public relations nightmare, they are in a position to become able spokespersons in their home countries for anti-U.S. sentiment. And trials are problematic because of their irregular treatment. (Which, I think, seems both cruel and demeaning.) However, I've been advised that some Afghan visitors did not find it cruel.

Afghans declare Gitmo conditions humane.

This is also interesting. These memos by the DoD about the Int'l Red Cross Visit state that the IRCC found the conditions at Guantanamo to be what the Geneva conventions require.

Memos Re: International Committee of the Red Cross. (The memos are written by Staff Judge Advocates and other Army lawyers.

I think my views of Guantanamo have been very influenced by the images of prisoners, the statements of lawyers and the fact that U.S. soldiers engaged in what is clearly cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners who really ARE under the Geneva Conventions.

Here's an example.

Lawyer for Australian citizen David Hicks.

Of all things, the U.N. report is the most damning.

U.N.: U.S. Tortures Guantanamo Detainees.

**(Irrelevant at the moment but in a few days going to explain the comfort that one can find in these statements of Republicans. They always seem to say what I wish were true.)


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