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Inhumanity
http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?itemid=18186

Molly Ivins
Creators Syndicate
12.02.04

Is this American?
Ongoing Guantanamo torture has nation in denial


AUSTIN -- It is both peculiar and chilling to find oneself discussing the problem of American torture. I have considered support of basic human rights and dignity so much a part of our national identity that this feels as strange as though I'd suddenly become Chinese or found Fidel Castro in the refrigerator.

One's first response to the report by the International Red Cross about torture at our prison at Guantanamo is denial. "I don't want to think about it; I don't want to hear about it; we're the good guys, they're the bad guys; shut up. And besides, they attacked us first."

But our country has opposed torture since its founding. One of our founding principles is that cruel and unusual punishment is both illegal and wrong. Every year, our State Department issues a report grading other countries on their support for or violations of human rights.

The first requirement here is that we look at what we are doing -- and not blink, not use euphemisms. Despite the Red Cross' polite language, this is not "tantamount to torture." It's torture. It is not "detainee abuse." It's torture. If they were doing it to you, you would know it was torture. It must be hidden away, because it's happening in Cuba or elsewhere abroad.

Yes, it's true, we did sort of know this already. It was clear when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in Iraq that the infection had come from Guantanamo. The infamous memos by Alberto Gonzales, our next attorney general, and by John Ashcroft's "Justice" Department pretty well laid it out.

In a way, Abu Ghraib, as bizarrely sadistic as it was, is easier to understand than this cold, relentless and apparently endless procedure at Gitmo. At least Abu Ghraib took place in the context of war. At Guantanamo, there is no threat to anyone -- Americans are not being killed or hurt there.

The Red Cross report says, "The construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment, and a form of torture."

Our country, the one you and I are responsible for, has imprisoned these "illegal combatants" for three years now. What the hell else do we expect to get out of them? We don't even release their names or say what they're charged with -- whether they're Taliban, Al Qaeda or just some farmers who happened to get in the way (in Afghanistan, farmers and soldiers are apt to be the same).

If this hasn't been established in three years, when will it be? How long are they to be subjected to "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions"?

In the name of Jesus Christ Almighty, why are people representing our government, paid by us, writing filth on the Korans of helpless prisoners? Is this American? Is it Christian? What are our moral values? Where are the clergymen on this? Speak out, speak up.

The creepiest aspect of the Red Cross report is the involvement of doctors and psychiatrists in something called "Biscuit" teams. Get used to that acronym: It stands for Behavioral Science Consultation Team and will end up in the same category of national shame as Wounded Knee. According to The New York Times, Biscuit teams are "composed of psychologists and psychological workers who advise the interrogators." Shades of Dr. Mengele.

An earlier Red Cross report questioned whether "psychological torture" was taking place. I guess that's what you call sleep deprivation and prolonged exposure to extremely loud noises while shackled to a chair. The beatings reported would not be psychological torture. I pass over the apparently abandoned practice of sexual taunting. The Red Cross also reports a far greater incidence of mental illness caused by stress.

If you have neither the imagination nor the empathy to envision yourself in such circumstances, please consider why the senior commanders in the military are so horrified by this. It's very simple. Because, if we do this, if we break international law and the conventions of warfare, then the same thing can be done to American soldiers who are captured abroad. Any country can use exactly the same lame rationale about "enemy combatants" to torture American troops in any kind of conflict. Then we would protest to the Red Cross, of course.

I suppose one could argue that we're fighting people who chop off the heads of their prisoners, so there. Since when have we taken up Abu al-Zarqawi as a role model? In the famous hypothetical example, you might consider torture justified if you had a terrorist who knew where a bomb was planted that was about to go off. But three years later? Some people have got to be held accountable for this, and that would include Congress.

My question is: What are you going to do about this? It's your country, your money, your government. You own it, you run it, you are the board of directors. They are doing this in your name. The people we elect to public office do what you want them to. Perhaps you should get in touch with them.
____________________________________________________________

If I were an American I'd be outraged about this but since Im not I'll contend to a cynical reminder in form of a U-P post. I guess the neo-cons forgot that democracy entails a bit more than holding elections every 4 years.. do as we say, don't do as we do and what not..
Inhumanity
Lol... seems everyone is at loss for words..

And in related news: Donald "I take full responsibility of Abu Ghraib" Rumsfeld is taking responsibility of his draconian policies by accepting the post of defence secretary in Dubyas II govt too. What a farce..
Russian
frankly, morality aside, i would say the majority of americans would want those people to undergo some sort of 'torture'.
Russian
but to make this thread interesting, i would like to point out that al-queda members do not have geneva convention protection.

QUOTE
When rules go out the window and near-torture is self-defence
December 7, 2004

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Al-Qaeda fights outside the Geneva Conventions and so is not protected by them, writes Ted Lapkin.

To borrow from Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, the International Committee of the Red Cross is like any other human rights group, only more so.

For all its public image of impartiality, the Red Cross can play hardball politics with the best of them when it sees fit.

The leaked Red Cross report that accuses the United States of maltreating al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees must be read with a critical eye. According to The New York Times, the Red Cross complained that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were subjected to "solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions".

While certainly unpleasant, do such practices really meet the legal definition of torture? It seems that even the Red Cross has its doubts, hence its use of the term "tantamount to torture" in its leaked report.

The United Nations Convention against Torture defines torture rather narrowly, describing it as the intentional infliction of "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental" for political or military reasons. It is questionable whether measures cited in the leaked document would meet the "severe pain or suffering" standard.

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AdvertisementIt is true that article 16 of the convention requires that states which are party to it "shall undertake to prevent" lesser acts "of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment". But international legal language is precise. An obligation to "undertake to prevent" is not the same as an absolute prohibition.

While lesser categories of coercion should not be routine, they should be available to intelligence authorities in case of a classic "ticking bomb" scenario. If inflicting mild discomfort on a captured al-Qaeda operative could prevent a mass-casualty terrorist attack, would that be a greater offence against morality than allowing the slaughter of innocents to proceed?

The Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War goes well beyond the convention against torture to impose a blanket prohibition on any sort of pressure during questioning. In fact, the Geneva Convention imposes such severe limitations on interrogators that it would outlaw routine investigative procedures used every day by Australian police.

But that point is really academic, because the text of the conventions makes them inapplicable to the conflict with al-Qaeda. Human rights advocacy groups may not like it, but the letter of international law is not always consistent with their political agendas.

These are not simply hypothetical dilemmas that are the stuff of law school classrooms or philosophy seminars. We live in a time when these are real-world questions with real-world consequences. A case in point: last July, when the Chicago Tribune reported that "recent information from Guantanamo has derailed plans for attacks during the Athens Olympics next month and possibly forestalled at least a dozen attacks elsewhere".

The laws of war essentially propose a contract to combatants: if you observe these rules of civilised warfare, then you will be treated in a civilised manner. The conditional nature of legitimate combatant status is reflected in the text of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. A common article two of those conventions states that parties to the treaty are under no legal obligation to apply their terms to non-parties who do not themselves abide by the law of armed conflict.

The men detained at Guantanamo were captured on the battlefield while fighting for organisations that systematically violated the most basic tenets of the law of war. Captured al-Qaeda fighters were drawn from the ranks of an organisation that sees the deliberate destruction of women, children and the elderly as a legitimate tactic. From flying hijacked airliners into office buildings to bombing commuter trains in Madrid, Osama bin Laden's minions have committed every war crime on the books.

The Taliban were also serial transgressors against the law of war. At a press conference in early 2002, the US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, explained why Washington declined to recognise Taliban fighters as legal combatants: "The Taliban did not wear distinctive signs, insignias, symbols or uniforms ... To the contrary, far from seeking to distinguish themselves from the civilian population of Afghanistan, they sought to blend in with civilian non-combatants, hiding in mosques and populated areas. They [were] not organised in military units, as such, with identifiable chains of command; indeed, al-Qaeda forces made up portions of their forces."

The Guantanamo Bay detainees are illegal combatants whose actions placed them beyond the pale of international law. To afford them the privileges and protections of the Geneva Conventions, despite their crimes, would provide reward where retribution is warranted.

If the task of preventing the next September 11 requires that al-Qaeda captives at Guantanamo Bay be denied their full eight hours of slumber, I certainly won't lose any sleep over it.


link
Gengari
Why would you want to prevent a september eleventh?

I mean, stopping time is nice and all, but it getbs boring...

[/bad joke about the phrase "september eleventh" being used to represent any sort of major terrorist attack because they're trying to cause more impact by using emotive language]
Gengari
QUOTE(Russian @ Dec 5 2004, 10:46 AM)
frankly, morality aside, i would say the majority of americans would want those people to undergo some sort of 'torture'.


That's quite alright, the majority of americans are morons.
zkajan
QUOTE(Russian @ Dec 6 2004, 09:07 AM)
but to make this thread interesting, i would like to point out that al-queda members do not have geneva convention protection.
link


except some of these may not be alqueda or taliban, just random guys that happened to be at wrong place at wrong time
how would anyone know? there is no trial or anything
Russian
zkajan -> it would come out in the interrogations. Already the US released dozens of afghans, and sent them back home. Guantanamo isnt a prison its a interrogation facility.
Inhumanity
That opinion piece Russian posted is the greatest load of steaming bullshit I have read in a while. And sadly the same flimsy excuses and aversive rhetoric have been adopted the US officials.

Geneva conventions or no, basic human right are not dependent on whether you are recognised as an "official" combatant by the invading foreign power or not. It stems from the fact that you're a human being and as such have certain rights.

The reasoning that al-Qaeda and Taleban do not respect human rights and therefore members of those organisations do not deserve proper treatment is also patently false. Using same logic we could discard all to the rules and regulations of criminal justice system.

When US acts like a police state in style of communist China as far as its POW are concerned then even a moron can see the fallaciosness and hypocrisy of its claims that its promoting democracy and human rights. US's position or the war on terror is not jeopardised if they grant the basic human rights to Gitmo detainees but as long as it keeps refusing them it DOES hurt US position abroad.

I do recognise the necessity to put the squeeze on terrorists who withhold information that could save lives but thats completely separate from denying any basic rights systematically for 3 years. Im not talking only about the inhumane conditions in which these people are held in but also the fact that they're not granted basic democratic rigths of an accused such as proper and timely indictment, open court hearing and proper legal representation as well as right to contact next-in-kin. I understand that risks in the last one but there are safeguards that can be implemented to prevent wrong information from being passed on.

One of the most important things in this so called war on terror is that we do not lose our humanity and our democratic principles. If we become like the enemy then we are no better than they are and have as little right to exist. US is quickly losing its grasp of the principles it once swore to uphold.
Russian
QUOTE
That opinion piece Russian posted is the greatest load of steaming bullshit I have read in a while. And sadly the same flimsy excuses and aversive rhetoric have been adopted the US officials.


i could have said the same for youre opinion peice, but i was nice. At the end of the day this is a legal problem, and there are two sides to all legal problems and numerous ways to approach them. let me explain;

QUOTE
Geneva conventions or no, basic human right are not dependent on whether you are recognised as an "official" combatant by the invading foreign power or not. It stems from the fact that you're a human being and as such have certain rights.


Youre talking about natural law. Which is really what the geneva convention was based on. Geneva convention took these natural laws, that all humans where created equal and share the same inaleable rights and codified it into law. And in respect to soldiers it gave them EXTRA rights. The right not to be interrogated, the right not to be forced to do what you dont want to do, (civilians can be interrogated and you can conscript civilians to lets say work at youre munitions factory, just an example). Non soldiers could be interrogated (using any reasonable interrogation technique) and they could be treated differently to soldiers.

At the end of the day the detainees in guantanamo do have rights, they are fed, the outside world knows who and where they are, and their not taken outside and shot. But the full rights of a soldier when they simply arnt is a bit rich.


QUOTE
The reasoning that al-Qaeda and Taleban do not respect human rights and therefore members of those organisations do not deserve proper treatment is also patently false. Using same logic we could discard all to the rules and regulations of criminal justice system.

apples and oranges. Geneva accord cannot be enforced, it relies on the simple premise that both opposing sides care about the fate of their soldiers so wont mistreat enemy prisoners because a similar fate will occur to their own.

Russian
QUOTE
I do recognise the necessity to put the squeeze on terrorists who withhold information that could save lives but thats completely separate from denying any basic rights systematically for 3 years. Im not talking only about the inhumane conditions in which these people are held in but also the fact that they're not granted basic democratic rigths of an accused such as proper and timely indictment, open court hearing and proper legal representation


look, either their POW's or their not. If they are they cant be indicted, they cant be interrogated and they cant be released untill hostilities end. And in a war against an enemy of no central authority or structure that could be 200 years from now.

Or their not POW's but then they cant be indicted anyway because most havent exactly commited a crime. Most are non american citizens and so where not bound by US law when committing a crime.


So this is the situation, their either soldiers, whose behaviour (not wearing a uniform or displaying clear identification) means they dont have POW rights (a good argument could be made that their enemy spies and can be executed) or their not soldiers but dangerous criminals who havent commited a crime according to US law, howver when released will certainly do so.

As you can see theres no perfect solution, but the americans have made a very good compromise.

As for the 'torture', the red cross itself wasnt prepared to classify what the detainees where subjected to as torture, they prefered to use the term, 'tantamount to torture', which is as ambigous as you can get.
MindsWideOpen
POWs can be interrogated, but the only thing they are obliged to answer is name, rank, DoB and identification number. Civilians are, afaik, not obliged to provide any information. Furthermore, POWs can be used for forced labour.
MindsWideOpen
I recommend that you bookmark this site, it's very useful:

http://www.genevaconventions.org/
Inhumanity
You offer legal arguments, Russian, I offer moral ones. And even so, your position is shaky.

The prisoners in Guantanamo havent been offered POW status. So using your parity are they civilian criminals? Thats certainly not the term US uses. According to White House theyre enemy combatants. So your differentiation is not applicable if you agree with the UN govt. If they were civilians who have committed a crime then what business has a foreign power arresting them? Furthermore, if they had committed a crime they would have to be charged in due time and offered legal representation - which they have not.

So they're enemy combatants. A strange new term invented by the Bush regime to describe people who fall into bizarre void detached from any convetional legal protection. US could easily define them as POW's. Its granted in the Geneva convention in unclear cases. But they chose not to so they dont have to abide by the rules US itself has agreed to follow by signature. So this weird cat and mouse game continues and the people in Guantanamo are held captive indefinitely. And according to experts the POW status must be granted to any enemy combatant so in progress of defining them as unlawful and outside int. law US is breaking the very agreements it has signed. Well, thats what you get from having an incompetent defence secretary who is unfamiliar with the int. law.

So in effect, the Americans have made no compromise whatsoever. They've done strictly as they please, flipping the finger to the whole world. The only reason these people havent been liquidated is that they may posses some information. The value of the prisoners in Gitmo is merely instrumental to US. And even that value is diminishing by the day so this whole situation becomes ever more bizarre.

QUOTE
As for the 'torture', the red cross itself wasnt prepared to classify what the detainees where subjected to as torture, they prefered to use the term, 'tantamount to torture', which is as ambigous as you can get.


Ambigious as you can get? There are detailed accounts of the transgressions going in Gitmo. I certainly wouldnt want to be subjected to those conditions and would certainly view it as unusual and cruel, in other words torture. There are several ways of making a man break and if it doesnt involve hot irons and plyers it can still be torture. Besides, I was under the impression that after Abu Ghraib no one would have the balls to make the claim that US military is incapable of torture.

I agree that they could be treated a lot worse but thats not the point and it isnt very fruitfull for democracies to view their actions based on whether or not they can do any worse. Guantanamo is a disgrace but of course its not the worst place on earth. Still, it doesnt make it right.
Sir Buckethead
"humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions"

Dont insult the memories of those who have actually been tortured with this bullshit. This is not torture, and neither is loud music.
Inhumanity
Is that so Sir Buckethead?

Well give it a go then. Ask a friend to tie you up in an uncomfortable position. Then put the repeat on in your CD player and crank up the volume. I suggest Morbid Angel or Cannibal Corpse as the choice of music, Metallica will do if you cant get your hands on any Florida metal (make sure it's the St. Anger LP, it has most amount of mindnumbing riffs and least amount of melodies). And make sure you leave the lights on. Then ask your friend to come back in 24 hours to help you take a piss, then continue for another 24 hours. Im sure after that you'll revise your position.
Russian
QUOTE
You offer legal arguments, Russian, I offer moral ones.


thats the problem. Our laws are our morals codified and stadardised. Morality is an individual thing. You think locking people up without trial and interrogating them is wrong, period. I think doing nothing to protect youreself if wrong.

Whose correct? Well we have the law for that.


QUOTE
The prisoners in Guantanamo havent been offered POW status. So using your parity are they civilian criminals?


in my post above i was trying to point out that they cant be classified as either. And i hinted that the USA did the best out of a bad situation by appropriating legal rights that belong to both groups.

QUOTE
Furthermore, if they had committed a crime they would have to be charged in due time and offered legal representation - which they have not


not true, 6 detainees are currently facing a US tribunal with legal representation.

QUOTE
So they're enemy combatants. A strange new term invented by the Bush regime to describe people who fall into bizarre void detached from any convetional legal protection


Laws change through precedent. Bush has created it. Laws change to reflect the times, previous terrorists we could charge with civilian crimes, like murder or attempted murder and many terrorists have been charged with it, ask richard reed as one of many examples. But he was caught before or after an attack. The detainees in guantanamo are very different, many come from countries which wont prosecute, others where caught in afghanistan

QUOTE
So this weird cat and mouse game continues and the people in Guantanamo are held captive indefinitely


untill they cease to be usefull or a threat. If they where declared to be POW's i doubt they will ever be released. And even if the 'war on terror' is won releasing these people would probably restart it. Its not a perfect situation, the US has reacted practically and with common sense.

QUOTE
having an incompetent defence secretary who is unfamiliar with the int. law.


Rumsfeldt doesnt need me to defend him but just for accuracy, he knows international law very well. Hence the reason to act outside it.

QUOTE
So in effect, the Americans have made no compromise whatsoever. They've done strictly as they please, flipping the finger to the whole world.


As you tend to do when you become exposed to the consequences of a succesfull al-queda attack using a dirty bomb for example, or another airplane or a couple of bombs in a crowded train.

QUOTE
The only reason these people havent been liquidated is that they may posses some information.


and the US doesnt do that.

QUOTE
The value of the prisoners in Gitmo is merely instrumental to US.


i cant think of one reason why thats bad.

QUOTE
Ambigious as you can get? There are detailed accounts of the transgressions going in Gitmo. I certainly wouldnt want to be subjected to those conditions and would certainly view it as unusual and cruel, in other words torture.


neither would i. The techniques used in guantanamo prison are not pretty, but its not on the scale of electrodes to the genitals.

samar
In history of politic maybe there were a lot of quantanamo in past but the difference now that those regime who created this kind of horrible prison in past was already known dictator, absolutism clearly,
but the point that now in age of democracy and from most democracy country USA there is prison like quantanamo ,When there is no trial, no lawyers, non media, no human right.it is easy to say that prison therehave legal treatement but If we could remember that small prison Abu graeb , we could see how much inhumanity treatment prisoners got although they don't belong to osama no zrakawi nor saddam ,so we can imagine how quanmota is legal now,If this prison has been created for enemy and for defense and protection, well that 's fine and can be understood but does that mean this prison should be illegal and anti human rights.…..
that is so sad , when you know that laws and rules we have learned can be really only ink on paper in our life's cause politic like to be controlled by power only.
gnuneo
reading the pro-gitmo peoples posts, it becomes a LOT easier to understand how the USSR, china and nazi germany could get such agreement for their policies regarding political prisoners, and 'enemies of the state'.


the maoists did it to "safeguard the Chinese Peoples Democratic Revolution from its enemies", and the bushists are doing to "safeguard the American Peoples Democratic Revolution from its enemies".

and i bet the maoists were also labouring under the impression that their cause superceded any notions of human rights trumpeted by those pesky liberals - in fact i'm utterly sure of it.


"the end justify the means". what an inhuman, and dehumanifying predicate of behaviour.
Christian
i suggests that you go rent the movie : The Experiment.(Das experiment) itīs a German movie that is good for all to see, and with a little imagination you can see how things turn uggly really fast...


in short itīs about a project that takes in voulenteers to be inmates and guards of a jail.

the guards are to uphold some rules, and the inmates donīt care becuse itīs just a game, and what happends next?

then come back and tell us what is right what is wrong and what is torture


About playing loud music: in sweden military training the officers are subject to feign interrogations which includes standing up in a warehouse with blindfolders and hearing the same music over and over again (5 sec intervalls), thay do this in max 23 hours becuse more than that is seen as cruel and unworthy treatments, itīs of course possible to stop sooner if you get in bad shape...

the detanies on gitmo hasnīt that choice.....
gk3
The fact that the people at gitmo are still alive 3 years later proves that we arent being tough enough to the prisoners...

In the big scheme of things 1000 lives arent that big a deal lets just torture them to death...
Thor of the Orange Hammer
Inhumanity

QUOTE
That opinion piece Russian posted is the greatest load of steaming bullshit I have read in a while. And sadly the same flimsy excuses and aversive rhetoric have been adopted the US officials


The same thing quite frankly can be said about your initial post.

Enemy Combatants are held until the end of hostilities or for a specified period of time after the end of hostilities (usually the victors decide how long to hold them) as a matter of course.

Prisoner interogation continues off and on while they are being held.

You don't gharge enemy combatants in Civil Courts you do so in Military Courts.

So right now the score is ChappaquitiK Mass. 1 G'itmo 0.

Damn Ted Kennedys car has killed more people than have died in Club G'itmo, your tropical resort from the stresses of jihad.
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