Monday, July 18, 2005

The Raw, Ugly Truth

People, contary to what you're hearing -- and posting in the comments section -- we're not running happy summer camps in the name of freedom and light:

Under the explicit direction of the White House, Albert Gonzales, George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld have rewritten or ignored federal and international law, seized and permanently imprisoned thousands of civilians without trial; they are tortured at the whims of their captors in a network of two dozen international prison camps, half of which are operated in secrecy.

Because a number of military personnel have become horrified at the unrestrained brutality they've seen, a small fraction of the abuse has been revealed -- though there is far worse being withheld from the public, according to Congress.

Secret detention facilities have been reported in "...Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Jordan, and aboard U.S. ships at sea.

"The abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib cannot be addressed in isolation," said Deborah Pearlstein, the Director of Human Rights First's U.S. Law and Security Program. "The United States government is holding prisoners in a secret system of off-shore prisons beyond the reach of adequate supervision, accountability, or law."

If you're an American, these operations are being conducted in your name, and you're paying to have them done. And what are some of the activities being carried out with your personal, tacit approval?

First, it's important to remember initially that "...military intelligence officers told the ICRC (Red Cross) that in their estimate, between 70% and 90% of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake...."

What's more, from Amnesty International's repeated letters to George Bush, we also know some of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners have been children as young as 13.

According to Congressional US Army testimony, the "widespread abuse" in US prison camps in Iraq and Afghanistan has included over two dozen RECORDED POW deaths. These, of course, do not include what goes on in the secret facilities elsewhere.

Nor is it going away; three months ago the brutal killings of two Afghan POWs was revealed. One was shackled to the ceiling and kicked to death over the space of two days. The other was also kicked to death despite the fact that he was only a taxi driver believed by most of his interrogators to be innocent.

In Afghanistan, another POW was forced to jump from a bridge when he said he couldn't swim. He drowned as his friend watched in horror.

Members of the military who have been horrified at what they've seen have reported of blindfolded prisoners beaten to "bloody pulps", torture by electric shock and burning and "waterboarding", the pouring of water over the face until the point of death.

Then there is the Pentagon report on Abu Ghraib of Major General Antonio Taguba, which found brutal, systemic physical and sexual abuse of prisoners.

It described how "ghost detainees" (unregistered POWs) were brought to several jails in Iraq by government agencies (often the CIA), "...without accounting for them, knowing their identities, or even the reason for their detention." They were moved around within the facility to hide them from visiting Red Cross (ICRC) survey teams, " violation of international law."

Among the "systemic problems" and "intentional abuse" the General reported to Congress and the Pentagon were:

"...Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet; A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee (rape, as a prisoner by definition cannot prevent the "sex"); Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee; Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; Threatening detainees with a charged 9mm pistol; Pouring cold water on naked detainees; Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; Threatening male detainees with rape; Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.

"...Representative Jane Harman, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said most shocking to her was video of a prisoner, handcuffed, beating his own head against a wall, apparently trying to knock himself unconscious to escape some form of abuse."

The Wall Street Journal reported more:

"...methods of physical and psychological coercion appeared to be part of the standard operating procedures by military intelligence personnel to obtain confessions and extract information.... Hoodings, which impeded proper breathing, used in conjunction with beatings thus increasing anxiety as to when the blows would come.... Handcuffing with flexi-cuffs sometimes so tight they... caused nerve damage... Beatings (sometimes with pistols and rifles)... kicking in the groin..." Holding detainees naked in darkness for days, threats to family members, food, water and sleep deprivation, and being hooded and left in the sun at temperatures reaching 122 degrees Farenheit.

And the Denver Post spoke of Pentagon documents detailing "...the deaths of at least five Iraqi prisoners in war-zone detention camps.... The deaths include the killing in November of a high-level Iraqi general who was shoved into a sleeping bag and suffocated, according to the Pentagon report. The documents contradict an earlier Defense Department statement that said the general died "of natural causes" during an interrogation....

"Another Iraqi military officer, records show, was asphyxiated after being gagged, his hands tied to the top of his cell door. Another detainee died "while undergoing stress technique interrogation," involving smothering and "chest compressions," according to the documents."

"Details of the death investigations, involving at least four different detention facilities including the Abu Ghraib prison, provide the clearest view yet into war-zone interrogation rooms, where intelligence soldiers and other personnel have sometimes used lethal tactics to try to coax secrets from prisoners, including choking off detainees' airways. Other abusive strategies involve sitting on prisoners or bending them into uncomfortable positions, records show."

"Torture is the only thing you can call this," said a Pentagon source with knowledge of internal investigations into prisoner abuses. "There is a lot about our country's interrogation techniques that is very troubling. These are violations of military law."

CBC reported of incidents of forced homosexual sex and Iraqi women commanded to expose their breasts.

But why take second-hand reports at face value? You can see a small fraction of the proof yourself here:

In the final analysis, you either support this horrific behavior or you condemn it. There is no middle ground. And, if you don't actively speak out and oppose it, you're no less culpable than the man smiling as he cracks the bones of his hooded, shackled prisoner.

Quote of the Day: "This crusade ... is going to take a while." -- George W. Bush

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