Sunday, June 07, 2009

Guantanamo detainee treatment -- truth be told

By Carol Gee

"Dangerous people, detainees, prisoners of war, terrorists, extremists" -- The words we use to describe our adversaries are important. Not only are they important to those people, but they matter all over the world. We must also be accurate when we describe what we have done to detainees says Glenn Greenwald at (6/6/09). His post is titled, "The NYT's nice, new euphemism for torture." To quote (his links):

. . . according to the NYT, detainees in CIA black sites were merely subjected to "intense interrogations." That's all? Who opposes "intense interrogations"? This active media complicity in concealing that our Government created a systematic torture regime -- by refusing ever to say so -- is one of the principal reasons it was allowed to happen for so long

. . . The steadfast, ongoing refusal of our leading media institutions to refer to what the Bush administration did as "torture" -- even in the face of more than 100 detainee deaths; the use of that term by a leading Bush official to describe what was done at Guantanamo; and the fact that media outlets frequently use the word "torture" to describe the exact same methods when used by other countries -- reveals much about how the modern journalist thinks.

At the heart of the biggest arguments about what to do about releasing Guantanamo's is the one about whether they remain security risks. Conservatives have exaggerated their level of dangerousness, it turns out. How often do they return to jihad? The story is headlined, "NYT: We made big mistakes on front-page Gitmo story, but we did not get spun," and it is reported by Justin Eliot at TPM Muckraker (6/5/09). "The confirmed category in the Pentagon report claims that just one in 20, not one in seven, former detainees returned to terrorism." To quote further:

The New York Times has published a lengthy "Editors' Note" rolling back key claims in its front-page story on Guantanamo "recidivism" last month, and the paper's Washington bureau chief concedes it wouldn't have been a Page 1 story if the paper realized the errors in the story when it ran.

. . . The editors' note, which is pasted in full below, acknowledges use of terms like "rejoined" and "recidivism" "accepted a premise of the report that all the former prisoners had been engaged in terrorism before their detention."

. . . McClatchy and others have reported on evidence that some detainees may have in fact been radicalized while imprisoned at Gitmo.

The editors' note also acknowledges the story "conflated two categories of former prisoners" -- which were broken up into suspected and confirmed categories in the Pentagon report (which we have posted here).

There are very good reasons why President Obama ordered the closing of Guantanamo as one of his first official acts. Given our Constitution, it was not working, not for foreign policy, not for justice, and not for American values. The story of Guantanamo is a tragic one on several fronts, including detainee suicides: "Death by Detention," by ACLU (6/4/09). "Gitmo detainee dead in 'apparent suicide,' " is from TPM Muckraker (6/2/09). In 2005 the detainee had been on hunger strike and lost down to 86 pounds. This is the 5th suicide at Guantanamo. To quote:

A Guantanamo detainee has died in what the military are calling an "apparent suicide" -- and civil liberties groups are calling for action.

Guards found 31-year-old Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih, known as Al-Hanashi, unresponsive and not breathing in his cell Monday night, U.S. military officials announced, according to the AP.

"Another Club Gitmo guest kills himself," was the ironic post written on this same subject by Glenn Greenwald at (6/2/09). His firmly held conclusion,

It's very difficult to know why someone commits suicide, if that's what happened here. And since he had no trial, one can't know what Salih did or didn't do. But what is not hard to see is that it is simply wrong to imprison people for life with no charges. That should not be something that we even have to debate.

Guantanamo Bay's plan for closing, the story of the torture regime that started there, the Constitution and and detainee treatment -- the truth must still be told. Painful as it is, disheartening as it feels as new information comes out, there is no getting around it if we are ever to heal and return to the rule of law.

References to earlier detainee stories:

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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