Saturday, September 24, 2005

Soldiers: Officers Ordered Abuse

A large-scale hunger strike that began in early August at Guantanamo and has, at one time or another, included more than a quarter of the over 500 detainees, continues despite U.S efforts to put an end to it. Prisoners are complaining, in an all-too-familiar scene, of abuse and continued desecration of the Koran.

Given the source, these kinds of complaints are always suspect. As Andrew Sullivan rightly says, it means one of three things: "This is more Qaeda-based propaganda. Koran-abuse is still going on. Or both." Unfortunately, I've seen nothing to convince me that it's the first option alone, and it doesn't help that the military seems all too eager to sweep these kinds of allegations under the rug. Provided it's not a prayer rug, that is.

Much more convincing is a new report from Human Rights Watch that based on the statements of three American soldiers (two sergeants and a captain) who claim to have been directly involved. According to the soldiers, who were stationed at Forward Operating Base Mercury near Fallujah from September 2003 through April 2004, prisoner abuse was not only widespread, it was condoned and even ordered by superior officers.
The report says that in many cases the abuses were specifically ordered by military intelligence before interrogations, and that it was widely known by superior officers both inside and outside of military intelligence.

According to the report, the captain made persistent efforts to raise his concern about the abuse with his chain of command but was ignored and told to consider his career.

He said when he made an appointment to meet with Senate staffers, his commanding officer denied him permission to leave his base.

The bottom line is that, even when faced with scandals like Abu Ghraib, the U.S. military has never really responded to prisoner abuse and they don't seem to be doing anything to stop it. One reason could be that the abuses are simply spontaneous, sadistic actions of a few bad apples. Another reason could be that systematic torture and abuse, as has been shown elsewhere, is the U.S. policy when it comes to detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. The evidence for the latter continues to mount and the military is going to have to face it honestly sooner or later. As much as the 'Club Gitmo' numskulls would like to believe it, there's nothing patriotic about sinking to the level of our enemy. In fact, it kind of defeats the purpose of what we're supposed to be fighting for.
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