Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Spanish Inquisition Redux

Boy, the hits, or blows to the testicles, just keep on coming. And we thought we wouldn't hear too many stories like this when Obama took over.

Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, wrote a shocking article for Alternet entitled Little Known Military Thug Squad Still Brutalizing Prisoners at Gitmo Under Obama. What it breaks down to is this:
As the Obama administration continues to fight the release of some 2,000 photos that graphically document U.S. military abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, an ongoing Spanish investigation is adding harrowing details to the ever-emerging portrait of the torture inside and outside Guantánamo. Among them: "blows to [the] testicles;" "detention underground in total darkness for three weeks with deprivation of food and sleep;" being "inoculated … through injection with 'a disease for dog cysts;'" the smearing of feces on prisoners; and waterboarding. The torture, according to the Spanish investigation, all occurred "under the authority of American military personnel" and was sometimes conducted in the presence of medical professionals.

Late last month, the Spanish courts launched an investigation of their own into alleged abuses at Guantánamo Bay that occurred during the Bush administration. And, predictably, because we'd rather look good than actually be good, we're among the dogs and ponies in this legalistic flea circus. This latter-day Spanish Inquisition is investigating something that we ourselves ought to be investigating. Because Obama's just as guilty for continuing to let it happen, especially in light of his about-face to keep those detainees incarcerated indefinitely.

In the first page of his article Scahill reminds us of the IRF (or Immediate Reaction Force), a "detainee extraction team" that's rarely mentioned in the media or in Congressional hearings. Their secret status is in itself surprising since their history goes all the way back to the earliest days of Gitmo. On the face of it, they appear to be a legitimate riot squad that you would see at any American maximum security prison. Their official mission is to extract combative and belligerent prisoners when they're threatening the safety of US personnel.

But under Gen. Geoffery Miller, the 21st century's answer to Torquemada, they've been, shall we say, "diversified." These are among their new honorable duties:
While much of the "torture debate" has emphasized the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" defined by the twisted legal framework of the Office of Legal Council memos, IRF teams in effect operate at Guantánamo as an extrajudicial terror squad that has regularly brutalized prisoners outside of the interrogation room, gang beating them, forcing their heads into toilets, breaking bones, gouging their eyes, squeezing their testicles, urinating on a prisoner's head, banging their heads on concrete floors and hog-tying them -- sometimes leaving prisoners tied in excruciating positions for hours on end.

In other words, a goon squad whose existence and new mission was well-known and sanctioned by first the Bush II and, now, the Obama administrations.

Now, if you think that Scahill's brief and abstract description of what the IRF does to detainees nowadays is horrific enough, wait until you get to page two when Scahill writes about Omar Deghayes.

Deghayes is a Libyan citizen until he was picked up in Pakistan after 9/11. If you haven't heard of Deghayes, you can be forgiven because he's been shuffled around and tortured by so many different people in so many different countries he comes off looking like a Muslim version of Job. This is a recounting of what Deghayes had gone through just at Gitmo from his attorney Stafford Smith:
"They brought their pepper spray and held him down. They held both of his eyes open and sprayed it into his eyes and later took a towel soaked in pepper spray and rubbed it in his eyes.

"Omar could not see from either eye for two weeks, but he gradually got sight back in one eye.

"He's totally blind in the right eye. I can report that his right eye is all white and milky -- he can't see out of it because he has been blinded by the U.S. in Guantánamo."

That's not even "enhanced interrogation"- that's torture, plain and simple, with no apparent interest in extracting actionable intelligence. So why the hatred of Omar Deghayes? You'd have to ask his torturers but since the man has no discernible connection to al Qaeda or any terrorist organization, one is left with the horrifying possibility that it's based on his Muslim faith and nothing more. Further down on page two, Scahill quotes an anonymous lawyer who'd visited Deghayes and wrote a memo of his findings over 4 years ago. High powered hoses. Beatings where his nose was deliberately broken. Feces smeared on his body. IRF beatings when they forcibly took away his Koran.

Deghayes, by the accounts given to us by his lawyers, was not a belligerent or uncooperative prisoner. He was just one who was singled out for special abuse just because. It ought to be noted that during several of these atrocities, not only were medical personnel present, they even aided his torturers.

So, hasn't any of this been documented? Yes and no. Yes, in theory. Every time the IRF is deployed, sworn statements and medical evaluations of the physical damage are taken. But when the ACLU sued for the release of 500 such documents, they were stonewalled and still are to this day.

So, bottom line: The CIA willfully destroyed 93 videotapes of "enhanced interrogation" sessions and the Powers That Be at Guantánamo probably disappeared their own records, meaning that we're torturing in secret and with complete impunity under the impassive eyes of the President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense and many others in the loop while destroying any paper or video trail. In short, a conspiracy and covering up of war crimes.

While we're struggling as a nation to come to grips that these things were done in our names and the names of the Founding Fathers, we on the side of the angels at least had the empty solace of maintaining some moral superiority in clinging to the belief that these horrors would not be visited on other human beings under this new administration that has promised change we can believe in.

Now we're being stripped of that and, as with the final scene in George Orwell's Animal Farm, the new boss is looking more and more like the old boss and all innocence has been slaughtered along with the spring lambs.


At May 16, 2009 at 11:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Chaney/Bush admin simply let loose what had been in place for a long time. They're too incompetent to have set this up this quick. Obama has found out he can't do anything about it. The myth of what America is, is unravelling before our eyes.

At May 17, 2009 at 2:06 AM, Anonymous tw said...

The reason the photos weren't released is because they are much worse than just waterboarding, slapping and putting bugs on the prisoners. Seymour Hersh in a speech to the ACLU last week charged that women in Abu Ghraib had to watch their boys (sons) sodomized in front of them and that the Pentagon had the video cameras running. There is allot more to come out on the torture issues, whether we get to see the evidence remains to be seen.

At May 17, 2009 at 8:02 AM, Blogger Cossack said...

Dear JP,

We need to remember, many of these self same practises have been de rigeur here in the "homeland" for many years.

Peaceful protesters at logging sites had pepper spray swabbed into their eyes by police.

The torture that is enacted upon American prisoners in American jails rise to the level of "torture" on a daily basis! We (the American public") don't much care about torture!


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