As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Country, My Country

Bob Gates says we're stuck with that Guantanamo prison. Just nothing we can do about it.

Mr Gates told a US Senate hearing: "The brutally frank answer is that we're stuck. We have a serious 'not in my backyard' problem.

"Either their home government won't accept them or we're concerned that the home government will let them loose once we return them home," he said.

"What do you do with that irreducible 70 or 80 who you cannot let loose but will not be charged and will not be sent home?" he asked.

Dianne Feinstein, who has been good on this issue, brushed up against this point, but Gates makes an enormous understatement when he says that those 70 or 80 "will not be charged." He fails to give the reason why, because they've been tortured to obtain information that wouldn't hold up even in their kangaroo courts. Yesterday the Congress heard from a detainee who was tortured and subsequently found to be innocent:

Murat Kurnaz told members of Congress today he was subjected to "water treatment," electric shocks and other abuse during the almost five years he spent in U.S. custody, putting a face to the Justice Department's inspector general report released today, detailing abuses witnessed by FBI agents overseas at detention facilities run by the military and CIA.

Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen, was arrested in Pakistan in late 2001 after the 9/11 attacks while he traveled with a religious tourism group, and was eventually handed over to U.S. forces. He was held in U.S. facilities in Afghanistan and then at Guantanamo Bay.

Speaking to the House Foreign Affairs Committee via video link from Germany with his lawyer at his side, Kurnaz described how he was abused while he was held at a U.S. base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and described how he was subjected to "water treatment" while in custody.

"They stuck my head into a bucket of water and punched me in the stomach," he said. "I inhaled the water. ... It was a strong punch."

Kurnaz testified that, although he had no links to al Qaeda, and German intelligence services told U.S. officials in 2002 that he was not a terrorist, he languished at Guantanamo until August 2006.

While he was detained in Kandahar, Kurnaz testified, he was chained by his arms to the ceiling with his feet dangling and subjected to electric shocks. Kurnaz also alleges U.S. interrogators tried to force him to sign papers admitting his guilt.

These 70 and 80, whom the Pentagon claims are guilty, received the same treatment. But the claim against sending them to their home countries has always been that they would be tortured or killed by their governments. So we insourced the torture and played buddy-buddy with those new authoritarian partners.

U.S. military personnel at Guantanamo Bay allegedly softened up detainees at the request of Chinese intelligence officials who had come to the island facility to interrogate the men -- or they allowed the Chinese to dole out the treatment themselves, according to claims in a new government report.

Buried in a Department of Justice report released Tuesday are new allegations about a 2002 arrangement between the United States and China, which allowed Chinese intelligence to visit Guantanamo and interrogate Chinese Uighurs held there.

According to the report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, an FBI agent reported a detainee belonging to China's ethnic Uighur minority and a Uighur translator told him Uighur detainees were kept awake for long periods, deprived of food and forced to endure cold for hours on end, just prior to questioning by Chinese interrogators.

Susan Manning, a lawyer who represents several Uighurs still held at Guantanamo, said Tuesday the allegations are all too familiar.

U.S. personnel "are engaging in abusive tactics on behalf of the Chinese," she said Tuesday. When Uighur detainees refused to talk to Chinese interrogators in 2002, U.S. military personnel put them in solitary confinement as punishment, she said.

"Why are we doing China's dirty work?" Manning said. "Surely we're better than that."

Surely we're not. We've now become a country with an extra-judicial detention system, one where suspects can be held, tortured, interrogated, and left to die without charges, where the prisoners see the only escape as suicide.

We've now become a country where we aid the Chinese in their own repression of ethnic minority groups.

We've now become a country where all of this is done and our own Secretary of Defense tells us he's very sorry but we can't stop.

If you think one election will wash all this away, you're crazy.

Labels: , , , , , , ,