Wednesday, June 21, 2006

It's not just what happens to them; it's what happens to us.

Bloggers Against Torture: Blowback

I decided to join this group for reasons that should be obvious; torture is both an ineffective technique for gathering information and it is blackly unethical, immoral and illegal under international civilian law and the laws of war.

I have been dismayed to see certain sectors successfully diminish the recent suicides by presuming that the men in Guantanamo are too low for our concern. Never mind that we know that innocent men have been kept in there. Never mind that it's the kind of place where "evidence" against a 17 year old boy is acquired by torturing another detainee until he is cowering under his bedsheets and muttering to himself. We even have a study, based on data supplied by the Defence Department, saying that 55% of detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies. But a "boo freakin hoo" is enough to render all of that irrelevant.

I wanted to write a post about the tortures that the men at Guantanamo have suffered. The tortures at the rendition sites from which they're sent are especially horrific. But the above made me pause. Unfortunately, it is well known that humans have difficulty empathising with those outside of their own cultural group, and let's be frank, it's not exactly Middle Easterners that we need to convince here. So instead I'll post about what happened to Sean Baker.

Spc. Sean Baker is an American. There's a picture of him on the left. In January of 2003, Baker volunteered in the role of an uncooperative detainee at Guantanamo for the purposes of a training drill. The MPs weren't told it was a drill. They were told that he was an unruly detainee who had assaulted an American sergeant. They subsequently inflicted a beating upon Baker so severe that it resulted in a traumatic brain injury, leaving him with seizures, blackouts, headaches, insomnia and psychological problems.

Baker was lucky. He was wearing his uniform under the orange jumpsuit, and he had enough time to groan "I'm a U.S. soldier" to his abusers to make them check. I wonder how it would have gone for him if his name was Abdul Kareem. What recourse is there for someone who has no rights?


This is what happens to our people when we make it "ok" to mistreat "their people." They become more and more willing to abuse people casually, brutally, and in many cases, terminally. This is what we commonly refer to as "prejudicial to good order and discipline."

Now, you would expect - as a rational human being, especially one interested in a professional, competent and disciplined military - that at the very least, those soldiers would now be civilians, after discharge from the stockade.

But I doubt that, given the response to the incident by the military, recorded at the above-linked wikipedia article.

Therefore, as a rational and cynical human being, I conclude that the MP's were executing their duties exactly as trained and precisely as expected in Gitmo. Resistance is to be discouraged with total brutality.

And that would make perfect sense - in a facility that is intended as an offshore brainwashing and torture facility, as well as a repository for useful hostages and political prisoners. One must assume the latter, of course, but given that half are adjudged as being innocent of any activity against the US, they must be held for other reasons, making it a very probable truth, even if it's only in the sense that the White House is worried about the political impact upon them of anyone detained there telling what happened to them.

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