The Talking Dog

February 26, 2009, Get your kicks in Camp Six?

Reuters reports that a lawyer for Guantanamo detainees contends that day-to-day abuse of prisoners (beatings, force-feedings and the like) has actually increased since President Obama took office. Sayeth Reuters:

Abuses began to pick up in December after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.

The Pentagon said on Monday that it had received renewed reports of prisoner abuse during a recent review of conditions at Guantanamo, but had concluded that all prisoners were being kept in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

"According to my clients, there has been a ramping up in abuse since President Obama was inaugurated," said Ghappour, a British-American lawyer with Reprieve, a legal charity that represents 31 detainees at Guantanamo.

"If one was to use one's imagination, (one) could say that these traumatised, and for lack of a better word barbaric, guards were just basically trying to get their kicks in right now for fear that they won't be able to later," he said.

"Certainly in my experience there have been many, many more reported incidents of abuse since the inauguration," added Ghappour, who has visited Guantanamo six times since late September and based his comments on his own observations and conversations with both prisoners and guards.

Maybe the guards need a hug. Or maybe they should have their own "movie-nights," as observed by Candace, part of a new superficial Potemkin Village "improvement" to tell us rubes back home that GTMO is "Geneva compliant," as if (1) most of the rubes here even care and (2) the Pentagon, which is charged with reporting on its own compliance, can be trusted to do so.

Candace suggests moving into sort of a healing and reconciliation mode, at least for a while, as Candace has recognized at least some quite real improvements, that, while not "Geneva compliant," have, at least, made the place at least somewhat less horrible than it had been before.

The perfect remains the enemy of the good; more activism and "community organizing" will be needed, and we cannot let up now, now that we have a President finally in office who is actually capable of paying attention to such things . One great step might be to sign Senator Leahy's petition to demand a truth and reconciliation commission. Another might be to join the ACLU's efforts to demand that independent human rights groups have meaningful access to inspect GTMO, to ensure that vaunted transparency that the President talked about. Because there are those of us who get our kicks by trying to restore our nation's moral authority and compliance with the rule of law.


Props for keeping up the heat.

Posted by Michael L at February 27, 2009 11:33 AM

Truth, yes. Reconciliation, no. It's not ours to grant; the victims of these crimes are not those of us who opposed the crimes of the previous administration but the people who've been tortured, abused, and had years of their lives stolen.

Please ask Sen. Leahy to refer to his proposal as a Truth Commission. His Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing this coming Wed., March 4 on the proposal. I encourage people to write and call him with support, but also to make the point about the inappropriateness of the term 'reconciliation'.

This isn't South Africa. We were a democracy before, during, and after the Bush administration, and the crimes of the last eight years are our crimes, too. We re-elected Bush. We failed to stop the Military Commissions Act. We allowed Speaker Pelosi to "take impeachment off the table". A Truth Commission is a step, but cannot be a substitute for prosecution.

Posted by Nell at March 1, 2009 11:16 AM