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Away From Home

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Abuse allegations at Guantanamo

Everyone remembers the furor over Newsweek's story a couple weeks ago that alleged that soldiers at Guantanamo flushed a Koran down the toilet, right? The one that got the right-wing all riled up, and even prompted an angry response from the President? The one that Newsweek ultimately retracted?

Turns out Newsweek might not have been wrong after all.

From today's Washington Post:

The summaries of FBI interviews, obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union as part of an ongoing lawsuit, include a dozen allegations that the Koran was kicked, thrown to the floor or withheld as punishment. One prisoner said in August 2002 that guards had "flushed a Koran in the toilet" and had beaten some detainees.

(More discussion at the Daily Kos.)

The Pentagon continues to deny the accounts, but this much is clear: Ever since Guantanamo began accepting prisoners (or "enemy combatants," to adopt the administration's position), the government has been aware of allegations of abuse. If they've been aware for at least 33 months that mistreatment might be happening, then you would expect that the government would 1) make sure the allegations are clearly and provably false, and 2) make sure everyone knows that they're false.

Even if you give the administration the benefit of the doubt, and accept that part 1 might have been done, it is painfully clear that part 2 was not. While I'm not saying that it's an absolute fact that mistreatment is happening, you do have to consider the following statement (from the same WaPo article):

The disclosures came on the same day that Amnesty International released a report calling Guantanamo Bay "the gulag of our time" and labeling the United States "a leading purveyor and practitioner" of torture and mistreatment of prisoners. Amnesty and the Constitution Project, a legal advocacy group, made separate demands yesterday for an independent investigation into allegations of detainee abuse at U.S. facilities.

Oh, there have been such investigations before. But there are also accounts, by at least one person who worked as a translator there, that the military actually staged fake interrogations for the investigations to see.

"They would find a detainee that they knew to have been cooperative," Saar told CBS. "They would ask the interrogator to go back over the same information," he said, calling it "a fictitious world" created for the visitors.

If the allegations were as clearly false as the Pentagon would like us to believe, then wouldn't they be willing to let an independent investigation happen? Sounds like a fantastic opportunity for the Pentagon to prove itself right, which would be fantastic PR, and to do the investigation on somebody else's dime.

Unless, of course, there's something they don't want the investigation to find....

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