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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What have they been doing to people? 

What are they afraid of?
Why are both Bush and McCain so eager to pass a law that exempts the United States from the Geneva Conventions?
When they say that the prohibitions against "humiliating and degrading treatment" and "outrages upon personal dignity" are just too difficult to understand, it reminds me of all those CEOs and politicians caught with their hands in the till up to their armpits -- the ones who prattle on about how their company's rules about stealing are "just so vague, you know, so don't blame me because how was I to know it was wrong?"
So what has the Bush administration been doing to people?
We already know about the waterboarding, the cold cell, the long-time standing, the belly slap, the attention slap. We already know they have been running secret prisons themselves, as well as shipping people off to be tortured in other countries. And we already know they have 14,000 prisoners mouldering away in legal limbo, scattered at prisons all over the Middle East and Guantanamo -- all being run, like Abu Gharib was, by people who don't appear to know anything about operating prisons and are making it up as they go along.
As quoted at Daily Kos, here is what law professor Jonathan Turley said about the Bush and McCain show now going on in Congress:


. . . why are you doing this? You don't need to redefine the Geneva Conventions - you don't have to do anything with it. It's a treaty. We're a signatory. We've never had to do this before. We've gotten along just fine, as has the world, with the language of the Geneva Convention. If we make any effort at all to try to redefine it or tweak it or to amplify it, the world will see that as our effort to lawyer the Geneva Convention to try to create some type of loophole or excuse for conduct.

I thought Bush going to grab Matt Lauer and start shaking him during that interview the other day, he was just so anxious to justify how they've been "protecting the American people".
So what conduct do they need an excuse for? What have they been doing?
Here are a few hints and portents I gleaned as I read through a variety of stories about the last three years:
Seymour Hersch was quoted two years ago talking about "horrible things done to children of women prisoners".
Here is Amnesty International's report on one of the Guantanamo prisoners:

Mohamedou Slahi had been threatened with death and "disappearance" by military interrogators. The detainee had also been told that his family was in US custody, and that he should cooperate in order to help them. For example, on 20 July 2003, a masked interrogator told Slahi that his family had been "incarcerated". Again, on 2 August 2003 he told the detainee that his family were in US custody and was in danger. A letter was given to the detainee indicating that because of his lack of cooperation, US agents in conjunction with the Mauritanian authorities would interrogate his mother, and that if she was uncooperative she would be detained and transferred for long-term detention in Guantánamo . . . a leaked subsequent interview of one of the investigators [confirmed]Slahi’s allegation that he was taken off from Guantánamo in a boat where he thought [he was to be] killed or "disappeared" . . . Mohamedou Slahi remains in Guantánamo without charge or trial. He has now been held for nearly five years. . .
An American soldier who was pretending to be a prisoner at Guantanamo during a "training exercise" was beaten so severely that he suffered brain damage:

"They grabbed my arms, my legs, twisted me up and unfortunately one of the individuals got up on my back from behind and put pressure down on me while I was face down," said Baker. "Then he - the same individual - reached around and began to choke me and press my head down against the steel floor . . . " Baker sustained a traumatic brain injury that left him with a seizure disorder.
And this happened at Bagram in Afghanistan:

Dilawar, who died on December 10, 2002, was a 22-year-old Afghan taxi driver and farmer who weighed 122 pounds and was described by his interpreters as neither violent nor aggressive.
When beaten, he repeatedly cried "Allah!" The outcry appears to have amused U.S. military personnel, as the act of striking him in order to provoke a scream of "Allah!" eventually "became a kind of running joke," according to one of the MP's. "People kept showing up to give this detainee a common peroneal strike just to hear him scream out 'Allah,' " he said. "It went on over a 24-hour period, and I would think that it was over 100 strikes."
On the day of his death, Dilawar had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days . . . It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.
So these stories indicate they have been torturing children, threatening people's families, "disappearing" prisoners by tossing them overboard during midnight boat trips (reminiscent of Vietnam's helicopter executions) and displaying a pattern of savage and inhuman cruelty. And these are things we already know about.
Is there anything else yet to be exposed?
Though actually, I wouldn't be surprised if the Bush administration's worst fear is this one: that almost none of these thousands of supposedly dangerous characters could be convicted in a real court with a real judge under real laws, because once you discard the torture confessions and hearsay and rumours there is no real evidence against them.

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