Saturday, May 10, 2008

America's shame


Nicolas Kristof of the New York Times wrote a column that appeared in Saturday's edition of the Observer-Reporter. It's about America's prison for "enemy combatants" and terror suspects in Guantanamo, and I highly recommend you read it. When you're finished, if you're not at least a little angry or sickened by what you've read, I would have to question your moral underpinnings. For those who might not have access to the hard copy of the paper, here is some of what Kristof had to say:

Reliable information is still scarce about Guantanamo, but increasingly we're gaining glimpses of life there - and they are painful to read.
Murat Kurnaz, a German citizen of Turkish descent, has just published a memoir of his nearly five years in Guantanamo. He describes prolonged torture that included interruptions by a doctor to ensure that he was well enough for the torture to continue.
Mahvish Rukhsana Khan, an American woman of Afghan descent who worked as an interpreter, has written a book to be published next month, "My Guantanamo Diary," that is wrenching to read. She describes a pediatrician who returned to Afghanistan in 2003 to help rebuild his country - and was then arrested by Americans, beaten, doused with icy water and paraded around naked. Finally, after three years, officials apparently decided he was innocent and sent him home.
A third powerful new book about Guantanamo, by an American lawyer named Steven Wax, is summed up by its title: "Kafka Comes to America."
The new material suggests two essential truths about Guantanamo:
First, most of the inmates were probably innocent all along, but Pakistanis or Afghans turned them over to America in exchange for large cash rewards. The moment we offered $25,000 rewards for Al Qaeda supporters, any Arab in the region risked being kidnapped and turned over as a terrorism suspect.
Second, torture was routine, especially early on. That's why more than 100 prisoners have died in American custody in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo.
One of the men still in Guantanamo is Abdul Hamid al-Ghizzawi. He is a Libyan who had been running a bakery in Afghanistan with his Afghan wife. Bounty hunters turned him over to the United States as a terrorism suspect, and he has been in custody for more than six years.
Mr. Ghizzawi was taken before a "combatant status review tribunal," which ruled unanimously in November 2004 that he was not an "enemy combatant." One member of the tribunal later scoffed that the supposed evidence against him was "garbage." But a later tribunal reversed the first one's finding, and Mr. Ghizzawi is being held indefinitely, though he is unlikely to face trial. ...
When I started writing about Guantanamo several years ago, I thought the inmates might be lying and the Pentagon telling the truth. No doubt some inmates lie, and some surely are terrorists. But over time - and it's painful to write this - I've found the inmates to be more credible than American officials. Both Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates have pushed to shut down Guantanamo because it undermines America's standing and influence. They have been overruled by Dick Cheney and other hard-liners. In reality, it would take an exceptional enemy to damage America's image and interests as much as President Bush and Mr. Cheney already have with Guantanamo.


That's a pretty powerful indictment of American policy and moral judgment, but I have to agree with Kristof. Certain people deserve to be, if not at Guantanamo, at least in custody, but they should not be tortured, and they should not be held interminably without trial, and I don't mean the kangaroo courts we're running now. We have gone from a country that valued liberty, justice, human rights and dignity to one that operates a veritable concentration camp that would make Hitler or Stalin proud. We have truly lost our way.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've also lost the moral high ground. How can any US president ever again chastise another country for its human rights record? How can we complain about the treatment of American prisoners by the enemy? And Bush gets to simply go home in January.

May 10, 2008 at 10:20 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Can't he just go home now? Hasn't he damaged this country enough? What more does he want to accomplish? I would like to be a fly on the wall in hell when George and Dick arrive and have conversations with Hitler.

May 12, 2008 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

I have to wonder what's happening to our soldiers who are prisoners in Iraq and other countries. I'm not condoning what happens in Guantanamo by any means, but we all have seen the videos of beheadings and burning bodies hanging from bridges.

I wish I had an answer to all of these problems. I don't hate Bush the way the rest of you do, but I'm with you on the fact that this war is out of control and there is no end in sight. From all I've heard and read, though, I don't see where any of the three pathetic choices we have to replace Bush will be able to do any better.

Still, I can't help but think that our servicemen and women are being subjected to much worse than anything happening at Gitmo.

May 12, 2008 at 4:19 PM  

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