warprompts

The Precious Gift of Freedom

Reprieve, a London organization that works with detainees at Guantanamo, is releasing pictures based on the censored drawings of Sami al-Haj, the al-Jazeera cameraman imprisoned at Guantánamo:

Mr. al-Haj had shown the drawings to his lawyer, Cori Crider, during a visit last month. Fearing that they would be censored, Ms. Crider asked Mr. al-Haj to provide detailed descriptions of the drawings, which he duly did.

When the drawings were subsequently censored, as anticipated, Reprieve approached Lewis Peake and asked him to create original works based on Mr. al-Haj’s descriptions.

The first of the pictures to be released (the others will follow over the next week or so) documents Mr. al-Haj’s feelings about the way he sees himself subjected to force-feeding in what he and other prisoners describe as the “Torture Chair,” the restraint chair into which they are strapped twice a day, when they have a 110 cm tube forcibly inserted into one nostril so that liquid food can be administered. The tube is pulled out after each feeding, and the prisoners are left in the chair for up to two hours so that they can be force-fed again if they vomit.

“The first sketch is just a skeleton in the torture chair,” Mr. al-Haj explained. “My picture reflects my nightmares of what I must look like, with my head double-strapped down, a tube in my nose, a black mask over my mouth, with no eyes and only giant cheekbones, my teeth jutting out — my bones showing in every detail, every rib, every joint. The tube goes up to a bag at the top of the drawing. On the right there is another skeleton sitting shackled to another chair. They are sitting like we do in interrogations, with hands shackled, feet shackled to the floor, just waiting. In between I draw the flag of Guantanamo — JTF-GTMO — but instead of the normal insignia, there is a skull and crossbones, the real symbol of what is happening here.”

Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, who served as the Navy’s judge advocate general from 1997 to 2000, discusses the legality and effectiveness of torture:

Minnpost.com: Is that a tested theory — that it’s more effective for interrogators to build rapport with someone they’ve captured?

JH: Absolutely. If you read the literature or you talk to interrogators who are not just CIA thugs, that has been the doctrine since we can remember. Torture was never intended in its earliest days to be a quest for the truth. It was intended to get people to confess to things they hadn’t done like being a witch. We have turned it around and tried to legitimize it.

And another interview with the brilliant Darius Rejali, this time with Harper’s:

During the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Shah’s torture was the best recruiting tool the opposition had. Prisons were places where prisoners met each other and professionalized their skills, as I and others have documented. It feels like a nightmare watching American politicians make the same mistake as the Shah. I like to believe that with every mistake we must surely be learning, but sometimes it is hard to believe.

When I talked about people under torture saying anything, I was especially interested in the cases where torturers interrogate for true information. That’s what I document doesn’t work. But it seems pretty clear that torture works to generate false confessions, which serve equally as well as true confessions for many state purposes.

Wonder if there’s a Hallmark card for this… On the five year anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, Hillary Clinton said the US has given Iraq the “precious gift of freedom”:

“I have been outlining plans as to what we can and must do to begin bringing our sons and daughters home. I am convinced that we can start within sixty days and do it in a responsible and careful manner, recognizing that the Iraqi government has to take responsibility for its own future, that we have given them the precious gift of freedom, and it is up to them to decide whether or not they will use it. But we cannot win their civil war. There is no military solution.”

Here are some of those gifts —

The New Yorker reports on more of the US government sanctioned macabre at Abu Ghraib, including a detainee who was just 10 years old and the practice of submerging prisoners in garbage cans filled with ice water:

“Put them in a cell where the toilet is blocked—backed up. It smells like urine and crap. That would drive you nuts.” And you could keep shifting a prisoner’s mealtimes, or simply withhold meals. The prisoners ate the same M.R.E.s that the guards ate, but you could deny them the spoon and all the fixings. “If you got Salisbury steak, they got the Salisbury steak, not the rice that comes with it, not the hot sauce, not the snack, not the juice—the Salisbury steak, and that’s it,” [Javal] Davis said, who had spent six years in the Army. “They were starving by the time they’d get ready to get interrogated.” At that point, he said, it would be: “O.K., we’ll give you more food if you talk.”

And you could inflict pain. “You also had stress positions, and you escalated the stress positions,” Davis said. “Hand-cuffs behind their backs, high up, in very uncomfortable positions, or chained down. Then you had the submersion. You put the people in garbage cans, and you’d put ice in it, and water. Or stick them underneath the shower spigot naked. They’d be freezing.” It was a routine, he said: “Open a window while it was, like, forty degrees outside and watch them disappear into themselves . . . before they go into shock.”

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March 26, 2008 - Posted by | Torture News | , ,

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