What have we become?
Time's Andrew Sullivan reports on an upcoming book by medical ethicist Stephen Miles' titled Oath Betrayed. In it, Miles compiles a list of abuses from 35,000 pages obtained under the Freedom of Information act.
Beating; punching with fists; use of truncheons; kicking; slamming against walls; stretching or suspension (to tear ligaments or muscles to cause asphyxia); external electric shocks; forcing prisoners to abase and to urinate on themselves; forced masturbation; forced renunciation of religion; false confessions or accusations; applying urine and feces to prisoners; making verbal threats to a prisoner and his family; denigration of a prisoner's religion; force-feeding; induced hypothermia and exposure to extreme heat; dietary manipulation; use of sedatives; extreme sleep deprivation; mock executions; water immersion; "water-boarding"; obstruction of the prisoner's airway; chest compression; thermal burning; rape; dog bites; sexual abuse; forcing a prisoner to watch the abuse or torture of a loved one.
Sullivan reports that over 100 people (that we know of) have died because of this torture. On June 12th, Amnesty International called for an independent investigation of three deaths at Gunatanamo that officials had said were suicide.
"This has been tragedy waiting to happen. A full independent investigation is a matter of absolute urgency particularly in the light of statements from high-ranking members of the US military and government, which risk undermining the investigation launched by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service," said Rob Freer, Amnesty International’s researcher on the US.
The dismissal of the deaths of the three detainees by the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, Colleen Graffy as "a good PR move to draw attention" shows a chilling disregard for human life.
Amnesty International is also deeply concerned by the statement from the Commander of Joint Task Force Guantánamo, Navy Rear Admiral Harry B. Harris that the three detainees had not killed themselves out of desperation, but as "an act of asymmetric warfare".
"The Commander’s statement is entirely inappropriate, and is part of a pattern of official commentary on the presumed guilt of detainees who have never had an opportunity to challenge their detentions in a court of law," said Rob Freer.
Furthermore, the military authorities have shown themselves to be oblivious to the psychological suffering of the detainees. Earlier, military psychiatrists reportedly reclassified suicide attempts as "manipulative self-injurious behaviour", resulting in a decrease in the rate of suicide attempts officially recorded.
It should be noted that terrorism is considered 'asymmetric warfare'. Harris is trying to cast the administration at Guantanamo as the victim here, not the dead prisoners. Suicide is now an 'act of terror'. But, according to The Observer, "The high degree of surveillance has foiled dozens of previous attempts by prisoners to take their own lives. 'It happened in front of me several times. The soldiers would see what was happening and they were in the cell in seconds,' [British former prisoner Shafiq] Rasul said. But somehow, in circumstances that the Pentagon has succeeded in keeping totally obscure, late on Friday, 9 June, three detainees, all weak and emaciated after months on hunger strike and being force-fed, managed to tease bedsheets through their cells' mesh walls, tie them into nooses and hang themselves. With the cells little taller than the height of a man, they stood no chance of breaking their necks: the only way they could die was slowly, by hypoxia."
"'That would take at least four or five minutes, probably longer,' said Dr David Nicholl, consultant neurologist at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, who has been co-ordinating international opposition to Guantanamo by physicians," The Observer continues, 'It's very difficult to see how, if the landing was being properly patrolled, they could have managed to accomplish it.'"
Suicide? I have my doubts.