Moral Low Ground

US Government

Rumsfeld: Guantanamo “One of the Finest Prisons in the World”

More immunity for the Bush war criminals. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Committed war crimes with impunity. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

So Donald Rumsfeld thinks that Guantanamo Bay is “one of the finest prison systems in the world?” I don’t know what world the former defense secretary is living in, but it’s certainly not the real one. In this world, innocent men were imprisoned by the hundreds in shocking conditions, subjected to horrific tortures. While conditions have improved since what some critics have called an American  concentration camp opened in 2002, mistreatment of prisoners still continues under the Obama administration. We’ll get to all that in a moment. First, Donald Rumsfeld, in an interview with Fox News firebrand Sean Hannity:

“The heartbreaking thing with respect to Guantanamo is not that there’s anything wrong with it, it one of the finest prison systems in the world. What’s awkward is the fact that, for whatever reason, the [Bush] administration was incapable of persuading people that that was a first-class operation, that they were not torturing people, that they were not hurting people.”

Rumsfeld also said that GITMO personnel have “taken a lot of the heat unfairly” and that they “deserve a lot of credit” for their work.

Planet Earth calling Donald Rumsfeld:

First of all, I would be remiss if I did not point out that hundreds of GITMO detainees were not, as former President George W. Bush called them, “the worst of the worst.” Sure, there are some truly dangerous terrorists at Guantanamo. However, the Pentagon’s own documents show that 55% of GITMO detainees did nothing to harm the United States and only 8% are suspected terrorists. Almost 9 out of 10 were handed over to American forces in order to collect bounty payments that averaged $5,000 per head, an enormous sum in a country where the typical Afghan earns about $800 a year. Lots of farmers and goat herders ended up in American cages.

Erik Saar, a former Army translator at Guantanamo, says that out of the many hundreds of detainees at GITMO “at best… a few dozen” were real terrorists. Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, a 31-year Army veteran and chief of staff for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, says there have been innocent men imprisoned since 2002 at Guantanamo and that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld covered up the imprisonment of hundreds of them in order to protect their plans to invade Iraq.

“[Cheney] had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantanamo detainees were innocent,” said the colonel, “If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it.” These prisoners have ranged in age from a 12 year-old child to a 93 year-old man. It’s no wonder, then, that of the nearly 800 detainees that have been brought to Guantanamo Bay since the outset of the War on Terror, only a handful of them have been convicted of terrorism-related crimes and the vast majority of the others have been released without charges.

It’s time, now, to talk torture. If, as Rumsfeld claims, torture does not occur at Guantanamo, then how to explain US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s 2009 order for the immediate release of Fouad al-Rabiah, a Kuwaiti businessman imprisoned at Guantanamo for more than seven years, on the grounds that his “confession” was obtained through torture?

Torture took many forms at GITMO. One FBI agent who witnessed a detainee “short-shackled”, a restraining technique in which the prisoner is painfully restrained to the floor in contorted and unnatural fetal or squatting positions, sometimes for excruciatingly long periods of time, recalled: “On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours.”

Another  favorite GITMO torture was the “frequent flier program,” an extreme form of sleep deprivation. Detainees were also subject to extremes of heat and cold, deafeningly loud music, and perhaps most torturous of all, maddening months on end of solitary confinement. US Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who was held in solitary confinement while a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, said “it crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.” The US military studied scores of former POWs from the Vietnam War and concluded that  solitary confinement was as excruciating as any physical torture the men had endured.

If you think the torture ended once Obama took over, think again. Guantanamo detainees actually reported an increase in mistreatment after Obama’s inauguration. Reported abuses include: beating detainees before they visit their lawyers in order to discourage such meetings; spraying of pepper gas into closed cells and onto the toilet paper of prisoners suffering from hemorrhoids; dislocation of limbs and force-feeding hunger strikers.

In July 2009 Harper’s reported that at least 30 prisoners were being force-fed at Guantanamo, a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions. “Doctors should never be party to actual coercive feeding, with prisoners being tied down and intravenous drips or esophageal tubes being forced into them. Such actions can be considered a form of torture, and under no circumstances should doctors participate in them, [even under] the pretext of ‘saving the hunger striker’s life,’” asserted Red Cross adviser Hernan Reyes.

Medical personnel often use nasal-gastric (feeding) tubes that are thicker than necessary to deliberately harm detainees. These tubes are sometimes as thick as a finger. Some inmates vomit blood. Tubes are sometimes improperly inserted so that they enter a lung instead of the stomach. Needless to say, the process is excruciatingly painful. Detainees say the only thing that hurts more than when the tube is forced in is when it’s yanked out. One detainee said he passed out from the extraction. Here’s a description:

Nasal gastric tubes [were removed] by placing a foot on one end of the tube and yanking the detainee’s head back by his hair, causing the tube to be painfully ejected from the detainee’s nose. Then, in front of the Guantanamo physicians… the guards took a nasal gastric tube from one detainee, and with no sanitization whatsoever, reinserted it into the nose of a different detainee. When these tubes were reinserted, the detainees could see the blood and stomach bile from the other detainees remaining on the tubes. Medical staff made no effort to intervene. This was one of many incidents.

Detainee Farhan Abdul Latif  said the tube insertion felt like a nail going into his nostril, and like a knife going down his throat. He covered himself in his own excrement so that he might avoid the torture of “assisted feeding.” Fat chance. Guards force-fed Farhan through his shit-crusted nostrils. Guantanamo prisoners are also being over-force-fed. There are reported cases of GITMO personnel lacing the “food” with laxatives so detainees developed diarrhea while  they were strapped down to their chairs and had no choice but to relieve themselves where they sat.

Such is life in Rumsfeld’s “torture-free” Guantanamo Bay, which he considers to be “one of the finest prison systems in the world.” Planet Rumsfeld must have some god-awful prisons if he truly believes the bullshit he spews. Planet Earth does too… and near the top of the list is a little corner of Cuba called Guantanamo Bay.

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