Monday, June 12, 2006

Guantánamo again

This weekend three detainees at the Guantanamo detention center committed suicide by hanging themselves. Imprisoned there are men who have not been declared prisoners of war or criminals. They have been placed at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba to avoid the jurisdiction of American courts. The murky status of these men and their treatment at this facility has been an embarrassment to the American people and a source of alienation of some of our closest allies who have called for it to be closed. And by no stretch of the imagination has Guantanamo won hearts and minds of anyone in the Middle East.

There have been multiple suicide attempts before these three were finally successful. U.S. officials have tried to avoid the appearance of these suicides as acts of desperation. Der Speigel reports,

Some US officials deflected the rising chorus of criticism. Rear Admiral
Harry Harris, the camp's commander, said the prisoners had "no regard to life,
neither ours nor their own. And I believe this was not an act of desperation,
rather an act of asymmetric warfare waged against the US."
Colleen Graffy,
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, said the suicides were "a good PR move to draw attention" to the plight of Guantánamo

Suicide as asymmetric warfare waged against the U.S.? Perhaps we should be grateful to Admiral Harris for protecting us from this attack but somehow I don’t feel any safer. As far as Ms. Graffy is concerned, her comment seems to be an admission the plight of these men deserve our attention.

It is all very sleazy. As Andrew Sullivan puts it,
Every time I have tried to write something about the cancer and shame of
Guantanamo, and the thought that the United States has strapped dozens of
randomly captured individuals in metal restraints in order to force-feed them, I
find myself so flummoxed that I give up. It has come to this? Remember: scores
of these inmates have almost no evidence against them or have been detained on
evidence tainted by torture, and have no way out of an insane system. Remember
also: it is perfectly obvious that whatever interrogation techniques we may have
used against these people, we have completely failed to get their cooperation to
an almost farcical degree. And when some then commit suicide, which is one
rational response to the situation, a U.S. general describes their deaths as a
form of "asymmetrical warfare"? Again, it is hard to know what to say. These
defenseless suicidal inmates are a threat to the U.S. military?

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