Saturday, November 28, 2009

Suffer, Little Children

It's hard to start the day after reading an article such as this one from the Washington Post. It concerns the treatment of two young men (children, really, at age 17 and 16) by Americans at the Bagram prison.

The two teenagers -- Issa Mohammad, 17, and Abdul Rashid, who said he is younger than 16 -- said in interviews this week that they were punched and slapped in the face by their captors during their time at Bagram air base, where they were held in individual cells. Rashid said his interrogator forced him to look at pornography alongside a photograph of his mother.

The holding center described by the teenagers appeared to have been a facility run by U.S. Special Operations forces that is separate from the Bagram Theater Internment Facility, the main American-run prison, which holds about 700 detainees. The teenagers' descriptions of a holding area on a different part of the Bagram base are consistent with the accounts of two other former detainees, who say they endured similar mistreatment, but not beatings, while being held last year at what Afghans call Bagram's "black" prison.

The boys, in addition to being punched by their captors, were also given a healthy dose of sleep deprivation along with some psycho-sexual humiliation when they were forced to strip naked for a "medical exam" performed in front of a dozen or so American soldiers who mocked and laughed at them. Any teenage boy would be scarred by such treatment, but in a culture which holds nakedness in front of others as deeply shameful, the actions of their captors must have been devastating.

Defense officials' only response was that there is no inhumane treatment going on at Bagram. At this point in history, I am inclined to call bullshit on any such assertion. Too much has happened the last nine years.

Here's the disturbing part, however. Because the "black" prison is not run by the US Army, but rather by the "U.S. Special Operations forces," that activity can and probably does continue.

There have been reports about the existence of an interrogation facility at Bagram that is run by Special Operations forces, but little has been disclosed about living conditions or interrogation methods there. Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross have not been permitted access to the detainees at this facility. The site has continued to operate under the terms of an executive order that Obama signed soon after taking office, which forced the closure of secret prisons run by the CIA but not those run by Special Operations forces. [Emphasis added]

And so teenagers and tribal elders in Afghanistan, perhaps even women (Aafia Siddiqui, for example), are still at risk of inhumane treatment which is forbidden by international law.

Not much change there, eh?


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