Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Sunday, December 17, 2006

That "Release of the Captives" Stuff?

That's been suspended indefinitely:

Since spring 2004, the military’s handling of the detainees had been heavily influenced by the political and diplomatic pressures that grew out of the Abu Ghraib scandal and other cases of prisoner abuse. At the same time, Guantánamo’s focus was shifting from interrogations to the long-term detention of men who, for the most part, would never be charged with any crime.

With little guidance from Washington, senior officers here began in 2005 to edge back toward the traditional Geneva Convention rules for prisoner treatment that President Bush had disavowed after 9/11 for the fight against terrorism, military officials said. Military officers began listening more attentively to the prisoners’ complaints, and eventually met a few times with a council of detainee leaders.

Those talks were quickly aborted in August 2005. The hunger strikes were effectively broken last January, when the military began strapping detainees into padded “restraint chairs” to force-feed them through stomach tubes.

But those protests gave way to several drug overdoses in May and the hangings in June of three prisoners — all of whom had previously been hunger strikers.

The current Guantánamo commanders eschewed any criticism of their predecessors. But they were blunt in laying out a different approach.

Asked about his discussions with prisoners, Colonel Dennis said he basically had none. As for the handful of detainees who have continued to wage hunger strikes, including three who were being force-fed last week, he said they would get no “special attention” from him.

“If they want to do that, hook it up,” he said, apparently referring to the restraint chair system for force-feeding. “If that’s what you want to do, that’s your choice.”

Admiral Harris said he had ordered a hardening of the security posture on the basis of new insights into the threat that the detainees pose. “We have learned how committed they are, just how serious they are, and how dangerous they are,” he said.
Notice the hunger strikes which "were effectively broken last January" were apparently not so effectively broken: an unspecified number of prisoners were being force-fed just last week. And resuming Sartre's definition of ethics: how you see others is how they are. You are responsible for the ethical choices you make, and we, through Admiral Harris, have made ours:

Several military officials said Admiral Harris took over the Guantánamo task force with a greater concern about security, and soon ordered his aides to draw up plans to deal with hostage-takings and other emergencies.

He and Colonel Dennis both asserted that Camp 4 — where dozens of detainees rioted during an aggressive search of their quarters last May — represented a particular danger.

Admiral Harris said detainees there had used the freedom of the camp to train one another in terrorist tactics, and in 2004 plotted unsuccessfully to seize a food truck and use it to run over guards.

“Camp 4 is an ideal planning ground for nefarious activity,” he said.
Hmmm: men in severe lockdown, facing indefinite detention with little or no hope of release, much less a court hearing, are planning nefarious activity. Gee, I wonder why? And I wonder why the military thinks this approach will work. It's known in this couintry that gangs operate despite the controls of a supermax prison. Follow that link and you'll find several stories about the problems with the US penal system. Getting tougher simply doesn't work. You don't break a prisoner's spirit; you simply create more dangerous prisoners. Many of the people put in charge of the prisons in Iraq were guilty of abuses in the US prison system. Now we are taking the model of Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo.

Jean-Paul Sartre argued that there is no categorical imperative which guides our ethical decisions, but rather, we create an ethic from the way we treat others, and the way we treat others determines who they are, to us. And who they are to us is all that matters. One seldom sees such an object lesson in ethical philosophy as this. Admiral Harris says: “They’re all terrorists; they’re all enemy combatants,” Admiral Harris said in an interview...I don’t think there is such a thing as a medium-security terrorist.”

But,as the article notes:

Admiral Harris, who took command on March 31, referred in part to the recent departure from Guantánamo of the last of 38 men whom the military had classified since early 2005 as “no longer enemy combatants.” Still, about 100 others who had been cleared by the military for transfer or release remained here while the State Department tried to arrange their repatriation.

[Shortly after Admiral Harris’s remarks, another 15 detainees were sent home to Saudi Arabia, where they were promptly returned to their families.]
To the man with a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail. To the man with a prison, the whole world looks like a gang of terrorists. One is left wondering what experience in penal systems Admiral Harris has.

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