Friday, October 07, 2005

A Few Bad Apples?

This is where I came in on the James Yee interview on Democracy Now! last night. Fortunately they did a full transcript of the entire interview. Read this, and keep telling yourself the problem in Gitmo is "just a few bad apples."

JUAN GONZALEZ: I want to just quote a section of your book that gives a harrowing account. You write, "The most traumatized detainees were kept in Delta block. It was equipped like the others, but its occupants seemed to constitute a psychiatric ward, rather than a prison block. The prisoners here were truly mentally disturbed. At any time, at least 20 prisoners were being held in Delta block."

And you go on to say that "cameras were installed along the ceiling and in the back section. A few cages have been converted into a large office where nurses and guards watched the detainees from dozens of monitors. Inside their cages, the detainees exhibited a wide range of strange behaviors.

”Many of them acted like children. I’d stop to talk to them, and they would respond to me in a child-like voice, talking complete nonsense. Many of them would loudly sing childish songs, repeating the song over and over. Some would stand on top of their steel-frame beds and act out childishly, reminding me of the king of the mountain game I played with my brothers when we were young.

”Unlike those in the other blocks the prisoners here were allowed the privilege of paper and crayons. They would lie on the floor or on their beds drawing pictures. The nurses let them hang the pictures on their cage wall, and every cell was plastered in pastel drawings of animals, the guards, their cells and mosques. A mental health expert later explained to me that an adult who takes on the attributes of a child is suffering from regressive behavior. It affects people who have been so traumatized by prolonged stress that they lose the sense of themselves and revert to the mindset of a child."

CHAPLAIN JAMES YEE: Right, right. Yeah, that was something very shocking. You mentioned the monitors in the back. And that was because you had this special prison block for prisoners who were mentally disturbed, who had been seriously affected by the conditions that they were living in. They had to be monitored 24 hours a day, because they were under suicide threat. It was that serious. It was so serious that the Joint Task Force needed to have a team of 17 psychiatric nurses and doctors to take care of these prisoners who got to that state.

JUAN GONZALEZ: You also talk about a mass suicide attempt that occurred at one point. Could you talk about that? The prisoners were so depressed and frustrated by the way they were being treated that one by one, they tried to hang themselves.

CHAPLAIN JAMES YEE: Right. And this resulted when I was there predominantly from their complaints that the Koran was being abused, or that Islam was being insulted, disrespected. Other general complaints that they had, for the most part, I was able to try and handle them and try and relieve some of those tensions. So, the protests, the resistance was the abuse of the Koran. They could put up with being mistreated to some extent. They can put up with being humiliated. But what they wouldn't put up with is Islam or the Koran being mistreated, and that led to them taking drastic measures, conducting the -- willing to conduct or take their own life and try and hang themselves.

Now, contrast that with today. There's a growing hunger strike going on now in Guantanamo. And we see that in the news where not just two detainees are being force-fed, but it's been reported that some 18 or 21 detainees are now being force-fed. And we have seen in the news, the recent news reports, the reasons for this protest, it's not just now abuses against religion, it's the general abuses that I was able to handle and help them deal with when I was there. There's no Muslim chaplain there today, as far as I know. So this, to me, is an indication that the conditions down in Guantanamo seemingly have deteriorated to even worse conditions than when I was there almost two years ago.
That hunger strike is in its 56th day.

Now you know why.

Lear howls against the injustice of his daughter's death, fully cognizant of his complicity and responsibility for it. Isaiah cries against the word of God, the command to "cry!" to which he responds "Why?," since all flesh is grass, since all pleas seem equally worthless. Now we are called upon to cry, but the question is the same: what will we cry?

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