Monday, June 12, 2006

The Culture of Death

Colleen Graffy was not that far off the reservation. According to CNN, "U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs Cully Stimson told the BBC: "I wouldn't characterize it as a good PR move," but in then we have the claims of the commander of Guantanamo:

Rear Adm. Harry Harris, commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, told reporters the men had been "determined to take their own lives." He said prisoners at the camp are "dangerous, committed to killing Americans."

There have been more than 40 suicide attempts at Guantanamo Bay, but the inmates found dead over the weekend were the first to succeed, the government said. (Watch commanders explain how guards discovered the men -- 5:09)

Center for Constitutional Rights lawyers, who defend 200 of the detainees, said the suicides were acts of desperation carried out by people who had not been charged and have no hope of getting their day in court.

The human rights group Amnesty International blamed the Bush administration's policies for the deaths.

But Harris said the suicides were an act of "asymmetric warfare" aimed at getting the prison closed. He said a "mythical belief" had spread among inmates that the camp would be shut if three detainees were to die.

The Defense Department said one of the three, Ali Abdullah Ahmed, was a mid- to high-level al Qaeda operative and a "close associate" of Abu Zubaydah, an al Qaeda strategist captured in 2002. Ahmed took part in a long-term hunger strike that ended in May, and has been "non-compliant and hostile" to guards, according to a Pentagon statement.

Another of the dead prisoners, Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi Al-Utaybi, was a member of a banned Saudi militant group that recruited for al Qaeda. He had been recommended for transfer to another country that was not specified, the Pentagon said.

The third prisoner, Yassar Talal al-Zahrani, was described as a "front-line" Taliban fighter who helped procure weapons for the Islamic militia that once ruled most of Afghanistan.

Al-Zahrani was captured by anti-Taliban Afghan forces and took part in the 2001 uprising at a prison in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif that left a CIA officer dead, the military said. The men were not identified by nationality.
And actually, CNN has softened the Admiral's remarks considerably. Democracy Now! has the tape of his remarks, in their story (transcript will be up later).

So, these men were so desperate to kill Americans, they committed suicide themselves for the cause, hoping their terrorist brothers would then be released, free to kill again?

Once you dehumanize your enemy, you dehumanize yourself.

UPDATE: Keep turning over rocks, you keep finding things that you might rather not see:

White House officials described the three men as committed terrorists, and military officials said that none had been among the handful of prisoners whose cases had been brought before military commissions for prosecution.
Which, of course, just reinforces the claim that these men had no hope, and saw no reason to live. How much longer do we tell ourselves it's their fault for being "Terrorists"? But it's never about the conditions; it's all about the politics:

General Craddock [who oversees Guantánamo as commander of the United States Southern Command] speculated that the suicides may have been timed to affect the Supreme Court decision on the Hamdan case.

"This may be an attempt to influence the judicial proceedings in that perspective," he told reporters, according to a transcript of his comments during a brief visit to Guantánamo on Sunday.
All about the politics:

Though the Bush administration has been under pressure — from the United Nations, European countries and the International Committee of the Red Cross — about the Guantánamo detention center, White House officials did not indicate that they viewed the suicides as a major political problem. The State Department alerted American embassies in Europe and the Middle East, and asked them to contact government officials. But White House officials said Mr. Bush did not make calls to world leaders.

"We haven't heard much response," one senior official said.

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