Friday, April 27, 2007

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers..."

The Justice Department wants to keep laywers out of Gitmo. Why? Because they promote violence, of course:

Saying that visits by civilian lawyers and attorney-client mail have caused “intractable problems and threats to security at Guantánamo,” a Justice Department filing proposes new limits on the lawyers’ contact with their clients and access to evidence in their cases that would replace more expansive rules that have governed them since they began visiting Guantánamo detainees in large numbers in 2004.

The filing says the lawyers have caused unrest among the detainees and have improperly served as a conduit to the news media, assertions that have drawn angry responses from some of the lawyers.
This is an old complaint. Initially, the blame was laid on Newsweek. Of course, Human Rights Watch and the Red Cross showed that blame was, shall we say, misplaced. Since then we have learned that Gitmo should simply be described as a "gulag." And Human Rights Watch and the Red Cross weren't the only ones concerned; even the FBI was troubled:

The United States is maintaining an archipelago of prisons, many of them secret prisons in which people are being disappeared. They are being held in incommunicado detention without access to the judicial system.

That is similar to the gulags. They are being held without access to their families; that is similar. And in many cases, they are being mistreated, abused, and even killed. In fact, there have been at least a hundred deaths of detainees, 27 of which have been ruled to be homicides by medical examiners.

Now, at Guantanamo Bay itself, you don't to rely upon Amnesty International for reports of abuses that have taken place there and of the violation of the Geneva Conventions. In terms of abuses, a Kentucky guardsman, for example, reported detainees whose heads had been slammed into walls.

The FBI agents there at Guantanamo Bay reported their concerns about people held in stress positions for eighteen to twenty-four hours. The Red Cross itself reported on sleep deprivation there.

And we've heard reports of female interrogators smearing what they represented as menstrual blood upon the faces of those prisoners, some of the prisoners there, which certainly is inhumane and degrading treatment, even if it doesn't rise to the level of torture.
And then there were the suicides, which were not blamed on access to lawyers, but the lack of access:

But attorneys for the men_who the military initially said had no lawyers_say that had the detainees known of legal efforts on their behalf, they might be alive today.
What could lead people to commit suicide, aside from despair and hopelessness? Perhaps conditions like these:

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."
Long before the Supreme Court ruling that allowed these prisoners to have lawyers:

The prisoners were so depressed and frustrated by the way they were being treated that one by one, they tried to hang themselves.
The position taken by the Justice Department is a direct result of the suspension of habeas corpus, of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. It is also the most rankly cynical, most barbaric and reprehensible and simply unjust, position I can imagine any lawyer taking. If taking a position that directly violates the interests of the justice system isn't a violation of a lawyer's oath, then there is nothing a lawyer can do that violates that oath, and it has become a meaningless act. The position taken by the Justice Department is consistent with the posture of the Bush Administration for the past 6 years; government doesn't mean doing anything for the people; government just means being in control.

It is long past time to simply declare them evil.

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