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GITMO Abuse Fine But The Real Crime Is What We Feed Detainees

Reported by Marie Therese - June 13, 2005

Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter, appeared yesterday (6/13/05) on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace. Hunter defended the Gitmo detention practices during a discussion with Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. Hunter wore a tie decorated with American flag. He also hogged the lion's share of the interview, since Wallace addressed most of the questions to him.

Amid calls to close down Guantanamo Bay by human rights activists and politicians - including some true GOP Southern conservatives like Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, Rep. Hunter doggedly defended the administration's policies. Ever the creative wordsmiths, the new jargon is now that "the legend of Guantanamo" has overtaken the "fact of Guantanamo."

HUNTER: "... Some members of the White House have come to the conclusion that the ... legend is different than the fact and when that's the case you go with the legend that somehow Guantanamo has been a place of abuse and you close it down and you shorten the stories, you shorten the heated debate and you get it off the table and you move on ... We haven't been abusing prisoners in Guantanamo ...That's where we have the 20th hijacker ...we picked him up in a firefight in Tora Bora and realized he was the 20th hijacker ... How do we treat these people? I sent down yesterday for the menu from Guantanamo and I've got it right here. For Sunday they're going to be having (reads) ... orange-glazed chicken, fresh fruit group A, steamed peas and mushrooms, rice pilaf - another form of torture for the hijackers. We treat them very well. If you go back to Sunday, it looks like it's ...lemon-baked fish as an entree and, if you look at the food and you also look at the list that has been prepared the Armed Services Committee, which lists abuses of the height - of the way you can abuse a prisoner - feeding them the food that we feed our soldiers, that is, the MRE's which is the new C-ration is considered actually to be a form of abuse, something probably the manufacturers of C-rations or the new rations don't agree with. But the point is we treat these people very well. We supply everyone of 'em with a Koran. We supply them with oil. We supply them with prayer beads. Five times a day on the prison system we do the call to prayer with arrows pointing in direction of Mecca ..."

Apparently, Rep. Hunter has an obsession with food. He went on an great length justifying torture while implying that detainees are living like pashas, pigging out on haute cuisine.

Chris Wallace aired a clip from Friday's House Judiciary Committee hearings on abuse, noting that Amnesty International has refused to "take back" it's comparison that Gitmo is like a Soviet "gulag." [N.B. These hearings were shut down abruptly by Chairman Sensenbrenner, who did not want to allow the speakers to bring up allegations of abuse other than those at issue in the Patriot Act. Click here to view a video clip. You will need to scroll down about half a page.]

VIDEO CLIP of CHIP PITTS, Chairman of Amnesty International USA: "The same principles - or practices - that were at play in the gulag - disappearances, putting people in the gulag, stripping them, beating them - these are practices that people that were there we are now seeing in Guantanamo ..." END CLIP.

Human Rights Watch's Tom Malinowski noted that it is easy to exaggerate about these things, that "it's not a concentration camp but it is a problem for the United States" both symbolically and in reality.

MALINOWSKI: "... It's the FBI that's reported that prisoners down there have been abused in some fairly gruesome ways. It's the Red Cross - which we should have been listening to for the last three years - that's reported that there's been serious abuse. Beyond that it's just a legal black hole, a place to which no law applies. Now, you can fix those problems without shutting down the camp - and that's what I hope the administration does - but if you don't shut down the camp, more and more people are going to be calling for the closure of Guantanamo not because they're concerned about the detainees but because they're concerned with winning the war on terror ..."

Wallace ventured to note that there were International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reports of "practices there that were 'tantamount to torture'" and that FBI agents emailed "complaining about abuses" also.

Hunter countered with the astounding and completely irrelevant statement that "not one person has been killed in Guantanamo." He then defended the treatment of the man he had earlier referred to as "the 20th hijacker," Mohammed Khatani.

[COMMENT: Khatani's name is mentioned in a January 7, 2005 article in the Nation, which outlines many of the charges now facing the Department of Defense vis a vis prisoner abuse at Guantanamo. For a more graphic explanation of the various types of methods used, go to Common Dreams.]

Hunter continued his hymn in praise of Gitmo: " .....Mr. Khatani had so-called stressful methods applied to him. Those methods included embarrassing him. I think we saw the Time article this morning, having dogs nearby which barked, did not bite, so here you have a guy who was on his was to killed 5,000 [sic] Americans in the towers, was caught - the 20th hijacker - and pushed out of the country before he could do that and we have people complaining because he had a dog bark at him in Guantanamo. Didn't touch him, but barked at him. Now, not one person is touched in Guantanamo.

[Comment: This is an out and out lie. See the above-referenced links for corroboration of my statement.]

HUNTER (continuing): We had one sergeant who, when a punch was thrown at him last July, threw a punch back. The American sergeant was busted for that. We have ...

WALLACE: Why don't we let Mr. Malinowski - is that true?

MALINOWSKI: Well, it's true that there haven't been any deaths in custody in Guantanamo. We're talking about more than Guantanamo.

HUNTER: Then what are we talkin' about?!

MALINOWSKI: We're talking about a series of detention facilities around the world in which according ....

[Hunter motions to interrupt.]

MALINOWSKI; .... hold on - according to the Pentagon there have been between 28 and 31 deaths that were the result of criminal homicides. That is a huge number because you have to understand, torture rarely leads to death.

HUNTER: You understand ...

MALINOWSKI: When you have 30 people killed in detention, because of criminal homicides, that's (indecipherable)

HUNTER (belligerently interrupts, overtalks last few words): Now, let's goback to Guantanamo, because we've quickly shifted the subject ...

WALLACE: Well, I, I ....

HUNTER: ... because what I said was absolutely true. Nobody has been killed in Guantanamo. If you're a guard and you touch a prisoner in Guantanamo, you're subject to an article 15. When you handle the Koran, which we give to all the prisoners - Koran, prayer beads and we broadcast their prayers over the loudspeaker five times a day - when you handle the Koran you have to use gloves and you have to use both hands because otherwise you insult the Islamic faith, so we have the legend that there is so-called gulag-like treatment and the reality is honey-glazed chicken on Sunday and we give them honey and dates to break the fast on Ramadan,

WALLACE: Let, let, let me bring in Mr. Malinowski, though, about this 'cause I want to ask you - I mean, it's perfectly fine if you want to extend this beyond Guantanamo - but even there, according to the Pentagon and I understand that this is the Pentagon talking - they have handled 68,000 detainees since 9/11. There have been 370 criminal investigations. Now obviously any criminal investigation - and there have been, as you suggest, 20 homicides, 25 homicides - but, when we're talking about 68,000 cases, isn't that unfortunate, but very rare occurrences?

MALINOWSKI: Well, it's, it's unfortunate and rare, if it's not tied to policy. But, unfortunately, a lot of these abuses have arisen from approved policies - interrogation techniques that violated the Army's traditional rules - which were approved by Secretary Rumsfeld in the case of Guantanamo, by senior military commanders in Iraq and also in Afghanistan - this use of dogs and stripping detainees naked and making them stand in buckets of ice for hours on end and all of these techniques absolutely violate the Geneva Conventions. They violate what our military has taught our soldiers for years and years and years. And you know what? The military didn't ask for these things. In fact it was the lawyers in our armed forces who complained time and again that these techniques would lead to abuses, would lead to embarrassment for the United States, would hurt us in the war on terror. They were right. They should have been listened to.

WALLACE (to Hunter): A lot of those are approved techniques....

HUNTER: Well ..

WALLACE: .. the stripping of prisoners,

HUNTER: Well ..

WALLACE: ... isolation for periods of time, stress positions, not biting but threatening of dogs. You have any problems with that, Chairman?

HUNTER: Yeah. Let's. let's clear ... Let's clear away the -uh, the - uh, the legend and go to the fact. Secretary Rumsfeld for Mr. Khadani - the hijacker who had important information on us, perhaps who was going to hit us next - approved for about two weeks the so-called new techniques for Mr. Khadani - or the more stressful techniques - that included embarrassing him with women's underwear. We all understand that. It includes stripping him. It included having a police dog in proximity to him but never touching him. Mr. Khatani was never hurt and Mr. Khatani tomorrow will dine on - or today - will be dining on honey-glazed chicken (off screen laughter) and rice pilaf and so these broad allegations are simply that - they're allegations. You know they've done a real disservice to this country because nobody treats prisoners better than the United States. Even the people who tried to murder - and did murder - 5,000 [sic] Americans at 9-11 and killed lots of our soldiers on the battlefield, we treat them better than any other country in the world so the question is, if - how much - how can you improve the schedule that we have. There's no allowed touching of the prisoners; you have to wear gloves if you handle their bible or Koran; they have a library; we're teaching them to read and write. and we give them excellent food, which is much better than our soldiers who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

WALLACE: I want to switch if we can to another part of this and, that is and something that (clears his throat) - excuse me - Mr. Malinowski brought on before which is just the question of detention. Congressman, some of these prisoners have been held for years without any independent review of the charges, the evidence against them Isn't it a question of basic fairness, of due process, that these people are entitled to some version of their day in court?

HUNTER: And here's what we've done. We have an administrative review, which is like a parole board which was set up by Gordon England, former Secretary of the Navy who's going to be going on to be Deputy Head of DoD. And that allows them to have counsel. It allows them to make a case that they are not combatants - that I'm not the guy who was Osama bin Laden's bodyguard, the so-called thirty - dirty thirty - who were there. And they get to make that case. They get to have their day at least in an administrative court and we have taken from that population of a little over 500 people, we have 38 of them whom we have determined to be, in fact, non-combatants. Some of them have been sent back and we have 20 of those pending, so we have reviewed them.

WALLACE (interrupts): For fairness, I want to let Mr. Malinowski speak. Are these people getting independent reviews?

MALINOWSKI: Not yet. These aren't independent reviews. It's a - these are officers in the chain of command who are serving on these panels. The lawyer is actually working for the military, not for the detainee. It's a step in the right direction required by the Supreme Court, not something the administration did voluntarily. It's something designed to make up for the fact that there was no due process for three years. You know, maybe we''re talking about the past. We're talking about everything that's gone wrong. (turns to Hunter) Maybe we can actually agree on a couple of things in terms of going forward. I mean, I hope we can agree ...

HUNTER: Sure.

MALINOWSKI: ... that we've got a problem as a country.

HUNTER: But, I think one thing you should - I think, instead of using these broad terms of torture because again, when we looked up the list of torture items, one of them was forcing them to eat GI food. That was considered to be torture.

MALINOWSKI: No one has said that was torture

HUNTER: Well, well, that has been stated. In fact that is listed officially as one of the, one of the prisoner abuses that has been listed at Guantanamo. And we don't do it. We feed them now their Islamic food. We give them honey and dates when they break fast at Ramadan. we give them prayer beads, prayer oil, all paid for - in fact if you did that for American GI's ad you did a call to prayer five times a day, the ACLU would sue on the basis that we'd broken the separation between Church and State. So my question is: We even have - we even have footprints that are painted at the - at the prison where guards are not to step at prayer time because they will squeak, will make noise and bother the prisoners at prayer time. How can you possibly improve that treatment for the guys who are Osama bin Laden's bodyguards and the guy who was on his way to kill 5,000 [sic[] Americans ....

WALLACE: Mr. Malinowski, answer the question ...

HUNTER: ..., no matter where you put him?

WALLACE: .. and this is the last word.

Malinowski: This is a good question. Sure. There are some simple things that we could do and I would hope you'd agree. In terms of treatment we could cut out all the controversy simply by saying that the U. S. Army's manual on interogation applies in Guantanamo and everywhere around the world. The rules our military's trained year in and year out should apply.

HUNTER: It does but only questions. There are only questions. There's no touching of the prisoners

MALINOWSKI: That's not true, because the manual would prohibit the use of dogs and nudity and all that stuff.

HUNTER: Let get this straight. The dogs and the nudity were cut out a year ago. The Rumsfeld memo was only in effect for two weeks for Mr. Khatani.

WALLACE: Gentlemen, we're gonna have to let it go. I want you guys to take it out in the hall. I'm sure you will.

HUNTER: Thanks for the opportunity.

WALLACE: I want to thank you both for shedding some light on a situation where there's been an awful lot of heat this last week. Thank you both.

HUNTER: Glazed chicken tomorrow for the prisoners. Another abuse!

WALLACE: You've made that point. I almost have gotten hungry about it.

MALINOWSKI: I'll take the MRE's.

WALLACE: Mr. Malinowski, Congressman Hunter, thank you both for coming.

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