Tucson Citizen – November 21, 2005
Ban reprehensible treatment of prisoners
as illegal, immoral, un-American
Dr. Siraj Mufti
By now it is obvious that abuse and torture of prisoners is not a rare occurrence limited to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, but a modus operandi approved by the U.S. administration for its war on terror.
While human rights groups have been protesting all along, what convinced Congress was the recent testimony of Capt. Ian Fishback.
An anti-torture provision by Sen. John McCain and others passed the Senate by an impressive90-9 vote. President Bush, however, has said he will veto this defense bill.
Vice President Dick Cheney met with McCain and others to push for exclusion of torture's main culprit, the CIA. But McCain rejected that absurd proposal, and it remains to be seen what kind of compromise the Senate and House can work out.
Fishback, 26, a West Point graduate and son of a Vietnam War veteran, tried for 17 months to get his superiors to clarify prisoner treatment.
He and his witnesses were troubled by what was happening at Camp Mercury, a base near Fallujah, Iraq. Prisoners taken before, during and after the siege of Fallujah were kicked and beaten, their bones broken, and skin and eyes doused with chemicals. Some were forced to form human pyramids; others, made to hold heavy water jugs with their arms outstretched.
Only after Fishback contacted Human Rights Watch, and it notified his unit about releasing the report outlining the allegations, did his commanders summon him to Fort Bragg for questioning.
In reality, the problem began when the Bush administration seized the 9/11 opportunity to enact its hegemonic agenda, and instead of settling the dispute peacefully, invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq, though no Afghan or Iraqi was ever involved in any terrorist activity against the United States.
In order to avoid any court challenge, Afghans captured by the U.S. Army in Afghanistan were taken to an offshore base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The administration repeatedly said the Geneva Conventions do not apply to these detainees.
It invented novel terms, such as "enemy combatants" for those who resisted the occupation, and "collateral damage" for noncombatant civilians killed. The latter - mostly women and children in Iraq - are of no concern, so they are not counted.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved improper investigation techniques to extract information from the detainees at Guantanamo. These techniques were then exported to Iraq and other secret locations.
In addition, administration officials have been following a policy of renditions, approved by Albert Gonzales, the attorney general, whereby detainees are transferred to the countries that are accused of practicing torture by the U.S. State Department.
Thus the recent disclosure that the CIA is holding several prisoners at some secret locations is very disturbing.
The irony is that experts who have followed torture practices over a number of years conclude they are not only inhumane, but also counterproductive, because a detainee will confess to anything under conditions of duress.
Torture is morally reprehensible.
Isn't it time to ban torture as illegal and immoral wherever it is practiced on the face of the Earth? Refusal to allow cruel interrogation techniques is a measure of civilized societies, and people of conscience must not allow torture to occur, anywhere.
Dr. Siraj Mufti, Ph.D., is a research and freelance journalist active in interfaith and Islamic communities in Tucson.