Tuesday, May 19, 2009
While torture under the Bush administration was horrible, at least it has stopped. Right?
Jeremy Scahill (the reporter who broke most of the stories on Blackwater) says that a military police unit at Guantanamo regularly brutalizes unarmed prisoners, including gang-beating them, breaking their bones, gouging their eyes and dousing them with chemicals.
Specifically, whenever there is "disobedience" by the detainees - which can include praying, or having 2 styrofoam cups in their cell instead of 1, or refusing medication or failing to immediately respond when spoken to - the "Immediate Reaction Force" (IRF) is sent in.
Scahill describes what happens next:
When an IRF team is called in, its members are dressed in full riot gear, which some prisoners and their attorneys have compared to "Darth Vader" suits. Each officer is assigned a body part of the prisoner to restrain: head, right arm, left arm, left leg, right leg...
[The IRF teams then mete out brutal punishment, including] gang beating them, forcing their heads into toilets, breaking bones, gouging their eyes, squeezing their testicles, urinating on a prisoner's head, banging their heads on concrete floors and hog-tying them -- sometimes leaving prisoners tied in excruciating positions for hours on end...
[One prisoner was sprayed directly in the eyes with mace and gouged in the eyes and was then refused medical treatment, which resulted in permanent blindness in one eye. He also endured a "sexual attack".
Another prisoner had a third prisoner's feces spread on him.]
There was also torture using water:
The ERF team came into the cell with a water hose under very high pressure. He was totally shackled, and they would hold his head fixed still. They would force water up his nose until he was suffocating and would scream for them to stop. This was done with medical staff present, and they would join in.
Scahill says that these are not "a few bad apples":
The IRF teams "were fully approved at the highest levels [of the Bush administration], including the Secretary of Defense and with outside consultation of the Justice Department," says Scott Horton, one of the leading experts on U.S. Military and Constitutional law. This force "was designed to disabuse the prisoners of any idea that they would be free from physical assault while in U.S. custody," he says. "They were trained to brutally punish prisoners in a brief period of time, and ridiculous pretexts were taken to justify" the beatings.