Sanitizing the truth about Guantanamo

Chris Floyd reports on how the New York Times buried those facts in the latest WikiLeaks release on Guantanamo to hide the details that were embarrassing to the US.

Almost as sickening as the atrocities themselves, however, is the way the release has been played in the New York Times, whose coverage of the document dump will set the tone for the American media and political establishments. The Times’ take is almost wholly devoted to showing how evil and dangerous a handful of the hundreds of Gitmo detainees were, and to justifying Barack Obama’s betrayal of his promises to close the concentration camp. We are treated to lurid tales (many if not most of them extracted under torture, but who cares about that?) of monsters seething with irrepressible hatred of America, and so maniacally devoted to jihad that they inject themselves with libido-deadening drugs to ward off any sexual distractions from their murderous agenda.

There is almost no mention in the Times coverage of the many innocent people — including children — who spent years in the concentration camp, athough the main story about the documents does note, in an eyeblink, the case of one prisoner who was falsely imprisoned on the word of an Afghan official trying to hide his own complicity with insurgents. (Damn treacherous furriners!)

He points out that the international press had no difficulty discerning the real story in the same dossier, as this except from the Guardian shows:

The US military dossiers, obtained by the New York Times and the Guardian, reveal how, alongside the so-called “worst of the worst”, many prisoners were flown to the Guantánamo cages and held captive for years on the flimsiest grounds, or on the basis of lurid confessions extracted by maltreatment. The files depict a system often focused less on containing dangerous terrorists or enemy fighters, than on extracting intelligence.

Among inmates who proved harmless were an 89-year-old Afghan villager, suffering from senile dementia, and a 14-year-old boy who had been an innocent kidnap victim. The old man was transported to Cuba to interrogate him about “suspicious phone numbers” found in his compound. The 14-year-old was shipped out merely because of “his possible knowledge of Taliban…local leaders”

The documents also reveal … Almost 100 of the inmates who passed through Guantánamo are listed by their captors as having had depressive or psychotic illnesses. Many went on hunger strike or attempted suicide.

The full Guardian dossier on this latest release also has an analysis by Julian Glover who says:

The leaked files published by the Guardian and the New York Times reveal horror that lies only partly in the physical things that were done to inmates – the desperate brutality of heated isolation cells, restraining straps and forced interrogation.

But what is given new prominence by these latest Guantánamo files is the cold, incompetent stupidity of the system: a system that tangled up the old and the young, the sick and the innocent. A system in which to say you were not a terrorist might be taken as evidence of your cunning.

It didn’t work, much of the time. These files show that some of the information collected was garbage and that many of those held knew nothing that could be of use to the people demanding answers from them. Far from securing the fight against terror, the people running the camp faced an absurdist battle to educate a 14-year-old peasant boy kidnapped by an Afghan tribe and treat the dementia, depression and osteoarthritis of an 89-year-old man caught up in a raid on his son’s house.

Other cases are just as pathetic. Jamal al-Harith, born Ronald Fiddler in Manchester in 1966, was imprisoned by the Taliban as a possible spy, after being found wandering through Afghanistan as a Muslim convert. In a movement of Kafkaesque horror the Americans held him in Camp X-Ray simply because he had been a prisoner of its enemy [My italics]. “He was expected to have knowledge of Taliban treatment of prisoners and interrogation tactics,” the files record.

At times, I have feared that obsessing over the injustices of Guantánamo Bay has become a surrogate for a wider hatred of America. Read the files, and you’ll realise that obsession is the only possible humane response.

I would have said that what happened and is still happening at Guantanamo should be the nation’s everlasting shame, if I didn’t feel that we had lost the capacity to feel shame.


  1. says

    But didn’t you hear, Mano? The death of bin Laden means it was all worthwhile; without the enhanced interrogation techniques at Guantanamo we wouldn’t have been able to find him (or it would have taken another ten years). The mainstream media lost no time giving Dick Cheney an opportunity to remind us all how wise he (sorry, they) were and that we should all be grateful to him for displaying such courageous leadership.

    Much like Madeleine Albright’s repulsive verdict that the death of countless Iraqis under the brutal sanctions regime was “worth it,” the ease with which we justify such atrocity bespeaks great moral depravity in this putatively Christian nation. But you won’t be hearing that in many churches this Sunday, or from the secular pulpits of the media. And good luck to you if you try to point that out to the average voter.

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