Ever since the world learned of the lawless state of American military prisons in Iraq, the administration has hidden behind the claim that only a few bad apples were brutalizing prisoners. President Bush also has dodged the full force of public outrage because the victims were foreigners, mostly Muslims, captured in what he has painted as a war against Islamic terrorists bent on destroying America.
This week, The Times published two articles that reminded us again that the American military prisons are profoundly and systemically broken and that no one is safe from the summary judgment and harsh treatment institutionalized by the White House and the Pentagon after 9/11.
On Monday, Michael Moss wrote about a U.S. contractor who was swept up in a military raid and dumped into a system where everyone is presumed guilty and denied any chance to prove otherwise.
Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran from Chicago, was a whistle-blower who prompted the raid by tipping off the F.B.I. to suspicious activity at the company where he worked, including possible weapons trafficking. He was arrested and held for 97 days — shackled and blindfolded, prevented from sleeping by blaring music and round-the-clock lights. In other words, he was subjected to the same mistreatment that thousands of non-Americans have been subjected to since the 2003 invasion.
Even after the military learned who Mr. Vance was, they continued to hold him in these abusive conditions for weeks more. He was not allowed to defend himself at the Potemkin hearing held to justify his detention. And that was special treatment. As an American citizen, he was at least allowed to attend his hearing. An Iraqi, or an Afghani, or any other foreigner, would have been barred from the room.
This is not the handiwork of a few out-of-control sadists at Abu Ghraib. This is a system that was created and operated outside American law and American standards of decency. Except for the few low-ranking soldiers periodically punished for abusing prisoners, it is a system without any accountability.
Via Steve DeKorte.
If it were any other country which had invaded and committed these abuses, we would consider this a sufficient pretext to counter-invade and rescue someone from them.
Can anyone really believe Iraq is better off with our military occupying it than it would be without? That our military is better off involved in this than it would be at home? That we Americans are safer with this going on in our name abroad?
So much blood, so much torture, all in our name. We can’t fix this by perpetuating it. We must remove our troops immediately. Whatever happens afterward is very, very unlikely to be worse than what’s happening now. At least when we’re gone, someone whose credibility as a force for peace and democracy hasn’t been turned into a complete joke could perhaps come in to help.
“We can’t do this, we can’t do that, we can’t do that, and finally they stood up and said, ‘Well, what the hell can you do?’ And the answer is, ‘we can kill people and destroy things in the name of the United States.’ Well, my God, you can’t say that. But that’s what we do. And if you don’t want that done, don’t send in the military”
–an official sampled in “What’s My Mission Now” by Gary Clail’s Tackhead Sound System, almost certainly U.S. Army Colonel Harry Summers, based on similar statements he’s made in other context.