Ramblings & ephemera

Illegality practices by the US in the “War on Terror”

From Tony Judt’s “The New World Order” (The New York Review of Books: 14 July 2005):

The unrepublican veneration of our presidential “leader” has made it uniquely difficult for Americans to see their country’s behavior as others see it. The latest report from Amnesty International – which says nothing that the rest of the world doesn’t already know or believe but which has been denied and ridiculed by President Bush – is a case in point. The United States “renders” (i.e., kidnaps and hands over) targeted suspects to third-party states for interrogation and torture beyond the reach of US law and the press. The countries to whom we outsource this task include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria (!), Pakistan – and Uzbekistan. Where outsourcing is impractical, we import qualified interrogators from abroad: in September 2002 a visiting Chinese “delegation” was invited to participate in the “interrogation” of ethnic Uighur detainees held at Guantánamo.

At the US’s own interrogation centers and prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay, at least twenty-seven “suspects” have been killed in custody. This number does not include extrajudicial, extraterritorial “targeted assassinations”: a practice inaugurated by Benito Mussolini with the murder of the Rosselli brothers in Normandy in 1937, pursued with vigor by Israel, and now adopted by the Bush administration. The Amnesty report lists sixty alleged incarceration and interrogation practices routinely employed at US detention centers, Guantánamo in particular. These include immersion in cold water to simulate drowning, forced shaving of facial and body hair, electric shocks to body parts, humiliation (e.g., being urinated upon), sex-ual taunting, the mocking of religious belief, suspension from shackles, physical exertion to the point of exhaus-tion (e.g., rock-carrying), and mock execution.

Any and all of these practices will be familiar to students of Eastern Europe in the Fifties or Latin America in the Seventies and Eighties – including the reported presence of “medical personnel.” But American interrogators have also innovated. One technique has been forcibly to wrap suspects – and their Korans – in Israeli flags: a generous gesture to our only unconditional ally, but calculated to ensure that a new generation of Muslims worldwide will identify the two countries as one and hate them equally.

All of these practices – and many, many others routinely employed at Guantánamo, at Kandahar and Bagram in Afghanistan, at al-Qaim, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere in Iraq – are in breach of the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention against Torture, to both of which the US is a signatory

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