EDITOR'S NOTE: Our home town weekly newspaper, the Forest Grove News-Times, did an interview of an ex-pat 'Grover' who has gone far up the chain of command within the US military. But RAD feels an excellent journalist has been 'played' or spun by an expert using all of the familiar euphemisms to hide what Gitmo is all about. This pattern of going to local regional outlets to spin a story is a shop worn tactic going back at least to Vietnam.
Here are key excerpts from the article by Nancy Townsley, for the FG News-Times, July 11, 2007 based on an interview of Army Brigadier General Cameron Crawford, the commander of Gitmo at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "General says ‘Gitmo’ little understood
NT: [Crawford] never imagined [his West Point training and National Guard experience] would mold him into a top commander at one of the world’s largest and most controversial military detainment camps. Yet that’s where Crawford, 50, finds himself at this juncture in his life — in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, overseeing daily operations at Camp Delta.
There, he ensures that the 375 current foreign detainees — about 775 are reported to have passed through the gates of “Gitmo” since 2001 — receive “safe and humane care and custody” until they are ultimately transferred, released or charged with a crime.
The fates of the men, plucked from battlefields in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen, will ultimately be determined by tribunal or trial. To date, only four detainees have been formally charged with crimes.
RAD: Since only four of 775 detainees have been formally charged with crimes to call Gitmo a "detainee camp" is an Orwellian euphemism to disguise the fact that it's a prison camp. We are familiar with similar euphemisms - concentration camps or internment camps. A prison is a prison. The word "detainee" implies a temporary stay before the alleged criminal is sent elsewhere in the criminal or military justice system to be tried and then to be found innocent or guilty. Such doesn't happen at Gitmo. Four charged, no trial!
According to Amnesty International -
"Almost five years later, there have been no prosecutions…."
And the safe and humane treatment accorded to inmates seems far less benign than Crawford implies:
"At a Senate hearing in July 2006, six military lawyers all agreed that some of the interrogation techniques authorized in the "war on terror" had breached common Article 3. Indeed, in 2004 a military investigation confirmed that at least from 2002, US interrogators in Afghanistan were stripping detainees, isolating them for long periods, using stress positions, exploiting fear of dogs and using sleep and light deprivation. Such techniques have been used in Guantánamo."
NT: Crawford commands 2,000 troops from all branches of the U.S. military, including the Coast Guard. It’s his job to protect his soldiers as they tend to the everyday needs of the detainees — he won’t call them prisoners — people he describes as “very dangerous men.”
Most are suspected of being al-Qaeda or Taliban operatives and have been held at Guantanamo for five years or more. The lack of legal rights afforded those held at the Cuban compound has drawn international criticism. But Crawford said it’s all part of the fight against terrorism.
“It’s the right of any nation at war to detain enemy combatants for the duration of the conflict,” Crawford insisted.
RAD: Detaining the enemy is one thing - subjecting them to inhumane treatment, i.e. torture is another thing. We detained German and Italian troops in the southern USA in WW II - we did not torture them, in fact they were treated better in the South than African-Americans at the time!
Here's Amnesty International says about Gitmo:
"Many of those held at Guantánamo have been ill-treated, whether in Afghanistan or elsewhere prior to their transfer to Guantánamo, or during their transfer, or as part of the interrogation process at the base, or as a result of the isolating, indefinite and punitive nature of detention in Guantánamo. By association, their families too have suffered the cruelty of this virtually incommunicado island incarceration.
The euphemistically termed "stress and duress" techniques that emerged in the USA’s "war on terror", including in Guantánamo, included forced standing and crouching, sleep deprivation, subjection to noise, prolonged isolation, and hooding. Some techniques, such as the use of dogs, forced nudity, forcible shaving, sexual humiliation by female interrogators, and removal of religious items, have had discriminatory undertones." Does this sound familiar? It should - it's what happened at Abu Garib!
NT: As deputy commander, his mission is to give “safe and humane care and custody” to the detainees and to “glean a significant amount of intelligence” from them, reporting such conversations to his only superior, Navy Rear Admiral Mark Buzby.
He believes fervently in the administration’s mission to root out terrorists across the globe and bring them to justice. At Gitmo, he’s certain the troops are doing their job — and doing it well.
He conceded that it isn’t easy for the women and men at Camp Delta to deal with people they suspect are out to hurt the U.S. — bringing them meals, releasing them to the exercise area, tending to their medical needs.
“I’m not quite sure how they do it,” said Crawford. “They are assaulted daily with bodily fluids, threats against their person and threats against their families.
“They are the finest of soldiers, and I’m extremely proud of them.”
RAD: Again, Amnesty International offers a starkly different view of the "safe and humane care and custody" of the prisoners of war at Gitmo.
"In January 2002, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales advised President Bush that a benefit of not applying the Geneva Conventions to detainees picked up in the Afghanistan conflict would be that prosecutions of US personnel under the US War Crimes Act would be more difficult. Two weeks later, on 7 February 2002, the President signed a memorandum confirming that NO [my emphasis]Taliban or al-Qa’ida detainees would qualify as prisoners of war, and that Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions would not apply to them either.
Common Article 3 guarantees minimum standards of fair trial. It also prohibits torture, cruel treatment and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment". At the time, the War Crimes Act criminalized breaches of common Article 3 as war crimes that could be prosecuted in the USA."
We all familiar with the dubious record of Alberto Gonzalez, now our Attorney General. RAD is almost wistful for the Nixon era and Attorney General John Mitchell!
NT: Crawford downplays media portrayals of Guantanamo Bay as U.S.-run Abu Ghraib, the prison in Baghdad, Iraq, widely known for incidents of abuse and torture.
“There’s a significant distinction between the two,” Crawford said. A number of investigations into conditions at Gitmo have uncovered “no substantial evidence” of inhumane treatment of detainees, he added.
In fact, the biggest surprise of his tour in Cuba has been the reality of daily life at Gitmo and what he read beforehand in the media.
“There’s a huge difference between what I thought I might see and experience here and what actually goes on,” Crawford said.
His days are filled with meetings, security updates and frequent interactions with the “soldiers and sailors” who guard Camp Delta.
Crawford said he can’t worry about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to consider whether those in custody at Guantanamo can use the federal court system to challenge their detention.
For the remaining seven months of his mission, he’s focused on the task he’s been given.
RAD: No evidence of abuse or torture? How would he know? Crawford's comments regarding his days being "filled with meetings et al" is a form of plausible deniability. If he's not in daily contact with prison inmates and guards - how does he really know what's going on under his nose at Gitmo? The American commanders at Abu Gharib were similarly clueless or so they said!
But again - here's what AI says about conditions at Gitmo:
"We made this camp for people who would be here forever. You should never think about going home. You’ll be here all your life… Don’t worry. We’ll keep you alive so you can suffer more." Alleged statement of a US interrogator to Mohamed al-Gharani, a Chadian national held in Camp V
In May 2006, the UN Committee against Torture told the USA that indefinite detention without charge constitutes per se a violation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This expert body urged the USA to close the Guantánamo detention camp.
NT: “I intend to be a resource and a source of encouragement to the troops who work their tails off every day at Guantanamo,” Crawford said.
He hopes that when history tells the tale, Guantanamo Bay will be regarded as a kind of necessary evil in the midst of the complexities of modern warfare.
“Our allies have benefited from the intelligence we have obtained from these detainees and shared with them,” Crawford said in an e-mail exchange preceding a phone interview. “It has saved the lives of innocent civilians and protected coalition forces.
RAD: Many have disputed that any valuable intelligence has come from Gitmo or the practice of rendition - where alleged combatants have been spirited out of Gitmo or other detainment centers to prisons in Egypt, Rumania et al where the harsh treatment is well known.
And now that our own government has reported that al-Qaeda is more robust than ever before - one wonders how whatever "intelligence" has been gleaned from such inhumane practices has been used. It certainly hasn't resulted in the bringing of Osama bin Laden to justice and the Taliban are surging along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. So where's the success here?
By having a prison like Gitmo the USA has become in the eyes of much of the world the greatest purveyor of torture and disrespect for human rights in the world. Even our allies in Iraq and Afghanistan complain about our abuse of their citizens. Under the Bush-Gonzales policy the USA has become the most feared and hated government in the world.
With success stories like this - we have morphed into an Orwellian world where hate is love; war is peace; and torture is humane treatment!
For more info on Gitmo go to the Amnesty International website on Gitmo: http://web.amnesty.org/pages/guantanamobay-index-eng