Wednesday, January 14, 2009


You know things are bad when a single day brings two relatively independent stories about Guantanamo Bay and the perversion of justice there.

The WP reports a former military prosecutor's claim that detainee Jawad's case:
has been riddled with problems, including alleged physical and psychological abuse of Jawad by Afghan police and the U.S. military, as well as reliance on evidence that was later found to be missing, false or unreliable.
Some of those problems include Jawad's thumbprint under a confession written in Farsi -- a language he does neither speak nor understand -- and an alleged confession to US authorities for which the videotape went missing. Or perhaps "missing".

The article uses the word 'chaos', in part to avoid, one feels, the T-word.

The T-word does appear in a Reuters piece about the alleged 20th hijacker.

"We tortured Qahtani," Susan Crawford said in an interview with the newspaper [the WP again]. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.
Crawford is labeled as "the Pentagon official overseeing the tribunals for Guantanamo Bay". No small fish. Or: As close to an official confession of government-sanctioned torture we will ever get.

Note that this use of torture -- apart from violating the Geneva Convention and the UN resolution against torture, both of which the US, in the name of its citizens, signed -- is now effectively making evidence against terror suspects non-admissible in court. Which means that these two folks -- guilty or innocent -- can simply walk. (Or would, if we lived by the legal consequences of our legal actions.)

Which is not the way it's supposed to work. Some official dodo claims you did something illegal, you claim you did not, both sides present their case in front of an independent party -- a jury or a judge -- after which said party deliberates and hands you down a verdict. You know, uh, like: justice?

Locking up an innocent man -- that ain't right. Letting a terrorist go free -- that ain't right. Playing the game so that either, and perhaps both outcomes are highly likely -- if that ain't downright criminal, then at least it's criminally negligent.

In the meantime, in his open letter to our new president (in the latest issue of friggin' Rolling Stone, can-you-believe-it?), Paul Krugman calls for a national committee on Truth and Reconciliation, much like South-Africa's during the transition from Apartheid to democracy. No witch hunt, but a fair hearing, a fact-finding mission, a few well-placed prosecutions. Not that my opinion matters and not that Krugman's proposal is rocket science, but I agree.

Deeper than the reality of torture itself is the disturbing sense that we, as a nation, have been tainted by its reality as well as by our creeping acceptance of said reality. Like a dog that has once killed, its nostrils filled with the scent of human blood, we have had our little taste of the forbidden, its effects slowly building its memory synapses in the pinkish wrinkles of our brains. An atavistic taste of the forbidden and a dawning knowledge that we got away with it -- such is the legacy of the Bush regime. The dog don't know it, but he's from here on down forever untrustworthy, forever to be watched.

We need to wipe that smell away, people, we need to wipe that veil of hazy red from our eyes. We need to cut those synapses, chase those damn neurotransmitters from our skulls.


We are better than that.

Justice may be blind -- but that don't mean that all blindness is just.

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