The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison Kindle Edition
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Worthington begins the book with an account of the "uprising" at Qala-i-Jangi. At first glance, it would be hard to argue that these prisoners were not captured "on the battlefield". However, Worthington does a remarkable job of bringing to light details that make it clear that this was no uprising of hardened jihadists determined to fight to the death, but rather a brutal betrayal and massacre of low level foreign fighters who had already surrendered on the belief that they would be disarmed and allowed to return to their country. The suicides and "riots" happened only after it became clear that the captors planned to kill the captives anyway. In response to the "riots", coalition forces bombed the fortress with daisy cluster bombs, poured oil into the basement where the captives were hiding out, and later tried to flood the basement. Of the 400+ bodies found in the aftermath, at least 200 had their hands tied behind their backs. The fact that 86 men survived this massacres is evidence, in the government's eyes, that they must be hardened fighters. Much like if a woman survived being held underwater during the Salem Witch Trials, it was "proof" that she must be a witch.
From there Worthington goes on to list, in almost mind-numbing detail, the capture of various ethnic and other groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere at different time periods. Most of these men were captured in mosques, guest houses ("safe houses" in government lingo), at their homes or homes of friends, family or strangers, and even in hospitals - all far from any "battlefield", no matter how liberally the word is construed. Worthington details the government's allegations against these men and compares them to their own stories. Many claim to be humanitarian workers, teachers or merchants, yet the government has never made any attempt tofollow up any possible evidence for or against these men. Often Worthington lays out the most egregious examples of government absurdities and overreaching.
Worthington also details the conditions at some of the prisons and camps (many secret) to which these men were initally taken, the brutal treatment they received along the way, as well as the sheer confusion among U.S. forces as to who these men even were. Interrogation and screening mechanisms were so chaotic that efforts to determine who should be released and who should be shipped to Gitmo were almost haphazard. By the time they arrived in Gitmo, they were a motley collection of conscripted cooks and foot soldiers mixed with humanitarian workers, taxi drivers and even teenagers. Few if any high-ranking al Qaeda or Taliban members were among the mix.
Finally, Worthington explores the situation at GITMO itself, including the legal challenges, the hunger strikes and the suicide attempts (as well as the three successful "suicides", which the evidence now indicates may have been murder). He explodes the myths that GITMO is some kind of "terrorist resort" where the prisoners are eating racks of lamb while having their feet massaged. He relates testimony after testimony of abuse and degradation suffered by the prisoners, including an in-depth look at the torture of Mohammed al Qahtani.
Worthington was one of the first to do in-depth research based on the government's own documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. More and more evidence is coming out that supports Worthington's early conclusions: the unlawful indefinite detention under harsh conditions of so-called "enemy combatants" at GITMO without allowance for them to prove their innocence is a blot on America's human rights records. If there is further evidence that these men really are the "worst of the worst", the government should release it. But from the evidence so far, most of the prisoners at Gitmo appear to be, in Biblical terms, the "least of the least".
Helpless men, of whom some have subsequently been released, were tortured before arriving at Guantánamo Bay, the torture producing forced - and untrue - confessions of their links with al-Qaeda. In a number of cases the torture was "outsourced" to selected countries. The conduct of the CIA and the US military towards their prisoners recalls in some instances the fate of prisoners at the hands of the Gestapo in World War Two. Not coincidentally, perhaps, the term adopted by the US authorities, "enhanced interrogation techniques", expresses in English the Nazis' identical euphemism for similar forms of torture.
Following rendition to Guantánamo Bay, prisoners receive brutal treatment in supermax lockdowns. The majority of US "detainees" in Guantánamo Bay are being kept isolated in long-term solitary confinement, in high-security facilities. While there appears to be no operational necessity for such long-term isolation, one consequence of it is permanent psychological damage. In plain language, the detainees are being driven insane by the conditions of their incarceration. According to the normal meaning of words this is "cruel punishment" which the eighth amendment to the US Constitution specifically prohibits. The US appears to think such revenge against captives in its war on terror to be its moral right. Unfortunately for the Guantánamo detainees, because they are not US citizens, and not held in "the sovereign United States", the US Constitution does not operate for their protection.
Medical opinion is that the incarceration of prisoners in indefinite long-term solitary is a form of mental torture. As such it is contrary to the 1984 Convention Against Torture ratified by the United States. The supermax prison at Guantánamo Bay has been described as "harsher than any of the Death Row prisons" on the US mainland.
On the evidence provided by Andy Worthington, the judgment has to be that the US just over-reacted to the events of 9/11. Quite apart from the perverse decision to go to war in Iraq, what other verdict could there be, considering its adoption of torture as a method of punishment, and torture as a technique for the gathering of faulty intelligence?