If you are out and about this weekend, find a bookstore or newsstand and buy a copy of the September issue of Harper’s. The cover art is a modernist (modernist may be the wrong word; I’m not keeping up with trends in contemporary art) painting of a teacher and students posed for a class picture.

There are a number of good articles in this issue, but the one I most particularly want to call to your attention is “American Gulag: Prisoners’ Tales from the War on Terror” by Eliza Griswold. Griswold interviewed several former prisoners at Guantanamo and elsewhere, and talked to family members and lawyers of prisoners still being held. The lawyers, working pro bono, are among 500 lawyers organized by the Center for Constitutional Rights to represent prisoners at Guantanamo. (The article probably will be posted on the web eventually, but not for two or three months.)

If even half of what Griswold writes is true, Guantanamo could be the blackest mark yet on our country’s history.


â–ºThere is no indication that the Hamdan decision will make a dime’s worth of difference to the “450 prisoners held at Guantanamo, let alone the 13,000 people currently ‘detained’ in Iraq, the 500 or so in Afghanistan, and the unknown number (estimated to be about 100) at secret CIA ‘black sites’ around the world,” Griswold writes. President Bush has made up his mind that the Court in Hamdan ruled in his favor, so he sees no reason to change.

â–ºTo date, “98 detainees have died (34 of those deaths are being investigated as homicides) and more than 600 U.S. personnel have been implicated in some form of abuse.”

â–ºSince even the Red Cross is given extremely limited and restricted access to the prisons (and, of course, no access at all to the “black sites,” shipboard brigs, or “forward operating sites” where most abuses occur), essentially this means there is no way to find out what’s really going on.

â–ºOnly about 5 percent of the prisoners at Guantanamo were arrested by Americans. The rest were captured by other Arabs Muslims/Middle Easterners and turned over or sold for a bounty. For example, Abdullah al Noaimi of Bahrain was captured by Pashtun tribesmen and sold to Pakistani security forces in 2001. At the time, Griswold writes, “there seemed to be a bounty on every Arab’s head, and fliers promising ‘wealth and power beyond your dreams’ were dropping, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, ‘like snowflakes in December in Chicago.'” After several weeks of detention by the Pakistanis, al Noaimi was turned over to Americans at Kandahar. Al Noaimi had visited the U.S. and for a time was a student at Old Dominion University in Virginia. He figured he’d tell the Americans his arrest was a mistake, and he could go home.

Abdullah al Noaimi was kept in Guantanamo for four years. He only recently returned home. The U.S. military decided al Noaimi was an enemy combatant, although the evidence supporting this claim remains secret.

â–º”Despite everything that is hidden about the practices in Guantanamo Bay,” Griswold says, “it is still the most transparent piece of the large mosaic of U.S. detention. And so the U.S. has begun to employ a sort of shell game to hide the more embarrassingly innocent detainees from public scrutiny: we simply send them home to be imprisoned by their own governments.”

â–ºA prominent Yemeni businessman, Abdulsalam al Hila, was in Egypt on business in September 2002 when he disappeared. His family had no idea where he was until, two years later, they received a letter smuggled out of a U.S. prison in Afghanistan.

â–ºIn 2004 an Afghani man was taken prisoner with his 12-year-old son. Both the father and son had a bag over their heads for eighteen days.

â–ºMen released from Bagram describe frequent beatings and days without food. The lawyers of the Center for Constitutional Rights say there is nothing they can do for prisoners there. They cannot even prove that U.S. law applies in Bagram.

Someday, whatever is going on in those prisons will see the light of day. And then there will be global outrage, and Americans will be shocked and say they had no idea any such thing was going on.

Elsewhere in this issue of Harper’s –a young man describes his internship with the Lincoln Group in Iraq. Lincoln Group is a pack of amateurs who got multi-million dollar contracts form the Pentagon to plant pro-U.S. stories in Middle Eastern newspapers. It’s a jaw-dropping story. See also Lewis Lapham’s “tribute” to Halliburton.

25 thoughts on “Betrayed

  1. What can we as American citizens do? We know of these atrocities by reading abd staying informed. The news media avoids them. We care about what is going on. We talk to our congress members and senators and we get the same answers. “We can’t do anything because the congress is controlled by the Republicans and they decide what agendas we are allowed to talk about and what bills come to the floor.” I have heard that from every Democratic congressman and woman. Our Republican Senator writes back with so much double talk it is difficult to understand which side of an issue he is on. I’m glad I didn’t vote for Gordon Smith! But the question is still valid: What can we do (and this is the important part) that will have a positive affect?

  2. What can we do? It’s obvious, we have to get control of our government. My Congressman, Henry Waxman, is sitting on top of mounds of evidence against these cretins, but can’t do a thing until the Dems retake the House.

    Someday, whatever is going on in those prisons will see the light of day. And then there will be global outrage, and Americans will be shocked and say they had no idea any such thing was going on.

    When I read the above, I thought of the good Germans in World War 2, who had no idea that the Holocaust was going on (literally) right under their noses.

    One of the reasons the world is outraged against this country is that, as a people, we are so detached from the suffering in the world, that most of us simply could not be bothered to care.

  3. moonbat — if Dems retake the house, I believe Waxman becomes chair of the House Committee on Government Reform. This alone is reason to elect Dems in November. People who whine (I’m not talking about you, dear moonbat) that it doesn’t matter who we vote for don’t understand how Washington works.

  4. That’s my point! It is obvious that we have to take control of our government. All we can really do is wait for the election, and get out the vote and hope the righties don’t steal the election again! I, too have thought about all the historical references and how those who don’t study history are condemned to repeat it. I am waiting and working toward the election in November and that is part of what what I do. The other part is to engage anyone who will listen and encourage and educsate them about what is going on. My frustration now is because I know about the atrocity and I can’t STOP IT! I have to wait. Waht to we do NOW!!!

  5. All we can really do is wait for the election

    We can holler, we can inform other citizens, we can take back Congress in November. I don’t see any other options.

  6. Most people don’t pay attention to the second part of the Declaration of Independence which is a boring list of grievances of the Colonies against the British Empire. Read them again in the context of current events. It’s striking how MANY of the atrocities which Jefferson listed as justification for our break with England are being conducted and defended by this administration.

    Related to Gitmo, I list these:

    “For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:”

    “For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences.”

    Provisions of the Declaration of Independence are even less important to Bushies than the Constitution, but they carry a lot of weight with voting Americans, who aren’t aware – yet – that our National Actions are a total contradiction of our Historic Principles.

    This is the message that Democrats need to bring, invoking a return to the principles we founded this country on. We are becoming – have become – the very sort of despotism that our founding fathers shed blood to abolish. My concern is that very few politicians of either party remember those tenets the patriots embraced.

  7. Since I’m on the west coast, it took me a while to get home. Yes, I agree we have to wait for the election. I also believe there are things we can do now, much like you said, Maha. I am working toward the next election; getting out the vote, talking to people, etc. etc. I know that all of you who care are doing the same. We also need to console each other. When there is that cry in the wilderness, that despair, that whole hearted feeling of “I want to do something NOW,” Encourage them, instruct them, console them. Don’t compare that despair to Nazi Germany. So, Dear Moonbat, after reading your comment several times, I don’t think you were comparing me to Nazi Germany, but it could have been more kindly put. Do you have a blog? I would love to see what else you have said!

  8. Dave, no I wasn’t comparing you with Nazi Germany, just trying to draw the parallel between: the people in Germany who claimed they weren’t aware that the Final Solution was going on, and the people in our own country who think Bush is just Swell, who are barely aware of, but okay with what we’re doing in Gitmo and elsewhere.

    Thanks for your encouragement, but I don’t have a blog. It would be way too much work and I’m just not that prolific or original. Plus I have way too much to do in my own life apart from blogging. I also think there are a lot of great blogs out there now, and there’s not much point in me trying to horn in on an already crowded space, up against good writers who I think are already doing a great job.

    I do have a pet project that I’d like to get off the ground, but unfortunately I don’t have time for it. I’d like to create a “Recovering Republican” website, sort of a virtual 12-step group for people who finally woke up from the Kool-Aid. This was inspired by the spate of “I was a former Republican” diaries I see now and then on DailyKos. If it were done right, the site could be fantastic, self-perpetuating and truly therapeutic for the formerly lost. I keep tossing this idea out on various blogs, hoping that somebody will pick it up and run with it. If I win the lottery…

    Doug – I didn’t know that about our Declaration of Independence. Thanks for bringing it up.

  9. POP QUIZ…25 points

    Arrange the following 5 black marks in America’s history in chronological order, beginning with the most recent black mark and working back to the earliest.

    The Mexican war
    Wounded Knee Massacre
    Internment of Japanese-Americans

  10. All,
    Well said! We were never the Mother Teresa of nation’s. But, prior to Shrub, we did at least STAND for some great thing’s once!
    Now? Ah, not so much…
    What do we stand for now? Here’s what:
    Stolen elections.
    One party rule.
    WAR! (Please feel free to add to this list!).

    Comrade Bush and the rest of the Bushovic’s have turned us from the USA to the old USSR.
    [email protected]&%ing Orwell couldn’t have written this $#!&!!!
    If not, I’ll c u n d gulag…

  11. As for the list of what we now stand for, I’ll start it off:
    “A” is for “a”bhorant
    “B ” is for “b”loody
    “C” is for “c”orrupt, or “c”rony
    “D” is for “d”umb

    As for the rest, have fun 🙂

  12. Swami, your list of black marks, IMHO, should include dropping atomic bombs on civilian populations in Japan, which is the mother of all war crimes. We did NOTchoose to a-bomb Japanese military installations, which would have sufficiently ‘demonstrated’ our might.
    I believe that American choice to a-bomb civilian cities then was the key historical event setting the stage for the [ever-widening because its unexamined] schism between our good-guys rhetoric and our bad-guys behavior………we lost our innocence in a total way then. Sort of like an avowed virgin ‘going all the way’ then choosing to publically pretend conventional morality while surreptitiously engaging in more of that ‘pleasure’.

  13. re the dropping of atomic bombs on civilian populations in Japan – yes there were better ways to demonstrate our power, agree with that.

    But it was a natural extension of what were doing in Germany at the time: massive Allied bombing on German cities, “the Dresden firestorm” for example. The atomic bomb was a more efficient way to accomplish the same thing.

    While I agree with the basic point of your argument, that there were other ways we could’ve made our point with Japan, it’s a mistake to think that this was a dramatic departure from existing strategy.

  14. Moonbat, dropping an a-bomb is not in the same league as dropping conventional bombs…..simply because of the radiation factor, from which no one in the vicinity can escape. The horror of atomic bombs stays topmost in the whole world’s public consciousness–witness the WMD conjectures, and the issues over Iran and North Korea working to ‘protect’ themselves in today’s world in which their neighbors and/or enemies have the power to use nukes.

    So, escalation to nukes was fundamentally a dramatic departure from the existing WWII strategy; horrible enough as it was to firestorm Dresden, etc, most survivors of the direct bombing had a chance for life once the bombs stopped.

    I think our use of the a-bombs on Japan set the stage for much of the arms race/cold war and subsequent development of recent power plays among nations. Add in our ‘efficient’ use of agent orange in Vietnam, and I will tell you that there must be some strategies whose ‘efficiency’ should be absolutely secondary to a longer view of long-range consequences.

    Until the USA develops the maturity and humanity to want to atone for our use of a-bombs on civilians, that action will live as a festering poison inside the American collective psyche. That poison cannot be contained forever, and that ‘contained’ poison does subconsciously develop cultural-sickening leakage every time we read the news about ‘our enemies’ wanting to obtain their own nuclear bombs. In short, we are most afraid of someday suffering what we ourselves have done to others. Therein lies at least part of the motivation for the neocon appeal for world hegemony.

    I will grant that our use of the a-bombs was probably thought of back then as just an ‘efficient’ extension of what we were already doing with conventional weaponry.

  15. It is difficult to understand how Germans could have been apparently oblivious to their government’s ultimate slaughter of 6 million Jews. However, right here and right now I know many people, well-educated, upper-middle class, seemingly informed, who refuse to watch, listen to, discuss, or read any daily news – from politics to Iraq to Lebanon to Gitmo – they don’t want to know. They have climbed into their little shells and hung a sign on the door saying do not disturb. (I can’t help recalling Bush telling people to go shopping following 9/11) I’ve known these people for years and their present behavior is very much out of character. (Interestingly, they still read their voter pamphlets and wouldn’t think of not voting, which is beyond my understanding.) A democracy under siege as ours is by those who treat is an impediment to their power combined with an electorate, the only viable power to stop them, literally alseep at the wheel by choice does not portend well for the survival of this republic.

  16. felcity smith,
    I’m afraid we may not be a Republic for very much longer. Remember the plans to “postpone” the ’04 elections in case of a terror incident?
    Maybe they’ll claim in ’08 that the Unitary President cannot step down during a time of war. Maybe they’ll allow another terrorist attack so that they can stay in power by saying that only the Unitary President, the War President, can cope with what’s happening. Elections would show the world weaknesss. That we must stay together by not changing horses in mid-stream. I wouldn’t put it past this crowd…
    Will the people care enough to go to the street’s? To die for the democracy that the Founding Father’s gave to us?
    Probably not. They’ll be too busy voting on American Idol. Soon to be called Amerikan Idol.

  17. Moonbat, dropping an a-bomb is not in the same league as dropping conventional bombs…..simply because of the radiation factor, from which no one in the vicinity can escape.

    Allied forces had already carried out a firebombing of Tokyo in February 1945 that, I believe, killed more civilians that the atomic bombs did. So they’d already gotten over being squeamish about bombing Japanese civilians.

    I don’t know how much was known about the radiation effects until after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, however. I think the effects caught at least some people by surprise. Remember, there were still all kinds of tests on nuclear bombs for years after. People all over the southwest were exposed to radiation, as I recall, before anyone figured out that was probably a bad idea.

    Certainly we can look back now and see that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were turning points in world history, but at the time I’m not sure how much the Truman Administration and Pentagon appreciated what they were about to do when they decided to do it.

    At least some military and civilian officials in on the decision to drop the bombs genuinely believed that, otherwise, there would be months of grisly ground war ahead, and U.S. troops would have to fight their way onto the Japanese mainland and into towns and cities. Some feared entire Japanese communities might commit suicide. I don’t know how likely any of that was; I’m just saying that’s what some thought at the time. Other equally knowledgable people thought the atomic bombs were unnecessary, and that Japan was about to surrender, anyway.

    Hiroshima was a supply and logistics base for the Japanese military, but the committee who chose the target deliberately chose a place with a large civilian population also, for the psychological effect.

    I’m not making excuses for the bombings, just saying that the decision to bomb or not to bomb was a difficult one given what they knew at the time.

  18. c u n d gulag – I agree. I would put nothing past this crowd. What I can’t understand is where they’re going with this other than an insatiable hunger for power. Somebody said of Goebbels that he was utterly cynical and believed only in the self-justification of power. Sounds an awful lot like my reading of Cheney, who I believe is the architect of what we’re living through. (Goebbels said, “Credibility alone must determine whether propaganda output should be true or false.” Surely Cheney’s rule of thumb.) As far as Bush is concerned, he’s on total react and always has been. And as long as Cheney’s power obsession doesn’t threaten big money, big money won’t stop him. And as long as the American consumer can continue to consume unimpeded, the American consumer won’t stop him. Who’s left? Certainly not my friends snug in their shells with do not disturb signs hung on their doorknobs.

  19. felicity smith,
    I’ll give you reason for hope.
    I live in Fayetteville, NC, near Fort Bragg. I work with a lot of very conservative folks. More than a few of them now roll their eyes at the mention Bush and/or the Republican Congress. A lot still swear by him, but it’s a lot less than in ’03 and ’04.
    One woman I work with, prior to the ’04 election, said she was a Republican all of her life and would never switch. She was raised that way. i sat with her and her husband at the Christmas party in ’03.. She came in and said to me,”My husband said to me, that XXXXX (me), he’s a Democrat, ain’t he? She said she told him that yes I was, very much so.”
    I’ve been talking to her all along, joking about Shrub and her “boy’s”. Then something happened to her during Katrina. She started to agree with me. I’ve been sending her articles and blog comments. You know what she said to me the other day? It was after Bush and Condi refused to intervene in Lebanon and I was talking to her about it. “I think I’m starting to become a Liberal! These people are crazy. I’m too Liberal for them. They’ve left me. Who knew I’d be considered a Liberal?”
    It may be a small start, but hey, it’s a start…

  20. WHen you tell people the statistic on how the ‘enemy combatants”
    got into prison by bounty, most people are shocked. Really shocked.
    Spread the TRUTH about the war.
    Then we only have the Bush administration to fer, instead of fear itself!

  21. c u n d gulag and diane are both right.
    Central Fl is very conservative also, bust almost everyone I know is sick of Bush. High fuel prices and the sudden realization that working people are not holding their own financially coupled with the war not being the quick cakewalk promised has taken it’s toll.
    The vehicles still sporting the Bush/Cheney ’04 bumperstickers generally have magnetic fish, Christian rock radio stickers, and several American flags also(hyper religious/ hyper patriots).
    Commander codpiece is in deep doo doo.

  22. erinyes…I saw a pick-up truck yesterday with a gun-rack in the cab, a Bush/Cheney04 sticker on the back window, a yellow ribbon sticker on the tail gate and a choose life license plate. I kinda knew where his head was at…

  23. Pingback: The Mahablog » Appease This

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