When will we take responsibility for the horrors perpetrated on our behalf? When will we firmly repudiate the “anything goes when fighting the war on terrorism” mentality? When our leaders leave so much room for error — so much room for criminal and inhuman behavior — we must speak up and say, “No more!”
Today new revelations were published about prisoner abuse at Guantanamo …
By Thomas Watkins
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. â€” Guards at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba, bragged about beating detainees and described it as common practice, a Marine Corps sergeant said in a sworn statement obtained by The Associated Press.
The two-page statement was sent Wednesday to the Inspector General of the Department of Defense by a high-ranking Marine Corps defense lawyer.
The lawyer sent the statement on behalf of a paralegal who said men she met on Sept. 23 at a bar on the base identified themselves to her as guards. The woman, whose name was blacked out, said she spent about an hour talking with them. No one was in uniform, she said.
A 19-year-old sailor referred to only as Bo â€œtold the other guards and me about him beating different detainees being held in the prison,â€ the statement said.
â€œOne such story Bo told involved him taking a detainee by the head and hitting the detaineeâ€™s head into the cell door. Bo said that his actions were known by others,â€ but that he was never punished, the statement said. The paralegal was identified in the affidavit as a sergeant working on an unidentified Guantanamo-related case.
The statement was provided to the AP on Thursday night by Lt. Col. Colby Vokey. He is the Marine Corpsâ€™ defense coordinator for the western United States and based at Camp Pendleton.
A Guantanamo Bay spokesman said the base would cooperate with any Pentagon investigation. A Pentagon spokesman declined immediate comment. A call to the inspector generalâ€™s office was not immediately returned.
Other guards â€œalso told their own stories of abuse towards the detaineesâ€ that included hitting them, denying them water and â€œremoving privileges for no reason.â€
â€œAbout 5 others in the group admitted hitting detaineesâ€ and that included â€œpunching in the face,â€ the affidavit said.
â€œFrom the whole conversation, I understood that striking detainees was a common practice,â€ the sergeant wrote. â€œEveryone in the group laughed at the others stories of beating detainees.â€
Vokey called for an investigation, saying the abuse alleged in the affidavit â€œis offensive and violates United States and international law.â€
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Robert Durand condemned abuse or harassment of detainees and said he would cooperate fully with the inspector general.
â€œThe mission of the Joint Task Force is the safe and humane care and custody of detained enemy combatants,â€ he said.
Guantanamo was internationally condemned shortly after it opened more than four years ago when pictures captured prisoners kneeling, shackled and being herded into wire cages. That was followed by reports of prisoner abuse, heavy-handed interrogations, hunger strikes and suicides.
U.S. military investigators said in July 2005 they confirmed abusive and degrading treatment of a suspected terrorist at Guantanamo Bay that included forcing him to wear a bra, dance with another man and behave like a dog.
However, the chief investigator, Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt, said â€œno torture occurredâ€ during the interrogation of Mohamed al-Qahtani, a Saudi who was captured in December 2001 along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Last month, U.N. human rights investigators criticized the United States for failing to take steps to close Guantanamo Bay, home to 450 detainees, including 14 terrorist suspects who had been kept in secret CIA prisons around the world.
Described as the most dangerous of Americaâ€™s â€œwar on terrorâ€ prisoners, fewer than a dozen inmates have been charged with crimes.