Thursday, January 27, 2005

The dog that didn't bark 

Mamdouh Habib, one of two Australian Guantanamo detainees is returning to Australia with tales of abuse, torture and atrocities. According to his lawyer, Steven Hopper:

"On other occasions they used German shepherd guard dogs and (interrogators) told him they train dogs to sexually assault people.

"Mamdouh has said he wasn't sexually assaulted by these dogs but really we don't know.

"Who would admit to it, particularly an Arab Muslim male?"
What a wonderful tactic; bring out an allegation, get the victim to deny it happened, but keep the issue alive because "really we don't know". But Arab Muslim males have no problems about admitting to all sorts of other embarrassing details. Habib certainly doesn't (Hopper again):

"The Americans used prostitutes as tools in their interrogations.

"They'd say to detainees 'If you co-operate with us, we'll let you at this woman for the night'. And if they wouldn't agree they'd use them in other ways.

"(We believe) one of the prostitutes stood over him naked while he was strapped to the floor and menstruated on him.

"The Americans in their wisdom have taken the heads off the pictures [of his family], enlarged them and superimposed them with the heads of animals and then strung them up all over the walls of the interrogation room.

"As they sat there talking to Mamdouh asking him about his terrorist activities, they held up a picture of [his wife] Maha and said 'It's a shame we had to kill your family, it's a shame you will never see these people again'."
Incidentally, what to Westerners might seem no more than a gross-out, in reality plays on Islamic religious tradition which considers blood (and incidentally, dogs and their saliva) to be unclean (link in PDF).

In the past I blogged very little about the issue of Abu Ghraib and prisoner abuse, and nothing at all about the practice of detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo and elsewhere - partly because I'm not an expert on the legal issues involved, and partly because if I'm not interested in something I'm not going to write about it. But in my mind it comes down to a very simple proposition: in every modern war, captured enemy combatants or people suspected of being enemy combatants are held in indefinite detention (every vaguely civilized modern war, that is, where they aren't actually shot or starved to death at the outset) until the cessation of hostilities or some other time when they can be released without posing a threat (or in case of suspected enemy combatants, when it can be established that they weren't engaged in hostile activities). This is not a matter of law enforcement and it's useless to talk about it in terms of charges or crimes - it's simply a matter of war. While in detention, using certain techniques to interrogate the suspects is allowed (e.g. psychological pressure) while others are a no-no (generally physical torture). If the interrogators or guards engage in torture or abuse for the sake of it, these matters should be (and are being) investigated and dealt with through legal channels. End of story - unless like Mr Hopper, your agenda is to expose "the rise of American fascism."


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