Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pain can be fun -- if you're a sick bastard who works for the government

As part of its Guantanamo Testimonials Project, the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas interviews guards, prisoners, investigators, interrogators, physicians and others about the conditions that prevailed at the U.S. detention center at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Among those interviewed was Specialist Brandon Neely, a military policeman stationed at Camp X-Ray. There's plenty to be horrified about in the United States government's treatment of prisoners held as terrorism suspects, but the following struck me in particular because of its casual, purposeless nature:

I talked about the detainee who came to Camp X-Ray wounded from a .50 caliber. His bicep had attached to his forearm due to the fact his arm was in the sling for so long. I escorted this detainee to medical a couple times for physical therapy as he could not bend his arm down at all. On one occasion, when I escorted him there the medic began to massage the area that was attached and he keep rubbing harder and harder to the point the detainee started to cry and squirm all over the bed. The medic stopped massaging and started to stretch the detainee's arm down a little at a time. You could tell this was very painful and uncomfortable for him. The medic said "You really want to watch him scream." Then he stretched the arm all the way down until it was straight out on the bed. The detainee started screaming loud and crying. The medic finally put his arm back up and did it again. And then he said he was finished with the physical therapy. The whole time the medic just laughed at what he was doing. We then escorted the detainee back to his cage.

Note that pain was inflicted on a disabled prisoner in the course of physical therapy for an injury. The pain served no punishment purpose and there was no intention to elicit information or compliance. The prisoner was abused by a medic for ... fun.

Neely admits to participating in one incident abuse, so he exposes himself to liability with his testimony. He also talks of acts of kindness by some of the guards who pitied the prisoners and were ashamed of conditions at the detention center.

President Barack Obama has promised to close Guantanamo -- in a year. Well, that's a start. So is his promise to "review" detention and interrogation policies, provided that the review results in reforms. We don't need more of the same, which is what we're getting with the new administration's protection of "state secrets."

But official policies are one thing. What do we do about a culture of casual cruelty toward detainees for entertainment prurposes?

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Blogger Jason Gillman said...

it is really hard to consider a man who is capable of cutting a human head off while the victim screams in agony worthy of protection. Also.. While I understand that "torture" hardly rights a wrong, I suspect there is more to this than is being testified. I know of physical therapists who actually enjoy witnessing pain while they help to repair the "victims" ..strange, I guess they should be seen as torturers as well.

I suppose it would be much better to have just mercifully ended their lives in the field of battle, instead of taking them on with three squares and plenty of reading time. It certainly would have been my preference. Especially since now they will pollute our prison systems with a fresh dose of programming. Fanatics are a far different creature than your ordinary criminals.

Sorry, but something about this doesn't pass the smell test either. It only takes one attention seeking individual to mislead a movement which already has preconceived notions of what is going on.

February 19, 2009 3:52 PM  
Blogger Steve Newton said...

Given that even Dubya's administration has released several hundred Gitmo prisoners without charges over the past few years, you can hardly argue with any credibility that just being in Gitmo is evidence that someone is a terrorist.

It continually amazes me that Americans are willing to condone turning our soldiers into the murderers of prisoners on the battlefield and to disbelieve or discount the testimony of young men with the courage to speak up about the dishonorable things they have witnessed.

How we treat our prisoners has to do with us, not them.

February 19, 2009 7:03 PM  
Anonymous M.S, Phoenix. said...

Before I pass judgement I'd like to see what the physical therapy recovery procedure for this injury was.
Years ago I had a pretty devastating sports injury that ended up with me tearing both the ACL and MCL in the same knee. I couldn't walk or put weight on it for nine months. Needless to say the leg muscles and knee tendons atrophied considerably. I spent another four months in physical therapy and it was one of the most miserable four months of my life. Four times a week I would have to go in and work on rebuilding the knee and the leg muscles. This included a lot of forcible leg extensions and massages (to stimulate blood flow) that left me pounding on the nearest flat object in agony.
On the days that I didn't want to cooperate with the physical therapist she would turn down right mean and force me, or at least my knee/leg, to comply with what she felt needed to happen.
With all that said, in no way am I condoning torture. But I'm just not convinced that this qualifies. It sounds more like a medic with a bit of a sadistic streak. But no more so than my physical therapist from years ago.

February 20, 2009 6:19 AM  
Blogger akaGaGa said...

Before anyone condones the behavior Neely relates, perhaps you should read the whole testimony. If it doesn't nauseate you, then I would suggest that you've lost your humanity.

Thanks for this, JD. I posted on Neely, too.

February 20, 2009 8:23 AM  
Blogger Steve Newton said...

Go beyond Neely's testimony and vist the rest of the Gitmo testimonies on that site.

I blogged on this and was saddened but not surprised to find out that even many Americans who read the entire narrative managed to find rationalizations that this "wasn't so bad," "didn't rise to the level of torture," or is "better than what they do to their prisoners"

February 20, 2009 8:02 PM  

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