Saturday, August 6, 2005

Is the U.S. 'dissapearing' people?

One of the dangers we're facing with this War on Terror is to slide into a role of being just as bad as the people we're fighting. The idea of American governance is that government is run from a highly moral place, that we treat all equally, that all have the right to speech, the right to fair trials, and so on. But the way the GW Bush administration is conducting this war, the government and military are ignoring that ideal.

Are the actions of this government what we want America to represent and do?

The case in point evokes the extraordinary rendition story, and U.S. torture.

US challenged over 'secret jails' (4 August 2005, BBC)

Two Yemeni men claim they were held in secret, underground US jails for more than 18 months without being charged, Amnesty International has said.

... Amnesty fears the case is part of a "much broader picture" in which the US holds prisoners at secret locations.

The US has not responded to the claims, but the head of the CIA recently said the agency does not use torture.

Porter Goss said in testimony to the US Senate torture was neither professional nor productive.

... Amnesty's Sharon Critoph, who interviewed the men in Yemen, said: "To be 'disappeared' from the face of the earth without knowing why or for how long is a crime under international law and an experience no-one should have to go through.

"We fear that what we have heard from these two men is just one small part of the much broader picture of US secret detentions around the world."

The article goes on to detail the experience of two men currently in custody in Yemen. The men were arrested separately in separate countries, but both were flown to Jordan and held by Jordanians. But they say they were daily interrogated by Americans, loud music played into their cells, beat on their feet, threatened with sexual abuse or electric shocks, etc.

Turning a prisoner over to a third country is what 'extraordinary rendition' is. In this age of outsourcing, you can think of this as outsourcing torture to countries that are less squeamish about such means. What's new in this case is the use of secret underground prisons. The idea one gets from this article is that these men were just 'gone' from visibility, they didn't know where they were, when they would be released, etc.

And, this is America doing this?

Several countries in recent times did this kind of thing, to disappear people. Argentina was famous for it, but stories have been heard from other countries of the same thing. For instance, shortly after the invasion of Iraq there were stories about Iraqi people looking at the records in prisons to learn about the status of their family whom they hadn't seen or heard from for a decade or more, and whom the Iraqi government had arrested but refused to say anything about them.

And, now, America has joined the ranks of countries doing this.

Is this the America we want to have? Is this what we want America to be doing?

The BBC article is based on an Amnesty International report: Torture and secret detention: Testimony of the 'disappeared' in the 'war on terror' (full report). So much so they're using the same pictures.