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GUANTANAMO BAY

JedMarum 02 Feb 02 - 10:40 AM
JedMarum 02 Feb 02 - 10:41 AM
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John MacKenzie 02 Feb 02 - 10:46 AM
kendall 02 Feb 02 - 10:55 AM
Amos 02 Feb 02 - 12:06 PM
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Subject: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: JedMarum
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 10:40 AM

I thought Mudcatters might find this article interesting.


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: JedMarum
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 10:41 AM

actually, here is the text of the article, in case the link goes away - some day.

Guantanamo's Unhappy Campers ADVANCE COPY from the February 11, 2002 issue: Some strange things are happening at Gitmo. by Matt Labash 02/01/2002 6:00:00 PM

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA

It's 5 A.M. at the Roosevelt Roads Naval station in Puerto Rico, and 20 journalists straggle to the gate in sleep-deprived silence to catch a plane to Guantanamo Bay. Many of us haven't been up this early in years. But after flying thousands of miles, then pub-crawling through the streets of Old San Juan last night, we are here because our military escorts insist we show up at this time, though the flight actually leaves four hours later. "The military operates on one principle," explains a savvy veteran: "Hurry up and wait."

If we're not happy, that goes double for our public affairs babysitters. "I'm up to my ears in Vieques," says Navy Lt. Corey Barker, of the nearby bombing range/public relations fiasco that has been protested by everyone from Al Sharpton to obscure Kennedys. Now, Barker is stuck minding us as we light out for Guantanamo, the American naval station on the southeastern tip of Cuba. It is there that 158 al Qaeda/Taliban prisoners are being detained because, depending on who you ask, it is an ideal, sunny clime, it's not subject to the get-out-of-jail escape hatches of U.S. federal law, or because, as one senior Pentagon official says, "The lawyers didn't want to go on 14-hour flights to some guano rock in the Pacific." Inside the air terminal, our baggage handlers check us in with the efficiency of Bulgarian DMV workers. A sign on the wall says "Air Terminal of the Year 2000." "I'd hate to see who got second place," whispers one reporter. As we wait for our flight on a creaky Pan Am jet, we are shunted off to the "VIP" room, so named because it has a coffee pot and seascape paintings that look pilfered from a south Florida retirement village. Here, we are given our media "indoctrination" packages, never an encouraging word if you aspire to reportorial autonomy. As we sit watching CNN, an unfounded rumor gains currency. Though it's Saturday, and we're supposed to be in Cuba until Monday, the military has changed plans and is going to make us leave Guantanamo Sunday morning. "One thing's for sure," says a wire reporter, "you won't have to sort through all your notes to decide what to lead with." Fearing an abbreviated schedule, I commence valuable newsgathering. Knowing that in some Taliban-held provinces, pederasty rivaled headless-goat polo (buzkashi) as the favorite pastime, I ask a Naval officer if there are any reports of Guantanamo prisoners turning to man-love. "Oh God no," he says. "Though there are some Air Force personnel over there, so who knows what's going on?" Another officer relays something we'll hear repeated often: that because of international political pressure, the prisoners are getting coddled. The latest report has Army guards directing detainees on which way to pray to Mecca. "They're actually going to paint arrows on the floors of the cells so they'll know to face north," he says. "You mean east," I say. "North, east, whatever," he replies, "I'm Lutheran--I don't know where the hell it is."

A FEW hours later, we touch down at the Guantanamo landing strip on the isolated leeward side of the base (Gitmo, as it is nicknamed, is actually bisected by Guantanamo Bay). After getting sniffed by a German shepherd who's more interested in bombs than my colleague's Percocet, we're escorted to the media center, an ugly wood-paneled affair that sits next to a pink hangar. After another hour or two of waiting, a mouthy reporter loudly calls his editor so we can all hear him report the latest: "Same shit, different day. Though they're really cleaning up the media center. Curtains, an air conditioner, even a freakin' bulletin board!" The hospitality ends there. A stern sign on the bulletin board admonishes us to clean up after ourselves. The goodies set out on a table (grape beverage powder and apple jelly from meals-ready-to-eat packs) practically scream, "Can't wait till you leave." Many of us had secretly harbored the fantasy that we could talk our overseers into letting us go right up to the prisoners' cells, the terrorist equivalent of a field trip to the ASPCA. But as a gaggle of public affairs officers enter, they lay down two immutable laws: There will be no access to detainees (the Geneva Convention forbids making them a "public curiosity"). And we can go only where the officers take us. Running the public affairs show is Army Lt. Col. William Costello, a bearish soldier who looks like the kind of guy who enjoys breaking things on his face. His hard, dark orbs dart to and fro while he delivers a good news/bad news proposition. The good news is Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will be visiting the detainees' Camp X-Ray the next morning. The bad news is that the unfounded rumor is founded--the Pentagon press corps is coming with him, and we'll be forced to leave a day early. Immediately, an angry media throng closes in on Costello, the air now containing an Altamont-like level of violence. "My editors are going to crush my nuts," says one reporter, probably female. "This is crazy," I say, "How am I supposed to get enough material for a piece?" "Not my problem," replies Costello. "This is bullshit," thunders another print reporter. "You're making us leave as the biggest story gets here." "You're not allowed to stay," says Costello. "Why not?" snaps the reporter. Costello's blood rises as his high-and-tight haircut stands up like an angry-dog scruff: "BECAUSE . . . YOU'RE . . . NOT . . . STAYING!" "Welcome to the Pearl of the Antilles," deadpans Lt. Commander Brendan McPherson, in a limp cruise-director chirp. It's understandable if public affairs types are a little testy. There's an obvious culture clash (military personnel don't get paid to ask why; journalists don't get paid otherwise). Besides that, ever since the detainees started arriving on January 11, Gitmo and the joint forces being run under Southern Command have experienced the PR equivalent of what my ever-subtle colleagues--borrowing from Special Forces terminology for disastrous missions--call a "goat f--." In the richest irony of the war on terrorism, the Department of Defense, which normally goes out of its way not to make news, caused an international outcry by releasing still shots of detainees being brought to Camp X-Ray. As they were transported and in-processed, al Qaeda members were photographed kneeling, wearing earmuffs, shackles, and blackout goggles. Though these seemed perfectly reasonable precautions to take when transporting by C-141 members of an organization already responsible for one prison uprising (Mazar-i-Sharif, which resulted in a CIA operative's death) and several suicide plane crashes, human rights groups and international media, led by a chorus of Euro-whiners, immediately lapsed into hysterics. The British press, with typical understatement, claimed prisoners were being "brutalized, tortured, and humiliated," and that the whole operation was nothing more than "a sick attempt to appeal to the worst red-neck prejudices." Tony Blair pointed out that the three British al Qaeda members being held at Gitmo have had no complaints. But that didn't stop the Mirror's Stephen Moyes from method reporting by donning an al Qaeda rig. "Wrapped in the suffocating orange boiler suit," he wrote, "I lost any sense of dignity"--a loss he could have just as easily sustained by rereading his own copy. Sillier still were protestations from such humanitarians as Saddam Hussein and the government of Malaysia (Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has made some of the loudest noise, though Amnesty International dings him for arresting the speechwriter of a political rival, who was then blindfolded, stripped naked, punched, verbally abused, and forced to simulate homosexual acts--none of which is alleged at Camp X-Ray). About the only foreign leader who has supported the American detainee camp, ironically, is Fidel Castro, who is either angling to end the embargo or inching ever closer to dementia. (He declared January "Americans' Month" and invited Jimmy Carter for a visit.) All of this has made Camp X-Ray personnel a sensitive lot. On the ferry crossing over to the windward side where the camp is located, I sit next to a now mellow Lt. Col. Costello, who has decided to patch things up with the reporter he snapped at, and who, after getting the sign-off from Southern Command, has cleared us to stay through Rumsfeld's visit. Costello, like many Gitmo types, is baffled at the uproar over the prisoners' treatment. "Soldiers and Marines that are guarding the detainees at Camp X-Ray have worse conditions than the detainees," he says. Much has been made over their being kept in outdoor cells, invariably called "cages," which are topped with corrugated tin-covered wooden roofs that keep what little rain Gitmo gets (six inches a year) off the prisoners. Costello says their eight-by-eight cells contain about twice as much space as soldiers have in their crowded, unventilated tents a few hundred yards away. "They're getting warm showers, clean laundry, hot chow," Costello says of the prisoners. "They're getting 2,600 calories a day. I'm not getting 2,600 calories a day. I'm running my ass off chasing you guys around." (One of the medics treating detainees claims that a full quarter of them were suffering from malnutrition when they were captured.) But we don't have to take Costello's word for it. We can see for ourselves, sort of. After a quick stop at McDonald's (the only one in Cuba), our white school bus transports us past beautiful seaside vistas and brownish cactus-infested scrub, past ramshackle housing and up a hill, which features an abandoned auto yard that the locals used to call Sears. It's where they'd strip old junkers for parts then used on jerry-rigged jalopies called "Gitmo specials." Across from Sears is Camp X-Ray, a teeming hive of concertina wire, canvas tents, guard towers, and newly constructed plywood interrogation shacks with window-unit air conditioners. The chain-link cells themselves don't need air conditioning, since a comfortable Caribbean breeze (temperatures range from the low 70s at night to the low 80s during the day) continuously circulates through the encampment. Restricted to an area about 150 yards away from the open-air cellblocks, we observe the camp from a slight elevation that CNN's John Zarrella calls "Heartbreak Ridge," so named "because if you're a journalist, it breaks your heart that you can't get closer." Gitmo has actually been the site of a lot of heartbreak over the years. It broke Christopher Columbus's, when he stopped here on his second New World voyage. He left after failing to find gold, threatening to cut off the tongues of his crew if they didn't agree to pretend they'd reached Asia. It also rankles Castro, who has wanted to throw us off the island for four decades, but can't because of a pre-Revolution lease agreement. Likewise, when thousands of Cuban rafters were detained here for months in the mid-'90s, many grew so unhappy with Gitmo's ghostly desolation that they'd do anything to leave, including inject diesel fuel into their veins, drive tent stakes into their limbs, even swim back to Castro's Cuba. By comparison, the al Qaedans look pretty fat, if not happy. They laze away in the shade of their cells. They sleep on inch-and-a-half-thick isomats, the same ones that are issued to our military. With the assistance of a Muslim Navy chaplain, they pray five times daily. (Quick studies, the al Qaedans didn't need arrows painted on their cell floors. A single signpost next to an American flag points the way to Mecca.) And while American prisoners in the Hanoi Hilton often spent years in solitary confinement and received no medical care (John McCain to this day can't comb his own hair), X-Ray detainees get daily sick calls from all manner of doctors, from optometrists to podiatrists. The prisoners (who represent about 25 different nationalities but mostly are Saudis) can also freely chat with each other about God knows what: prison uprisings, the demise of Talk magazine, trades of Froot Loops for garlic bagel chips. Their restroom arrangements are pretty spartan. They get a white bucket for emergency squirts, while they are instructed to hold two fingers up for the alternative. At that time, a guard shackles them and takes them to the port-o-loo. While the military has spared no expense in construction costs (in three weeks, they built a completely operational field hospital staffed by 160 medical personnel--two more than there are prisoners), they've saved a fortune in toilet paper. It's the detainees' cultural preference not to use any. "We don't shake their hands," says one camp guard. In addition to the aforementioned amenities, detainees also receive two towels, a Koran, a shortened toothbrush (still long enough to file into a shiv), a canteen, a bucket of water, fluoride toothpaste, and shampoo. Not just any shampoo, but "Lively" salon anti-dandruff shampoo--a "luxurious shampoo in a gentle formula that restores moisture, shine, and body to your beautifully clean hair." Those who think the prisoners are getting coddled (Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican, visited the camp and said it's "too good for the bastards") will be happy to know that the shampoo is not jojoba-enriched.

WHILE public affairs officers these days are going to great lengths to talk about how docile the prisoners are, detainees have been reported biting a guard, spitting, and threatening to kill Americans. When I skirt away from my minders and visit the Marine snipers' tent, I learn it went well beyond that. The snipers, of course, are the camp's deadliest sharpshooters, ropy young bucks (21-23 years of age) who seem largely culled from the western or southern United States, where firearms are often regarded as extra appendages. Their tent looks like a Marines-issued college dorm room: Skoal-juice bottles, laundry hanging everywhere, and a spade-like sniper insignia banner tacked to a tent wall. If there is a prison uprising, it is these gentleman who will man the guard towers and introduce the rioters to their 72 black-eyed virgins. At some point, that might become necessary, they tell me, as plotting is obviously afoot. Sgt. Matt Lampert of Montana says the other day one of the prisoners was caught "with a piece of cloth stuffed with rocks that was tied off at the end." Sgt. Rodney Davis says that during chowtime, he sees them through his scope "making terrain models out of their food." And unlike say, Afghan prisons, where starving detainees are reportedly begging to be sent to Gitmo, there's plenty of food to play with. "They get fed better than us, sir," says Lampert. When I ask the Marines if they've seen anything weird, they laugh sheepishly, looking at each other. Finally, Sgt. Josh Westbrook, who sports a forearm tattoo of flaming baby heads, steps up. "They know they're being watched," he explains, "so they'll stare at you, and while they stare at you, they'll, uh, masturbate." According to these Marines, they don't just pleasure themselves to freak out the snipers, but also to embarrass the female Army guards in the camp's interior. The weirdness doesn't end there. They've also eaten their toiletries and urinated on equipment. "The other day," says Westbrook, "one of the guys tried to do a naked cartwheel." In the most bizarre twist, Lance Corporal Devin Klebaur says a few have also been known to "put toothpaste in their ass." "What's the purpose?" I ask. "I'm not sure," he says, puzzled. After leaving the snipers, I collar other grunts who say they believe the prisoners are more apt to act out whenever they see one of the regular visitors from the International Committee of the Red Cross enter the camp. "They're looking to be disciplined," says one, so that any aggressive guard behavior will make it look as if they're being brutalized by the American military in front of international witnesses. ICRC visits, says another soldier, are the highlight of a prisoner's day, since they've been spotted "giving the unshackled prisoners cookies and milk, cigarettes, shaking their hands." Many organizations who haven't been to Gitmo, like Human Rights Watch, have been extremely critical of the prisoners' treatment, while the ICRC has aired no complaints. Still, says another soldier, "They're a pain in the ass. We see them offering them cookies, hugging them like they're best buddies. They're undermining everything we're trying to do." What we're trying to do isn't exactly clear at this point. We are certainly interrogating the prisoners, though base sources won't divulge any information that's been gleaned. The prisoners will likely be formally charged and tried, though when I called a senior Pentagon source to find out by whom and when, the source said, "If you find out, will you please tell me?"

ON SUNDAY, Rumsfeld visits, and we hope for illumination. Sitting on a bus on the tarmac, waiting for the secretary to emerge from his plane, we pass the time as journalists do, discussing the AP-style spelling of "bin Laden," speculating whether the prisoners will get an Internet cafe (one of them has asked for video games), and making fun of the fresh-meat Pentagon press corps, who are overdressed in heavy wools instead of our much cooler island linens. One of Rumsfeld's security agents mounts our bus, telling us the ground rules: no photos on the tarmac, no fighting, no hitting Rumsfeld in the head with a boom mike. After Rumsfeld tours Camp X-Ray with four senators and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers (who is so overshadowed by the secretary's rock star aura that one reporter has to ask who he is), Rumsfeld meets the press on Heartbreak Ridge. He gives the sort of hooah performance that has endeared him to both the troops and the press. While he remains as firm as ever that the detainees are "illegal combatants," not "prisoners of war," which would afford them more rights under the Geneva Convention, he nicely avoids plucking the only hair worth splitting--whether the captives' status is his call. (Human rights hawks say the matter should be decided by a "competent tribunal," whatever that is.) Even if it isn't up to Rumsfeld, the argument seems rather academic. It's hard to imagine anyone who has actually read the Geneva Convention wanting to confer POW status on alleged al Qaeda members. Doing so would not only make the terrorists eligible for repatriation to their home countries, but also would forbid their being punished for trying to escape, allow them to receive "scientific equipment" from home, and even confer upon them the right to dentures--in case they lost their teeth while, say, biting a guard. Most ludicrous, they would be afforded "advances of pay" in an amount "never . . . inferior" to that which we pay our own armed forces. If you're a terrorist from Central Asia, it's not a bad deal: Kill Americans, get arrested, then get a pay raise from America. With all the global bellyaching about the detainees' right to humane treatment, it's hard to imagine them getting better treatment than they're already receiving. On my last day at Gitmo, all I have time to eat is a stale Ding Dong and a greasy plate of onion rings. My public affairs keepers couldn't care less. By contrast, for breakfast and lunch alone, the prisoners are served oatmeal, an orange, peanut butter, margarine, a "culturally appropriate" halal meal, and a giant snack pack containing Froot Loops, raisins, a Nature Valley granola bar, baked garlic bagel chips, and Bullseye barbecue-seasoned sunflower kernels. Still, the overseers of the prison are concerned that detainees aren't getting enough pita bread with their meals, and they're planning to make the food spicier, just the way the prisoners like it back home. While we wait, we journalists have to stand in the hot sun most of the day. After hours, we are confined to our Consolidated Bachelor Quarters, sleeping four to a duplex room on cots, some without pillows or blankets. We aren't even allowed to go the beach, a few hundred yards away from our building (though, emboldened by the rum we imported from Puerto Rico, a colleague and I make a mad dash under a guard searchlight for the bathwater Caribbean anyway). Besides drinking, our only entertainment is a pool table--one cue is cracked, the other is missing its tip. The prisoners, by contrast, get to read their Korans, while novels and more "religious books" are on the way. At the end of their day, they get a good night's sleep in a single cell. At the end of our day, we are told that a C-141 (the same plane that transported the detainees) just became available, and we are prematurely hustled off so the military can dump us in Nowheresville, New Jersey, on a Sunday night after every rental car place in the state has closed. Perhaps the international community is right. The treatment being meted out at Guantanamo is inhumane. To see for yourself, don't bother canvassing Camp X-Ray prisoners. Just get a Gitmo press pass.

Matt Labash is senior writer at The Weekly Standard.


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: JedMarum
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 10:42 AM

wow - looks like I lost a few paragraph breaks in the translation. Sorry - but it still makes sense.


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 10:46 AM

Heard the new residents accomodation described as a cage full of free range loonies, sounds sort of apt to me Failte.....Giok


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: kendall
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 10:55 AM

If war is hell, why should prison be heaven?


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: Amos
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 12:06 PM

I LOVE this guy!! Wodda sensa yumah!!

The toothpaste part really puzzles me. Maybe Spaw would know?

A


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: RichM
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 12:22 PM

Teeth in places we don't know about?


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: kendall
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 01:14 PM

Are you insinuating that Spaw talks out of his ass?


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: Amos
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 02:27 PM

Well I have heard some very uncouth construction workers referring to other orifices containing teeth, but only in a highly gender-biased context not suitable for repeating. Is Spaw that sort of person? If he were, would he be using toothpaste, do you think?

A


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: JedMarum
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 03:10 PM

yeah Amos, I enjoyed this writer too.

As for the toothpaste, well I don't think I really wanna know!


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 03:35 PM

A bit wordy wasn't he? Even with the paragraph breaks. By which I mean he took an awful lot of time to get round to saying anything.

The Geneva Convention was thrashed out as a way of outlawing some of the horrible things people have done to prisoners in the past. Nations, including the United States of America signed up to it as a way of defending their own soldiers. You don't throw away something like that unilaterally because you got out of bed on the wrong side.

When Maggie Thatcher, for her own reasons, decided to take away POW status from IRA prisoners, this was seen as contemptible by many people all over the world. It also turned out to be of enormous help to the IRA and to the Republican movement.

Al Qaida is a very unpleasant organisation, with some very dangerous members, and it is quite possible that among the prisoners are some who should be tried on criminal charges. (Maybe they all should be, though from what has been allowed to come out it sounds as if some at least of the prisoners are people who were just fighting in a civil war in which America became involved on the other side.)

The same was true of the Nazis - and what the Nazis achieved in the way of mass slaughter of innocent people was vastly worse than anything Al Qaida did.

And that is not trivialising September 11, it's reminding us that, to scale September 11 up to Nazi levels, you've got to multiply it by a factor of thousands. That's how bad the Nazis were.

And yet countries like America took pride in the fact that the Nazis were treated in a civilised fashion as prisoners, and where there was evidence against them of war crimes, they were tried by an international tribunal.


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: Little Hawk
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 03:35 PM

Having visited Cuba in recent times, I suspect that Matt Labash is the one "edging closer to dementia", not Fidel Castro.

Why? Because Matt's general psychology, as revealed through his hockey coach style journalism, reveals the typical crass "tough guy" mentality that is so beloved by North American conservatives...the mentality that finds its deepest purpose in making sure that McDonalds, Burger King, and Coca Cola become available in even the remotest corners of the world, and one day perhaps even on the moon.

He also reveals (and is no doubt proud of) his cultural ignorance. The reason that Muslims do not necessarily use toilet paper is this: they WASH themselves, scrupulously, with soap and water after defecating....which if you spend any time at all actually thinking about it...results in a cleaner "end" result for the human body than any amount of vigorous rubbing with a handful of dry paper ever will. That is their cultural habit. Westernized ones use toilet paper AND wash themselves with soap and water after that. They regard westerners as dirty, because most westerners don't wash themselves in that fashion, outside of their daily bath or shower. Matt must not know about this, I presume. I bet the average Muslim is cleaner than he is...at least below the belt.

It's also indicative of something quite interesting...North Americans, in general, are so afraid of their own "shit" (I mean that symbolically as well as literally), that they can't face dealing with it directly...Third Worlders, in my experience are not. I'm not being flippant in saying that, I am quite serious. We North Americans live a lifestyle that is so insulated, that it has removed us from much of what life is about.

We live in denial, safe on our broadloom, eyes on our flickering TV's and computers...never having to kill the flesh we eat, never having to deal with the blood we indirectly shed, the sweat and toil we delegate to others, and the tactile, messy stuff of ordinary life that Third Worlders deal with every day.

Since Matt feels that the prisoners are receiving so much better treatment than he is, I suggest that he volunteer for Al Queda immediately, and enjoy the obvious benefits of an indefinite period of incarceration, assuming he survives being smart-bombed first, and doesn't end up being massacred in a pen by the Northern Alliance and thus not being one of the lucky few to get to visit Guantanamo. He'll get better fed as a prisoner than as a journalist! Who could resist an opportunity like that?

Yes, it is abundantly clear from his article that there are (supposedly) few fates more cozy than being a prisoner of America. We should, I suppose, all declare war on America immediately, and reap the benefits...3 meals a day, and accomodation rent-free, while waiting for the show trials to begin.

The US military's attitude toward the press has changed substantially since Vietnam, since the more open press coverage of that day had much to do with making the war unpopular at home. In post-1984 Amerika you will find the press on a MUCH shorter leash than in those days. Depend on it. Matt will doubtless have further occasion to carp and complain about how he is getting treated by the powers that be in fortress Amerika.

But it will all be worthwhile as long as he can feel so totally culturally superior to those godforsaken people who don't use toilet paper.

It reminds me of Dylan's song about the "poor white man" who is comforted, despite his poverty and low station in life, by being reminded by the Southern segregationist politicians "you've got more than the blacks, don't complain...." Being so reminded of his innate superiority to non-whites, he feels quite righteous in joining the local cross-burning gang, and is free "to kill with no pain, like a dog on a chain, but it ain't him to blame...he's only a pawn in their game."

I am not saying this to in any way support terrorism by Third Worlders or anyone else, but I don't like Matt's attitude. I've seen it all too many times and I know where it leads. Matt, if you ever lose your job, there is a desk waiting for you at the Toronto Sun! They wake up every morning and cry because Canada has not yet become the 51st state of corporate USA...well, not officially, that is. Money-wise, the deal is already done.

Hey Amos and the rest of you guys, I guess I've got a different take on this one than you do...and we all get to have our say if we so desire. I won't be offended by yours, and I hope you won't be offended by mine. We just disagree this time, that's all.

- LH


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: Amos
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 04:22 PM

Naw, Hack, that's okay. I appreciate yours -- I've lived in Muslim lands and I appreciate the real reason they don't need TP. And despite my enjoyment of the writer's Winchellisms, I am also sensitive to what you are saying. That's one of the problems with being a schizoid - you get to hold multiple viewpoints!! :>)

But I'd be relieved (no pun intended) if you could explain the toothpaste. They never used it that way in Malaysia!!

A


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 05:48 PM

LH, what do you mean, most Westerners don't wash themselves after defecating? Of course they do. Don't they?. They may not use their left hand exclusively of course ....

McGrath's point about America's civilised treatment of German prisoners (many of whom were Nazis) is true, but the pampering soon stopped after the war ended and news of the Nazi atrocities in the camps filtered back to the USA. Then the privileges they had enjoyed disappeared rapidly

Murray


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: Little Hawk
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 06:42 PM

Hmmmm. Well, there's never any good excuse for imitating the wrongdoings of others...unless you believe in vengeance, and a lot of people do. It's frequently (if not usually) the wrong individuals who get punished after a war is over. The average German soldier was not usually the guy responsible for the heinous atrocities of the Nazis, although sometimes he was the guy responsible...

People always lose their bearings when they get caught up in vengeance, and take it out on people as innocent as themselves.

In the American West, the US Cavalry would wipe out an Indian camp. The Indians would then retaliate by killing any white civilians they could find. Both sides would, quite correctly, accuse the other side of committing atrocities, and charge out to slaughter more innocent people..."evening the score". This went on and on until the weaker side...the Indians...was either exterminated or subdued.

Therefore, I suggest that one should treat prisoners precisely the way that one would wish to be treated oneself, if taken prisoner. Any other course leads down the slippery slope to perdition, and will not help anyone.

The most honourable armies are the ones who respect their enemy, even if their enemy is not mature enough to respect them.

Murray - Well, I don't know what the statistics are...my guess is that a lot of westerners just use toilet paper, and that's it. This from casual observation, but maybe I'm wrong when I say "most".

Amos - The toothpaste? I have no idea. Maybe they're using it in lieu of soap? (I didn't notice soap among the list of amenities...although he did list shampoo) It's clear to me that the prisoners are committing certain acts (staring, masturbation, etc) as a gesture of contempt to their captors. I'm reminded of the American prisoners in North Korea (from the Pueblo) who used certain hand gestures when photographed...more subtle, but somewhat similar in intent.

These prisoners probably regard westerners as corrupt barbarians, being just as prejudiced against us as many of us are against them. "Building terrain models" out of food? It's amazing what boredom can do to people, isn't it? Maybe they are doing it precisely in order to puzzle their captors, again as a form of contempt...or maybe they're planning a prison breakout (suicidal, but entirely possible that they will attempt it).

How would anyone here really like to be captured by, say, Saddam Hussein...imprisoned without any expectation of release...interrogated and caged like an animal...and given three very nice meals a day (Yum!), 2 nice clean towels (Lucky me!), anti-dandruff shampoo (Cool!), a canteen (Bonus!), flouride toothpaste (Oh, joy!), and a Bible (Hallelujah!).

No knowledge of one's ultimate fate. No family contacts. Nothing to do. Utterly powerless. In the hands of one's sworn enemies, in a foreign land whose culture is largely incomprehensible according to one's own life experience.

Oh yeah, great fun. Why, it's a wonder the whole Middle East doesn't come forward right this minute and beg to be incarcerated in Guantanamo.

- LH


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 07:24 PM

From a piece by Terry Waite, who was confined as a hostage in Lebanon for five years, published in The Guardian last week:

"I can recognise the conditions that prisoners are being kept in at the US camp at Guantanamo Bay because I have been there. Not to Cuba's Camp X-Ray, but to the darkened cell in Beirut that I occupied for five years.

I was chained to a wall by my hands and feet; beaten on the soles of my feet with cable; denied all my human rights, and contact with my family for five years, and given no access to the outside world. Because I was kept in very similar conditions, I am appalled at the way we - countries that call ourselves civilised - are treating these captives. Is this justice or revenge?"

The rest of it is here. This, please note,is not a man with any reson for feeling any sympathy towards terrorists or terrorism.

And the point about treatment of German prisoners of war, Macleod, wasn't about pampering. I am sure they were not pampered, prisoners very rarely are (apart from generals, who tend to be treated as cronies by other generals).

It was about the determination to behave in a civilised and humane manner no matter what the provocation - because, among other things, that is the best hope there is that other people may do the same when the boot is on the other foot. For example when a bomber pilot is captured by people who have been bombed.


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: Gareth
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 07:48 PM

I think this is getting a little bit like a playground spat "Oh yes you did - Oh no you did not"

First, a confession - On this side of the pond I can recall protesting about US of A activities in Viet Nam ( Yes I'am old enough) And thinking when we saw the films of downed USA flyers being paraded through Hanoi that they had had thier just deserts. Hind sight, maturity, and posts read on the CAT have changed my views about their treatment.

I am afraid many of those who are the most vocal here in the UK were of a similar mind setin the late 60's and early 70's - And I am afraid that if you cheered then, you have no right to condem now.

I suspect that this is gut anti americanism feeding through.

Secondly - Is the treatment any worse, or better, than the treatment given to unconvicted prisoners in the US of A ? - I doubt it. I do not defend the American system of "Justice" - but it is the choice of the American system, and people.

Thirdly, and the jury of history is still to give a verdict, has there been a proper screening of these prisoners by military intelligence sources ?

If these very intelligencia of "Al Quaid" then it is proper that full security and interogation be continued. If they were just "Poor Bloody Infantry" then they should not be there at all - but only proper interogation will determin that.

Not the expected post perhaps - but history is full of hind sight examples.

Gareth


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 08:02 PM

I can remember the pictures of American prisoners being maltreated in Vietnam. Sure I could understand why people might feel hatred toward the bombers, just as I can see how people felt the same way in the Blitz - but I know that I never saw that kind of thing as justifiable, or took any kind of joy in it.

And I know that went for the people in the anti-awar movement with whom I was in touch with when I was working for the pacifist weekly Peace News.

So far as we were concerned the people doing the actual fighting were victims. Even when it came to the atrocities, the massacres of civilians face to face, we'd remind ourselves that the people who did that kind of thing were probably decent enough people who had had their minds screwed up by the situation they were in and by the military structure they were involved in.


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: Little Hawk
Date: 02 Feb 02 - 08:20 PM

I was simply objecting to the general tone and attitude of the journalist, Matt Labash. He sounds like a jerk, with little or no comprehension of anyone from outside his own culture. He whines and complains...and talks tough at the same time...and badmouths just about everybody. I think he should write for National Inquirer instead. Or the Toronto Sun. He's right up their alley.

- LH


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: DougR
Date: 03 Feb 02 - 06:40 PM

Nice try Jed. The article might have been more acceptable had it been printed in the New York Times or the Washington Post I suppose. I'm not confident that the facts in the article would have been the same though.

DougR


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: JedMarum
Date: 03 Feb 02 - 11:34 PM

The caustic America haters and the anti-capitalist bigots will continue to create 'facts' that suit their purpose and maintain a superior intellectual position to shoot down the words of those who disagree ... but the fact remains that according to the definitions in the Geneva Convention the GUANTANAMO BAY detainees cannot be described as prisoners of war. The fact also remains that these detainees are kept much more humanely then they would by many other countries under the same circumstances ... and that they are indeed being quite well, if firmly taken care of.


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Feb 02 - 05:54 AM

I'm not at all clear on what basis people captured fighting on behalf of the de-facto government of Afghanistan aren't prisoners of war. I do not think there are very many jurists in the rest of the world who think the US official position on this is legally sustainable.

Very likely some of the prisoners should be put on trial in a properly constituted court for war crimes or other crimes, but that is a different matter. That was true of the Nazis, and noone suggested that they were not Prisoners of War. (Well I believe Stalin may have suggested that, but he is not the best role model.)

The fact that some countries routinely break the rules they have pledged themselves to uphold when it comes to dealing with prisoners of war is completely irrelevant.

This shouldn't even be a matter of controversy. One of the centreal thigs this is claimed to be about trying to find ways of stopping governments from using terrorist techniques. When someone like Terry Waite likens the what has been happening in Guantanamo to the way terrorists treated him, this is not something to be brushed aside as knee-jerk anti-Americanism.


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: GUEST,AKRick
Date: 04 Feb 02 - 06:48 AM

Has anybody actually read the the Geneva Convention? Article 5 is very clear (and remember that as a signatory, the US is obliged to submit). If there is ANY question to status, a tribunal will be held for prisoners on an individual basis. US military law details how this kind of tribunal would be conducted. The administration is in violation of international and US laws. If we don't follow these sort of international agreements, we can't expect future US "detainees" to expect civilized treatment.


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: JedMarum
Date: 04 Feb 02 - 10:22 AM

There is no question as to the status of the detainees.

The Geneva Convention was an agreement designed to regulate international warfare between states. al Qaeda and Taliban detainees are not members of such states.



Long before the Sept 11 terrorist attacks on America, the entire international community, through their participation in the United Nations, has recognized the Taliban as an illegitimate government. In fact the U.N. has defined the Taliban government as an armed gang that has taken over most of Afghanistan. And, of course, al Qaeda has no pretense of being a legitimate state or national government. Neither al Qaeda nor the Taliban have any connection to the Geneva Convention agreement.



And the convention agreement is clear in regards to whom it applies "the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties."



There is some provision in the agreement for "militias," (other armed conflict in the above quote) … but the agreement is equally clear with respect to whom this exception applies. It defines these as groups who meet the following requirements: "wearing uniforms, having a clear line of command, and respecting the laws and customs of war." The Taliban fails this test, as well. Again, there is no argument that al Qaeda or the Taliban have no connection to the Geneva Convention agreement - so why should its rules apply to them?



Finally, the Geneva Convention assumes that prisoners of war are civilized men who are willing to surrender. It does not contemplate prisoners who are who threaten and bite their guards or strap grenades to their bodies, steal guns and shoot them. Common sense dictates entirely different circumstances for keeping such prisoners.








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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: JedMarum
Date: 04 Feb 02 - 10:28 AM

Let's not pretend that these bastards now in custody in Guantanamo Bay are anything but hateful, vengeful killers who will suddenly play by the rules of modern society. These scum bags will kill anyone outside their group at the first available opportunity - and would return immediately to their war efforts against the modern world as soon as they hit freedom. What the f*ck are we even considering applying civilized standards to them for?


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: DougR
Date: 04 Feb 02 - 12:21 PM

Well, Jed, I think they are being treated in a civilized way. I don't see why anyone could believe they should be considered prisoners of war though. The Nazis were the official army of Germany, so they should have been considered P.O.W.

McGrath: has Terry Waite been to Guantanamo Bay to observe the treatment of the prisoners? I haven't read that he has been.

DougR


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 04 Feb 02 - 01:30 PM

The Taliban regime was an extremely unpleasant regime - not quite Nazis, but quite nasty enough - even worse than the pretty dodgy lot which have replaced them. (I gather stoning is being retained as a penalty for adultery, but they are going to use smaller stones, to give people a chance to get away; unless they have denied that they are guilty, in which case they will be tied up.)

But the Taliban was in control of 90 per cent of the country, and was recognised as the government by a number of countries which are currently allied to the United States, including especially Pakistan, where the government had been largely responsible for the Taliban coming to power.

Everything I have seen has indicated that the men fighting on the side of the Taliban regime were doing so as part of an organised military force, engaged in a war against the Northern Alliance, and against an invading force which was predominantly American.

That doesn't mean they are nice guys. It does mean that according to international law - to which the United States is a signatory - they are POWs. (It appears that General Powell probably thinks is so as well.)


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: GUEST,JTT
Date: 04 Feb 02 - 01:49 PM

How you treat your prisoners is a matter of how you respect yourself and what kind of standard of honour you impose on yourself, not on what kind of people your prisoners are.

If anyone's interested in reading the Geneva Convention, it's here:

http://www.asociety.com/geneva1.html


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: GUEST,JTT
Date: 04 Feb 02 - 01:53 PM

Here's another site with the Convention; it's maybe a little more clearly laid out. By the way, I quote part of Article 4 below, in relation to who's covered.

http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/91.htm

Article 4

A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:

1. Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.

2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: JedMarum
Date: 04 Feb 02 - 02:02 PM

You're still missing the point of my arguements, McGrath;

By the definitions of the Geneva Convention, neither the Taliban nor al Quieda can be described as participants in the agreement - not by a lng shot. Why should they enjoy the protections of a covenant to which they have no part? By anaolgy, why should you be bound by the terms of my mortgage agreement?

And why would the UN based alliance wish to extend Geneva Conventions to such organizations? Neither the Taliban nor al Quieda were recognized by the UN as legitimate governments of countries or 'players by the rules' of the contemporary world community.

And finally, Geneva Cnvetion aside - why would the US (or any country) who worked so diligently and at great risk to its own well being - allow these hateful/vengeful characters to slip back into a position where they can hurt us or our friends again?


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: JedMarum
Date: 04 Feb 02 - 02:12 PM

A man was hiking up in the mountains when he came across a rattle snake laying in the pathway, nearly frozen to death, almost motionless. The rattle snake said to the man, "Oh please pick me up and bring down to the base of the mountain with you, where I can warm up and go about my business."

The man answered, "You're a rattle snake, I'm not going to pick you up and bring you anywhere. You'll bite me!"

To which the snake answered, "Oh look at me, I'm so cold I can hardly move. I couldn't possibly bite you. Besides, if you help me out, I'll be your friend and would never do anything to hurt a friend."

So the man was convinced. He picked up the snake, and carried him down the mountain in his coat pocket. As they descended to the base of the mountain the air temperature rose, and the sun warmed up the man and the snake.

When they arrived at the bottom, the man reached inside his pocket and placed the rattlesnake on the ground, and when he did, the snake bit him.

"I thought you said you wouldn't bite me," the man complained to the rattlesnake, to which the snake replied, "Look, don't complain to me! You knew what I was when you put me in your pocket."


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: Wilfried Schaum
Date: 04 Feb 02 - 02:17 PM

Older than the Geneva Convention is the Convention of The Hague about the laws and customs of Warfare on land, beginning of the 20th century, if my memory doesn't fail me. In Jed's quote a 4th item is missing: Wearing of arms openly. In the Army we had to learn them by heart.
Methinks the Taliban fail the item "respecting the laws and customs of war". So they are not protected by the Convention and might be treated summarily - in combat. Nevertheless a civilized nation should be proud to show them how to prisoners should be treated in a human way. The cages should meet the standards set by German law for the prevention of cruelties to animals; the measures of kennels for German shepherd dogs, for instance, are quite larger than the cages in Guantánamo bay.

Wilfried


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: Ebbie
Date: 04 Feb 02 - 02:21 PM

Regarding the 'pampering' of POWs in the US during WWII- for four years of my life I went out with a former German POW who was captured by the US tank corps in France in 1942 at the age of 17. He was incarcerated in Georgia and later, Alabama; the POWs did a lot of fruit orchard labor and other agricultural work for the duration of the war. (At the end of the war, they were not allowed to return home because conditions in Germany were so poor. POWs were given a choice as to where they wanted to go. My friend chose to go to England where he worked in orchards and on farms until he went back to Germany in 1948. He emigrated to this country in 1956.)

He said that while FDR was alive, the POWs ate very well; he said it was especially notable because in the German army they had half starved, being at the stage where they raided civilian gardens and threw everything into a communal pot for their main meal. In captivity he gained close to 30 pounds.

After Roosevelt died and Harry Truman took over, he said, the diet changed dramatically. From red meat and cake, they went to practically military rations, which startled them all.

Ebbie


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: DougR
Date: 04 Feb 02 - 10:03 PM

McGrath: You may not have seen my question in an earlier post. Do you know if Terry Waite has been to Guanatanamo Bay to observe the treatment of the prisoners?

DougR


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: Lepus Rex
Date: 04 Feb 02 - 10:59 PM

:X

Lepus Rex


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: Rustic Rebel
Date: 05 Feb 02 - 12:37 AM

This may or may not have anything to do with the conversation, but I'm willing to say (my guess) on the treatment of Daniel Pearl, that no-one there was following any Geneva Convention rights. If in fact he is even alive, he is living a tortured existance right now. Yet the prisoners they want for exchange are being treated in a humane way as far as we can see or are told. I don't know really what more to say about this except it angers me to think, that people think these prisoners should have linen napkins.


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: GUEST,mgarvey@pacifier.com
Date: 05 Feb 02 - 02:21 AM

I don't care if they have linen napkins, fruit loops and a bidet in every cell.

But the roof situation sounds not good to me..tin over wood...make some good weapons with that..

and who in the Red Cross..or whatever group it was..could be so dumb as to get close enough to hug one, if indeed you were so inclined. They could be killed in an instant.

And how are you going to figure out who was infantry and who was the mastermind? The mastermind certainly would disguise himself as the camp cook or whatever.

mg


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: InOBU
Date: 05 Feb 02 - 07:19 AM

I think that our failure to respect the Geneva Convention is right in line with our policy to never again declare war. For the past 50 years the United States has been in a constant state of war, in every corner of this planit we have committed troops shot guns and droped bombs and have not once declared war. So, this nation clames that every responce to our wars are terror and that no one we deal with is a soldier. As a Quaker, I oppose war, even the wars we fail to call war. I also believe truth is important, vital, and an Orwellian language shift will not change that truth.
Larry


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 05 Feb 02 - 07:41 AM

Stuff about whether they are nice guys or not, or whether they are dangerous guys or not, or whether they or their friends break the rules as well, just are not relevant to the particular point as to whether they are POWs or not.

Those kind of things are relevant on deciding how to treat POWS, within the overall requirements laid down and agreed - but not in the least germane to the question of determining their status as POWs or not. (The argument isn't even affected if the prisoners were in fact being treated in the same way as if they were recognised as POWs).

Here are the conditions that were left of the end of GUESTjtt's quote from the Geneva Convention :

a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

(c) That of carrying arms openly;

(d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

I haven't heard anything to suggest that the Taliban forces didn't generally operate within those conditions every bit as much as their opponents, including US personnel. (Incidentally I'd have thought that "conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war" would have to exclude unilaterally announcing that POWS are not POWs.)

Remember, the war in Afghanistan was a consequence oif what happened on September 11, and among the prisoners there could well be people who bear some knd of responsibility for what happened. But that is a separate matter from the question of the status of men captured fighting on behalf of the Taliban regime.


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: DougR
Date: 05 Feb 02 - 12:37 PM

Did Great Britain recognize the Taliban government, McGrath, and did GB have diplomatic relations with them? I don't believe the U. S. did. I'm not sure many governments did. This might have a bearing on whether or not the Taliban fighters would be recognized as P.O.W. or not.

I read the article you posted from "The Guardian" McGrath, and it appears to me that Terry Waite is just blowing smoke. I heard an interview with the Navy Chaplain (Islamic) that has been assigned to the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay on Public Broadcasting yesterday, and in no way are the prisoners there being afforded the same or even similar treatment Terry Waite suffered. Terry Waite is spouting pure Shite, in my opinion.

DougR


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 05 Feb 02 - 01:18 PM

I reckon Terry Waite has earned the right to be respected for his views about what it's like being a prisoner in the kind of conditions he endured for five years as a hostage in Lebanon. Disagree, say that he has misinterpreted what's happening, or whatever, fine, but "spouting pure Shite" - why get into that kind of talk about a decent man who has suffered appallingly at the hands of precisely the kind of people whose rights he is speaking up for in that article

Most countries never recognised the Taliban as a legitimate regime - though some very significant ones did do so, notably Pakistan and Saudi Arabia - but that's not in fact a determining factor in this issue. In any Civil War at least one side is going to be the side that isn't recognised as the legitimate government, but doesn't stop the other side's soldiers having POW status under the Geneva Convention.

I repeat, it's got nothing whatever to do with whether anybody likes them. You don't like them I don't like them Bush doesn't like them - so what? "We don't like them, therefore they aren't covered by the Geneva Convention" - is that supposed to be the way international law is determined?

Is this another of those issues where political affiliations are allowed to sneak in and draw the lines, when they have nothing at all to do with the point at issue?


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: DougR
Date: 05 Feb 02 - 06:30 PM

No, McGrath, I don't think politics has anything to do with it.

I believe what the U. S. administration is saying is, the prisoners will not be governed by international law as you sugget in your next to the last paragraph. Our allies can object, if they so choose, but to date all that I have seen is reports of pundits in newspapers and on television, who have no better idea how the prisoners are being treated than you or I. I don't believe the government of GB has registered a formal protest has it? Has your PM publically disagreed with Bush and Rumsfield?

As to Terry Waite, he suffered much as a prisoner. His word regarding the treatment of these prisoners, however, is no better than anyone else unless he has witnessed first-hand the treatment they are receiving. That's my opinion anyway. I suppose it is just one of those subjects where we should (as we have done before) agree to disagree.

DougR


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 05 Feb 02 - 08:19 PM

Blair disagree with Bush? Not in a hundred years. Not his style at all.

No there won't be any formal protests from the British government. That doesn't mean a great deal. After all, from a pragmatic point if view, what would be the point?

Thee are two related but logically distinct questions involved. One is whether the people concerned, more especially those who are Taliban rather than Al Qaida, are in fact entitled to POW status. The other is whether they are being treated humanely and appropriately. The connection betweeen the two questions is that POW status is a floor below which conditions should not fall for any prisoner.

The former question is a technical one, and it is one where there are, in the views of many people round the world, very real grounds for thinking that the US government have got it wrong. And that evidently includes Secretary of State Colin Powell.


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: DougR
Date: 05 Feb 02 - 10:00 PM

Yes, McGrath, I'm aware of that article. Powell has softened his stance since January 27th, however. The main point is, I believe, that the prisoners are being treated humanely. At least that is what the American Red Cross and other agencies who have been there declare.

I think it is very important what the government of Great Britain thinks and does. Your government is our best ally and we are grateful for your support.

DougR


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 06 Feb 02 - 05:29 AM

Very grateful for support from the British government I'm sure - but I suspect very dismissive of any criticism. Governments are like that, not just America.

Most people are in fact, when there is even a hint of criticism. (I'm reminded of the old joke about the mother who gave her son a red tie and a blue tie. So he wears the red tie when he goes to see her. "So you didn't like that blue tiue I gave you?")

Obviously its important that prisoners are treated in a way that is not degrading (not least because this knd of thing is degrading the captors). If that is happening, and is confirmed by truly independent people who know about that kind of thing, that's good.

The combination of pictures, the kind of things that were being said by people like Rumsfeld, and the stickiness about accepting that these were prisoners of war - all these combined to give a very reasonable grounds fo suspecting that not to be the case. Not knee-jerk anti-Americans, people like Mary Robinson, whose job it is to speak up about those kind of concerns.

But it is also important that even powerful countries should operate within the rules they have pledged to uphold, such as the Geneva Conventions, and that cannot just be a private matter for politicians to mess arouind with.


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: Desdemona
Date: 06 Feb 02 - 10:35 AM

As a woman, I'd have to take exception to the statement above that the Taliban are "not quite Nazis, but quite nasty enough"; this may in some ways be rather like comparing a Macintosh to a Granny Smith, but at the end of the day, they're both apples. I'd argue that the systematic subjugation and effective erasure of a cultire's entire female population, relegating them to the status of walking corpses with no rights, no future, no voice & no hope of deliverance qualifies as a system worthy of Hitler's fertile imagination. The fact that the Taliban have conducted their holocaust against their own female population (their own mothers, wives, sisters & daughters) in now way makes their crimes less heinous.


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 06 Feb 02 - 11:09 AM

The difference was for most of the victims of the Taliban there was some future and some hope of deliverance with the fall of the regime. Unlike the people in the death camps.

"Quite nasty enough" meant very nasty indeed - but nasty in a different way. This had consequences which were indeed appalling, but were not on the scale which resulted from the form of nastiness that the Nazis demonstrated.

The point being that, even in the case of the Nazis, who were in this sense even worse in what they did, legal process and adherance to the rules about prisoners was seen as possible and necessary.


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: Desdemona
Date: 06 Feb 02 - 11:14 AM

Well, in theory there was also hope for the fall of the Nazi regime, and the liberation of the camps, which did eventually occur, although not before unspeakable loss of human life.

However, I do take your point; isn't it awful that we continue to have so much new material on which to base these sorts of comparisons?


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: Little Hawk
Date: 06 Feb 02 - 01:42 PM

You can talk about it forever, but it will not change the fact that everyone out there thinks he's right, dead right, that he is defending all that is decent and proper, and that his opponents on the field of battle are wrong, dead wrong, and that they stand for all that must be opposed and defeated.

The Taliban believed it. The USA believes it. The Japanese in World War II believed it. The Nazis believed it. The Israelis believe it. The Palestinians believe it. The Indians and Pakistanis believe it.

Debates about whether the Taliban were "a legitimate government" or not are futile. In their eyes they were. Without the previous help of the USA and Pakistan they woudl never have come to power in the first place. In their eyes the USA is an illegitimate government, controlled by rich corporations, banks, and the Pentagon. If, in a very different world, they had had the military power to destroy the USA, their propaganda line would now be official gospel on the mainline media of their day...and if you were one of their citizens you would almost certainly believe it....unless you were a nonconformist skeptic like me.

Everybody is prejudiced. Extremely prejudiced. Most people are habitual conformists to the official line that is fed to them by their domestic mainstream media. Everybody is partly informed and partly uninformed. Everybody is partially ignorant of the humanity of his "enemy", excepting only those who are wise enough to have no enemies...and only saints and avatars qualify on that level.

At the end of the day only one thing matters...as GUEST JTT pointed out:

"How you treat your prisoners is a matter of how you respect yourself and what kind of standard of honour you impose on yourself, not on what kind of people your prisoners are."

Bravo, GUEST JTT. That is the heart of the matter.

- LH


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Subject: RE: GUANTANAMO BAY
From: Desdemona
Date: 06 Feb 02 - 02:08 PM

Indeed. It's been really interesting, in a Margaret Mead, "Growing Up In Samoa" sort of way, to watch this party-line dynamic in action these last months.

Immediately after Sept. 11, it seemed that people as a general rule were rather humbled, astonished that it could happen here, on prime Manhattan real-estate, filled with movers & shakers in Armani suits. Bang. Just like that.

A sense of pulling together in the face of adversity, and the support of other nations, were positive things, but all too soon it assumed the ugly face of ignorance & jingo-ism; "Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here Without An American Flag Prominently Displayed". A complete loss of any sense of proportion or perspective. Rocks thrown through the windows of Middle Eastern restaurants, my Jewish friend asked why she didn't "go back where she came from?", to which she replied, "What, New Jersey?!" A woman I work with whose idiot neighbour accosted her boyfriend in the driveway to demand why he didn't have a flag on his car.

The minute Ol' Dubyah opened his mouth, it started getting stupider & uglier & more embarrassing; say what you like about Tony Blair, at least he can squeeze out the odd grammatically correct sentence! We have a man at the perceived "helm" who worries about "nucular" weapons, and his approval rating is through the roof!

I agree that the treatment of one's political prisoners is a reflection of the level of civilisation of the captors. While I see no need to tuck the people being held in Cuba into bed with eiderdown quilts & a reading of "Stuart Little", it would certainly cast our much-touted role of the "good guys seeking justice" in an unfortunate light if we were torturing or otherwise mistreating the people we've been portraying as savages.

One person I feel genuinely sorry for is John Walker(to say nothing of his parents!), who has to be the stupidest young man on the face of the planet; he is going to be tied to the whipping post no matter how you slice it. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time!


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Mudcat time: 22 September 4:32 AM EDT

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