From: Max Obuszewski [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, August 03, 2009 1:46 PM
Subject: Henry A. Giroux | Torturing Children: Bush's Legacy and Democracy's Failure
Monday 03 August 2009
The torture of children under the Bush administration has gone relatively unpublicized. (Photo: thepeoplesvoice.org)
This is an excerpt from Henry A. Giroux's forthcoming book, "Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror," to be published by Paradigm Publishers.
Nowhere is there a more disturbing, if not horrifying, example of the relationship between a culture of cruelty and the politics of irresponsibility than in the resounding silence that surrounds the torture of children under the presidency of George W. Bush - and the equal moral and political failure of the Obama administration to address and rectify the conditions that made it possible. But if we are to draw out the dark and hidden parameters of such crimes, they must be made visible so men and women can once again refuse to orphan the law, justice, and morality. How we deal with the issue of state terrorism and its complicity with the torture of children will determine not merely the conditions under which we are willing to live, but whether we will live in a society in which moral responsibility disappears altogether and whether we will come to find ourselves living under a democratic or authoritarian social order. This is not merely a political and ethical matter, but also a matter of how we take seriously the task of educating ourselves more critically in the future.
We haven't always looked away. When Emmett Till's battered, brutalized, and broken fourteen-year-old body was open to public viewing in
The mistreatment of children is something not so funny that has been neglected on the road to investigations of and calls for prosecution of those responsible for torture. George W. Bush has never been asked about the abuse of children in American-run prisons in the "war on terror." It is high time for Bush and others to be held accountable for what is arguably the most egregious of all their war crimes - the abuse and death of children, who should never have been arrested in the first place. The best kept secret of the Bush's war crimes is that thousands of children have been imprisoned, tortured, and otherwise denied rights under the Geneva Conventions and related international agreements. Yet both Congress and the media have strangely failed to identify the very existence of child prisoners as a war crime.(3)
While it is difficult to confirm how many children have actually been detained, sexually abused, and tortured by the Bush administration, there is ample evidence that such practices have taken place not only from the accounts of numerous journalists but also in a number of legal reports. One of the most profoundly disturbing and documented cases of the torture of a child in the custody of U.S. forces is that of Mohammed Jawad, who was captured in Afghanistan after he allegedly threw a hand grenade at a military vehicle that injured an Afghan interpreter and two U.S. soldiers. He was immediately arrested by the local Afghan police, who tortured him and consequently elicited a confession from him. An Afghan Attorney General in a letter to the U.S. government claimed that Jawad was 12 years-old when captured, indicating that he was still in primary school, though other sources claim he was around 15 or 16.(4) Jawad denies the charges made by the Afghan police, claiming that "they tortured me. They beat me. They beat me a lot. One person told me, 'If you don't confess, they are going to kill you.' So, I told them anything they wanted to hear."(5) On the basis of a confession obtained through torture, Jawad was turned over to
In a sworn affidavit, Colonel Vandeveld stated that Jawad had undergone extensive abuse at Bagram for approximately two months: "The abuse included the slapping of Mr. Jawad across the face while Mr. Jawad's head was covered with a hood, as well as Mr. Jawad's having been shoved down a stairwell while both hooded and shackled."(13) As soon as Jawad arrived at Bagram, the abuse began with him being forced to pose for nude photographs and undergo a strip search in front of a number of witnesses. He was also blindfolded and hooded while interrogated and "told ... to hold on to a water bottle that he believed was actually a bomb that could explode at any moment." In addition, while in the custody of
U.S. personnel subjected Mohammed to beatings, forced him into so-called "stress positions," forcibly hooded him, placed him in physical and linguistic isolation, pushed him down stairs, chained him to a wall for prolonged periods, and subjected him to threats including threats to kill him, and other intimidation.
The specifics of the conditions at Bagram under which Jawad was confined as a child are spelled out in a military interrogator's report:
While at the BCP (Bagram Collection Point) he described the isolation cell as a small room on the second floor made of wood.... He stated that while he was held in the isolation cells, they kept him restrained in handcuffs and a hood over his head, also making him drink lots of water. He said the guards made him stand up and if he sat down, he would be beaten.... [He] stated that he was made to stand to keep him from sleeping and said when he sat down the guards would open the cell door, grab him by the throat and stand him up. He said they would also kick him and make him fall over, as he was wearing leg shackles and was unable to take large steps. He said the guards would fasten his handcuffs to the isolation cell door so he would be unable to sit down.... [He] said due to being kicked and beaten at the BCP, he experienced chest pains and difficulty with urination.(15)
The interrogations, abuse, and isolation daily proved so debilitating physically and mentally that Jawad told military personnel at Bagram that he was contemplating suicide. What must be kept in mind is that this victim of illegal abuse and torture was only a juvenile, still in his teens and not even old enough to vote in the
The torture and abuse of the child detainee, Mohammed Jawad, continues up to on or about June 2, 2008 when he was "beaten, kicked, and pepper-sprayed while he was on the ground with his feet and hands in shackles, for allegedly not comply with guards' instructions. Fifteen days later, there were still visible marks consistent with physical abuse on his body, including his arms, knees, shoulder, forehead, and ribs."(24) How the Obama administration can possibly defend building a criminal case against Mohammed Jawad, given that he was under 18 years-old at the time of his arrest and has endured endless years of torture and abuse at the hands of the U.S. government, raises serious questions about ethical and political integrity of this government and its alleged commitment for human rights. The case against this young man is so weak that Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle has not only recently accused the government of "dragging [the case] out for no good reason," but also expressed alarm at how weak the government's case was, stating in a refusal to give them an extension to amass new evidence against Jawad, "You'd better go consult real quick with the powers that be, because this is a case that's been screaming at everybody for years. This case is an outrage to me.... I am not going to sit up here and wait for you to come up with new evidence at this late hour.... This case is in shambles."(25) On July 30, 2009, Judge Huvelle ordered the Obama administration to release Jawad by late August. She stated "After this horrible, long, tortured history, I hope the government will succeed in getting him back home.... Enough has been imposed on this young man to date."(26) The New York Times reported, in what can only be interpreted as another example of bad faith on the part of the Obama administration, that the Justice Department responded to Judge Huvelle's ruling by suggesting that "they were studying whether to file civilian criminal charges against Mr. Jawad. If they do, officials say, he could be transferred to the
(3). Michael Haas, "Children, Unlamented Victims of Bush War Crimes," FactPlatform (May 4, 2009). Online at: http://www.factjo.com/Manbar_En/MemberDetails.aspx?Id=187, and Michael Haas, "George W. Bush, War Criminal?: The Bush Administration's Liability for 269 War Crimes" (
(4). Will Mathews, "Government Seeks to Continue Detaining Mohammed Jawad at Guantánamo Despite Lack of Evidence," CommonDreams.Org (July 24, 2009). Online at: http://www.commondreams.org/pring/45088; and ACLU Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, "Amended Petition."
(5). Cited in Andy Worthington, "The Case of Mohamed Jawad," Counterpunch (October 17, 2007). Online at: http://www.counterpunch.org/worthington1017200.html.
(7). ACLU, "Mohammed Jawad-Habeas Corpus," Safe and Free (January 13, 2009). Online at: http://www.aclu.org/safefree/detention/38714res20090113.html.
(8). ACLU Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, "Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on Behalf of Mohammed Jawad," June 2009. Online at: http://www.aclu.org/pdfs/natsec/amended_jawad_2009113.pdf. "Amended Petition."
(11). Glenn Greenwald, "Mohammed Jawad and Obama's Efforts to Suspend Military Commissions," Salon.com (January 21, 2009). Online at: http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/01/21/Guantánamo/.
(17). Meteor Blades, "Army Psychologist Pleads 'Fifth' in Case of Prisoner 900," DailyKos (August 14, 2008). Online at: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/8/14/202414/685/395/568118.
(26). Valtin, "'So Ordered':
Henry A. Giroux holds the Global TV Network chair in English and Cultural Studies at
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs