The Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration Committee is hosting its latest FILM & SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS VIDEO SERIES. The next film, THE PRISONER [USA/GERMANY, 2007], will be shown Fri., Nov. 21 at AFSC,
The film was produced, directed and written by
Tuesday, November 18, 2008; Page A27
"I have said repeatedly that I intend to close
That unequivocal passage from President-elect Barack Obama's first extended interview since the election, broadcast on "60 Minutes" Sunday night, was a big step toward healing the damage that the Bush administration has done not just to our nation's image but to its soul.
Amid the excitement of the election and the urgency of the economic crisis, it has been easy to lose sight of the terrorism-related "issues" that defined George W. Bush's presidency and robbed
I put the word issues in quotation marks because torture can never be a matter of debate. Yet the Bush administration sought to numb Americans to what has traditionally been seen as a clear moral and legal imperative: the requirement that individuals taken into custody by our government be treated fairly and humanely.
This doesn't mean handling nihilistic, homicidal "evildoers" with kid gloves. It means being as certain as possible that the people we are holding are, indeed, real or would-be terrorists, not unlucky bystanders; and treating these detainees in accordance with international law, as we would expect detained U.S. personnel to be treated.
At Guantanamo, at Abu Ghraib and in a little gulag of secret CIA prisons overseas, the Bush administration failed to live up to these basic responsibilities and thus sullied us all.
We will look back on the Bush years and find it incredible, and disgraceful, that individuals were captured in battle or "purchased" from self-interested tribal warlords, whisked to Guantanamo, classified as "enemy combatants" but not accorded the rights that that status should have accorded them, held for years without charges -- and denied the right to prove that they were victims of mistaken identity and never should have been taken into custody.
A new study by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, based on interviews with 62 men who were held for an average of three years at Guantanamo before being released without being accused of a crime, found that more than a third said they were turned over to their American captors by warlords for a bounty. Those who reported physical abuse said most of it occurred at the
Two-thirds of the former detainees reported suffering psychological problems since their release, and many are now destitute, shunned by their families and villages. None has received any compensation for the ordeal, according to the report, titled "Guantánamo and Its Aftermath."
Years from now, we will be shocked to see those pictures of naked prisoners being humiliated and abused at Abu Ghraib -- and we will be ashamed of a U.S. government that punished low-level troops for their sadism but exonerated the higher-ups who made such sadism possible.
Years from now, we will know the full truth of the clandestine, CIA-run prisons where "high-value" terrorism suspects were interrogated with techniques, including waterboarding, that both civilized norms and international law have long defined as torture. From what we already know, it's hard to say which is more appalling -- the torture itself or the tortured legal rationalizations that Bush administration lawyers came up with to "justify" making barbarity the official policy of the
Obama's clarity on the issues of
Not that easy, though. More reports like the UC-Berkeley study will come out, but this is not a task that can be left to academic researchers alone. The new Obama administration has a duty to conduct its own investigation and tell us exactly what was done in our name. Realistically, some facts are going to be redacted. Realistically, some officials who may deserve to face criminal charges will not. But to restore our national honor and heal our national soul, we at least need to know.
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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