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(DV) Whitney: Guantanamo -- The Calculus of Human Misery







Guantanamo: the Calculus of Human Misery 
by Mike Whitney
July 21, 2005

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Editor's Note: As this article goes to press, Pentagon officials today confirmed that 52 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have gone on a hunger strike to protest their continued imprisonment and mistreatment. The Pentagon's statement stands in contrast to accounts by two Afghan prisoners, released earlier this week, that claim more than 180 Afghan prisoners are on a hunger strike. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, lawyers representing the prisoners say the hunger strikes reflect the prisoners' peaceful demand to be treated as human beings: “The vast majority of prisoners live in appalling conditions… and every prisoner is suffering from the effects of indefinite detention without legal process.”

* * *

“By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”   

 -- Matthew 7:16

The Bush Administration did not need the facility at Guantanamo Bay to fight the war on terror. The US has hundreds of other detention centers around the world where the 540 inmates could have been accommodated. Instead, they chose Guantanamo.


By all admissions, the top-security prison has served as a powerful recruiting tool for young jihadis willing to take up arms against America. As far as we know, the prison is exclusively occupied by Muslims, creating the impression that the war on terror is, in fact, a war on Islam. The problem is compounded when men like Larry Franklin, who works in the Defense Department, are released on $100,000 bond after providing “Top Secret” information to AIPAC, while Muslims who were arbitrarily rounded up in Afghanistan languish in tiny cells without any prospect of legal recourse. Who poses the greater threat to America?

The Muslim world is keenly aware of America’s double standards even if we are not.  

Guantanamo was intentionally shoved in the world’s face to announce the arrival of the New World Order: the neocon phantasm of autocratic rule and perpetual war. It has become the foremost icon of the Bush regime: an ominous stone monument to human cruelty. It is cleverly disguised as a prison facility but, in fact, Guantanamo is a state of the art laboratory where the parameters of human suffering are explored by a highly trained staff of professionals. To be precise, it is a “torture lab” replete with all of the modern gadgetry required for enhancing pain.

A recent article in The New York Times confirmed that psychiatrists, psychologists and other medical professionals worked intimately with the military at Guantanamo advising “officials on how to conduct harsh interrogations of detainees.” Their experimentation focuses on establishing the limits of human endurance; trying to gauge, through original and highly controversial techniques, the maximum agony their subjects can withstand before they die or become unresponsive. This is not merely torture, but the science of sadism, a finely tuned regimen of systematic abuse, the calculus of human misery. It has become a vital adjunct to the new American foreign policy.

A Brigade of Mengeles

Health care professionals engaged in the Guantanamo torture regime have been placed under the benign sounding rubric of the “Behavioral Science Consultation Team.” Their assigned task is to “advise interrogators on how to increase stress on detainees to make them more cooperative” by using the “detainees fears and longings to increase distress.” (NY Times) Their participation is a clear violation of their Hippocratic oath to “do no harm.” The Defense Dept. has knowingly recruited this small brigade of Dr. Mengele’s to carry out their barbaric experiments on the victims rounded up in the apocryphal war on terror.

There’s no doubt, now, that torture is being carried out as an accepted part of the Defense Dept’s system. Just this week, an article in The Washington Post quoted a Pentagon working group’s report from 2003 that stated: “in order to respect the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign ... (the prohibition against torture) must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority.” With one swipe of the pen, the military establishment dismisses the Geneva Conventions, the 1994 Convention against Torture and long-held Constitutional restrictions forbidding “cruel and unusual treatment” of prisoners. The Pentagon’s proclamation confers “absolute authority” on the president to conduct the war on terror entirely according to his discretion and proves that the US Military has tacitly accepted Bush as supreme leader.

Tiger Team: Torture Experts for the New World Order

Within this newly minted regime, Tiger Team has emerged as the premier contingent of abusive interrogators: an assemblage of thugs at the zenith of the torture pyramid. Their skills are so prized that they were sent, at great risk, beyond the confines of Gitmo’s ramparts to Abu Ghraib to instruct army staffers in the “dark art” and to extort information from suspects of the burgeoning Iraqi resistance. The result of their handiwork is apparent in the appalling photos of prisoner mistreatment at Abu Ghraib. The photographs shocked the world and reinforced the Taguba Report’s findings that the abuse at American facilities is “blatant, sadistic and systematic.” The pictures verified that the decay permeating the military now extends from the lowest rung on the chain of command, to the leather upholstered offices at the Pentagon.

Rumsfeld’s torture squad is not confined to “out-of-date” methods of coercing confessions by pulling out fingernails or beating their victims with rubber hoses. The new methodology implements techniques that have been carefully researched by medical experts and modified for a target audience.

It is the “thinking man’s” torture; the epicurean’s torture; a mixture of carefully scripted humiliations and punishments that leave grown men on the verge of lunacy. The number of suicide attempts in Guantanamo attests to the ruthlessness of the treatment. The sense deprivation techniques, the sexual humiliation, the loud music, bright lights, the stress positions, the snarling dogs and the psycho-debilitating drugs reveal the inner workings of a system that has sunk into the black hole of abject depravity. Thus, the military has been subsumed in an all-pervasive ethos of cruelty replicating the dementia of the civilian leadership.

Nothing reflects the soul of a nation more poignantly than torture. The face that looks back in the mirror is haggard and dissolute without any redeeming graces. It is the visage of pure evil.

Is this America’s face or just the mask of corruption that hangs over the White House?

Dick Cheney has breezily dismissed the allegations of prisoner abuse saying, “They have a brand new facility down at Guantanamo. We spent a lot of money to build it. They’re very well treated there. They’re living in the tropics. They’re well fed. They’ve got everything they could possibly want.”

Cheney’s comments are strikingly at odds with the documented proof of torture at the facility. The eyewitness account by an FBI agent who was present at numerous interrogations states:

“On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night.”

Cheney understands exactly what is taking place at Guantanamo. Both he and Rumsfeld are the co-architects of the current system, the twisted visionaries of this shrine to iniquity. Rumsfeld has called the prison inmates, “The worst of the worst”, but he is mistaken. It’s not the terrorists who are sweeping up Americans and caging them in 5’ by 7’ windowless cells for years on end, brutalizing them as they choose, and stripping them of their human rights. That is the work of the Defense Secretary and the Vice President, both of whom operate beyond any legal restriction or any moral constraint.

Guantanamo: The True Face of America?

Guantanamo is the truest expression of Bush’s America: a looming block monolith where the crimes of empire can be carried out with impunity. It has become the primary symbol of the global onslaught on international law, personal liberty and human decency. Languishing beneath the blood-striped standard, the gun towers and concertina wire depict an America that has changed at its very core; a rogue nation severed from its moral foundation, executing the coercive policies of the state.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at:

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