Tonight I stumbled on a presentation on CSPAN 2 by Barbara Olshansky, Stanford Law and Human Rights Professor, to the World Affairs Council in Dallas, Fort Worth. [CLICK]
When Professor Olshansky got to the part of her presentation on detainee treatment that involved children, she nearly broke down saying: “This is the most difficult part…”
I haven’t cried for a long time, but tonight I cried.
When I left South Africa in 1981 I thought I was leaving the barbarism of Apartheid behind for the freedom of America, but tonight I find myself again a part of a people whose savagery is beyond belief or who, like many of my colleagues in South Africa, are silent.
•Did you know that American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have detained and sometimes tortured as many as 2500 children between the ages of 4 and 15? The United Nations definition of an adult is a person of 18 years old and older.
•Did you know that Guantanamo is made up of at least four separate camps of which one known as Camp Iguana is for children where children between the ages of 4 and 15 were imprisoned simply because they were found near battlefields?
•Did you know that a number of the prisoners left at Guantanamo are severely ill and even catatonic and that one of the problems with these prisoners is that their countries cannot deal with them because they do not have the medical facilities to care for them?
•Did you know that one of the most pressing problems with detainees is that all information about them has been obtained by torture and that none of this information will stand up in any type of court so they face life in prison without trial?
•Did you know that there is a similar prison to Guantanamo in Afghanistan filled with tortured prisoners (and many children) to which access by all groups has been refused (including the International Red Cross)?
•Did you know that some of the torture methods used against detainees are so inhuman that both army soldiers and CIA operatives refused to participate in the process (I think they call it “standing back”)?
•Did you know that no-one knows how many detainees there are (were) or who they all are (were)? When the IRC went to Guantanamo detainees were hidden in inaccessible parts of the camp so that the IRC could not see them or even know that they existed?
•Did you know that the Geneva Convention rules of war were called “Quaint” by Alberto Gonzales and that our soldiers and our civilians are now severely endangered because we have ignored the rules, thus setting precedents for treatment by other people who will similarly ignore them because we have done so?
Just imagine Cheney, Bush and Rumsfeld sitting with the knowledge that children were being imprisoned and tortured and agreeing to it!
Do we maintain our silence?
Perhaps we should all read a three-volume publication edited by Irving Abrahamson (1985) “Against Silence: The Voice and Vision of Elie Wiesel,” New York, Holocaust Library, because, while Wiesel insists that he is a Jewish writer, and while the barbarism of these three men and their accomplices is nothing compared to the Holocaust, the ease with which they have been able to inspan the American people, to blind them, and to spread their horror of detainee torture (including children) as an acceptable part of a country’s poisoning of minds to accept an absolute form of nationalism which encourages it, must be the wider implication of the study and the courageous work of men like Wiesel.
But we must go further.
From rejecting silence we must go on to demanding repercussions according to our laws or we remain a living part of the barbarism and we are equally to blame for it when it was done by our leaders, and whenever it happens again.
[See, also: http://humanrights.ucdavis.edu/projects/the-guantanamo-testimonials-project/testimonies/testimonies-of-military-psychologists-index/guantanamos-children and http://humanrights.ucdavis.edu/projects/the-guantanamo-testimonials-project and http://www.ijnetwork.org/content/view/73/38/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minors_detained_in_the_global_war_on_terror and http://www.opednews.com/articles/U-S—Allies-Torture-Kids-by-Sherwood-Ross-081108-354.html and ]http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/law/2004/0801childprison.htm]