Where is the Humanism? Barbara Olshansky on detainee treatment….....
Posted: 18 February 2009 07:10 PM   [ Ignore ]
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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]

[ Edited: 18 February 2009 09:04 PM by Fat Man ]
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Posted: 19 February 2009 10:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Somehow the image of soldiers torturing a four year old child seems incredible to me. I thought I read somewhere that the youngest person at Guantanamo was 15 years old when captured. Do we know how many children are there?

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Posted: 19 February 2009 12:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Chris Crawford - 19 February 2009 10:11 AM

Somehow the image of soldiers torturing a four year old child seems incredible to me. I thought I read somewhere that the youngest person at Guantanamo was 15 years old when captured. Do we know how many children are there?

Right now, according to some websites, Camp Iguana is closed and the children who were there have been sent somewhere else.  There is conflict about how many children were sent there and numbers range between 12 and 100.  Rumsfeld made it a habit to lie about numbers, and there are still children missing or who were never identified.  The focus now is on imprisoned children elsewhere - in Bagram in Afghanistan, for example (see:the discussion of detainee torture at this prison on Wikipedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagram_torture_and_prisoner_abuse).  But there are literally dozens of “Black Prisons” in countries all around the world, and no-one, apparently, knows who is in them.  I spent a little time looking at some of the discussions that are listed on the sites of NGOs involved in trying to help imprisoned children - discussions that I read were with children described as 8, 11, 12, 14, 15 and so on.  In Barbara Olshansky’s commentary on CSPAN she said that “we” managed to save a small group of children from Guantanamo which included a four year old who cried all the time for his mother.  Also, there are a number of accounts of prisoners who saw the continuous rape of children, boys and girls, who appeared to be around 8 years of age.

While it is naive to think that some of these accusations have not been concocted to make the US look bad, I doubt very much whether Barbara Olshansky’s commentary is exaggerated, and the number of reports that seem to be coming in from equally reliable sources and are listed on websites of organizations that are usually seen as trustworthy are truly awful.  The UN defines an adult as an 18-year-old and the requested policy, even for child soldiers, has been to work for their repatriation and psychological treatment rather than their imprisonment and certainly not their torture and rape.  I worked for a year for UNICEF helping develop their young people’s website “Voices of Youth” - I learned there how utterly horrendous the treatment of children can be - even very young children.  But I had naively hoped that my country of adoption and its people were above organized child abuse - it seems, horribly, that I was wrong.

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Posted: 20 February 2009 12:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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This is a follow-up to the questions about the scope of child detention and apparent reasons behind child detention.

The scope is expanded to include children as young as one month old.  In some cases whole families including 3-5 children have been detained.  Sometimes they are detailed together and sometimes they are separated.  It appears that one of the main reasons for child detention is often that their fathers and/or mothers are the real targets and the children are used to get information about and from their parents in various ways including the exhibition of abuse and/or the high distress of the children in front of their parents.  There are also indications that numbers of children’s whereabouts since their detention are untraceable (see: http://www.hrw.org/legacy/backgrounder/usa/ct0607/ct0607web.pdf.  “Off the Record” Report: U.S. Responsibility for Enforced Disappearances in the “War on Terror” -  see page 24ff for descriptions of child detention.)

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Posted: 20 February 2009 01:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Thanks for the information, EL. Very disturbing stuff.

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