Thursday, March 28, 2013

The War Crimes Committed in Our Name

Jane Mayer reviews Jess Bravin’s The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay, and reminds us all of the war crimes that were committed in our name.  And the actions of those who tortured in our name didn't just destroy our moral authority as a people and a nation, it may well let murders walk away.

Take the case of Mohamadou Ould Slahi, a detainee who Marine Corps prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Couch concluded had “the most blood on his hands”,
Slahi, Couch learned, was horribly mistreated. Effeminate and childless, he was subjected to bizarre sexual gambits involving photos of vaginas and fondling of his genitals. When these methods, death threats, and physical abuse didn’t produce results, the military interrogator told him that his mother would be shipped to Guantánamo and gang raped if he did not talk. He was also subjected to a false kidnapping and threatened with worse torture.
Eventually, Slahi confessed incriminating details to his interrogators, but because of the abusive methods through which they were learned, Couch believed the confession was unreliable and inadmissible. Indeed, he no longer believed he could press charges against Slahi at all.
As a Christian and a U.S. military officer, Couch underwent a crisis of conscience. He consulted with his most trusted advisers, read the Convention Against Torture, and then informed his superiors he couldn’t prosecute the case. “What makes you think you’re better than the rest of us around here?” his commander asked him, angrily. “That’s not the issue at all. That’s not the point,” Couch retorted. A week later he sent his boss a memo to be shared with higher-ups, suggesting that the interrogators ought to be prosecuted, and concluding, “I…refuse to participate in this prosecution in any manner.” After Slahi, Couch was ordered to ask no more questions about detainee treatment. But he persisted, often despite complete obfuscation from both his superiors and other agencies, most particularly the CIA. Despite his superior’s effort to keep the interrogation file from him, Couch discovered that a second important detainee held by the military in Guantánamo, Mohammed al-Qahtani, believed to be the missing twentieth Al Qaeda hijacker, was also so shockingly abused that charges had to be dropped.
(H/T: Andrew at The Dish)

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