Thursday, November 20, 2008

DEPARTMENT OF WAR CRIMES: Tortured men ordered released

Today, Glenn Greenwald comments on the court ruling which ordered the immediate release of five Bosnians who had been tortured and held for six years at Guantanamo by the American government.

The column says almost everything needed.

It may be worth reviewing an old piece from the DD archive here.

It discusses the Bush administration's misuse of the old Manual of Afghan Jihad for propaganda purposes. The manual, one of a number of similar publications, was put together in the late Eighties and, at the time, did not directly relate to plans for conducting terror on Americans, being a product of the Soviet occupation.

Sections of it were devoted to teaching its readers what to expect in the way of torture if they were caught and imprisoned by repressive regimes. In the original text, these are all countries in the Arab world, not the United States.

Since then, you can update it to include the United States of America. It's a terrible and onerous legacy.

DD is currently reading Max Hastings' Armageddon, a book on the last year of the war in Europe against Nazi Germany. Hastings spends pages discussing the incredible human costs of the conflict and the treatment the Allied and German armies meted out to their enemies and civilian populations.

The German military, along with the Soviet Army, were two of the most reflexively brutal and merciless armed forces in history. Locked in titanic combat with each other on the eastern front, for them, nothing was too abominable.

On the other hand, Hastings speaks highly of the way in which the American army in Europe handled its prisoners. German soldiers, almost all of whom fought on both fronts during World War II, invariably wished to surrender to the Americans.

Of course, on the battlefield and in direct contact with the enemy, the US fighting man was not always particularly civilized. But torturing of prisoners doesn't crop up to any visible degree in Armageddon. (The case was different in the Pacific theatre against the Japanese.)

Hastings attributes the fair way in which the US military treated its captives to the inherently good qualities of American society and those raised in it.

In 1945, the American army in Europe fought the most deadly efficient and ruthless military in world history and did not force its men to abandon their souls. The same cannot, in any way, be said of the threat posed by al Qaeda and miscellaneous Islamic terrorists since 9/11.

That the US government, under the direction of George W. Bush and others, chose to turn itself into an executor of torture, forsaking basic human rights we once stood for, is a debacle which will prove very hard, if not impossible, to live down in our lifetimes.

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