Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Blockbuster investigation: Guantanamo torture continues under Obama
I wasn’t prepared to hear this on Democracy Now before breakfast. Starting from material in the Spanish war crimes investigation, Jeremy Scahill reports that torture squads still roam Guantanamo, continuing the practices of George Bush even under Obama. You can click the little box at the bottom for full screen.
A transcript should be available later today here. The summary:
Jeremy Scahill: “Little Known Military Thug Squad Still Brutalizing Prisoners at Gitmo Under Obama”
Jeremy Scahill reports the Obama administration is continuing to use a notorious military police unit at Guantanamo that regularly brutalizes unarmed prisoners, including gang-beating them, breaking their bones, gouging their eyes and dousing them with chemicals. This force, officially known as the Immediate Reaction Force, has been labeled the “Extreme Repression Force” by Guantanamo prisoners, and human rights lawyers call their actions illegal.
Update: The transcript is available here. I’ll snip one portion, describing the torture that is still going on today, under Obama:
JEREMY SCAHILL: When the Bush administration established the US prison camp at Guantanamo, of course, we know well that they set up a system where detainees were going to be systematically tortured. And, of course, Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats were briefed on this program, despite what they’re saying right now.
And while much of the focus has been on the tactical use of torture at Guantanamo, almost no attention had been paid to a parallel force that was torturing prisoners in a variety of ways, including waterboarding them, and that is this riot squad of sorts that you referred to called the Immediate Reaction Force. The prisoners and their lawyers at Guantanamo call it the “Extreme Repression Force.”
And basically what this is is a thug squad that is used to mercilessly punish prisoners who show the slightest bit of resistance or who do things that technically they’re not supposed to do, infractions like having two Styrofoam cups in their cell instead of one.
Guards will call in this goon squad. They come in with their Darth Vader outfits, and they literally gang-beat prisoners. There are five men, generally, that are sent in. Each of them is assigned to one body part of the prisoner: the head, the left arm, the right arm, the left leg, the right leg. They go in, and they hogtie the prisoner, sometimes leaving them hogtied for hours on end. They douse them with chemical agents. They have put their heads in toilets and flushed the toilets repeatedly. They have urinated on the heads of prisoners. They’ve squeezed their testicles in the course of restraining them. They’ve taken the feces from one prisoner and smeared it in the face of another prisoner.
And while Barack Obama, almost immediately upon taking office, issued an executive order saying he was going to close down Guantanamo within a year and that he was going to respect the Geneva Convention while his administration reviewed Guantanamo, this force has continued to operate and torture prisoners under the Obama administration.
In fact, in February of this year, about a month after Obama was inaugurated, there were sixteen prisoners on a hunger strike at Guantanamo. The Immediate Response—or Immediate Reaction Force was used to go in and violently shove massive tubes down their noses into their stomachs. And what the IRF teams, as they’re called—when they beat someone, it’s called IRF-ing, or to be IRF-ed up by these teams. They would use no anesthetics or any painkillers, shove this massive tube by force down their nose into their stomach and then yank it out. Some prisoners have described this as torture, torture, torture. And many have passed out from the sheer pain of this operation.
This force has received almost no scrutiny in the US Congress or the US media and operates at this moment.