Monday, July 20, 2009


I recently urged the Taliban to release the American soldier Bowe Bergdahl captured in Afghanistan. But at the same time I called for the release of the prisoners held by the U.S. at Bagram Air Force base.

All of those imprisoned by the U.S. have never received legal counsel, have never had access to an impartial court, have never been given any of the legal protections commonplace in the civilized world. A person could have nothing to do with Al Qaeda, but be sold into American captivity by people who for one reason or another have a grudge or dispute against him. Most of the prisoners at Bagram are rural Afghani farmers, with little schooling and little resources.

So I am happy to see in today's The New York Times a report by Eric Schmitt that Admiral Mike Mullen is calling for a reexamination of the harsh U.S. policy towards prisoners especially those being held at Bagram.

Writes Schmitt:

"The prison at this air base north of Kabul has become an ominous symbol for Afghans — a place where harsh interrogation methods and sleep deprivation were used routinely in its early years, and where two Afghan detainees died in 2002 after being beaten by American soldiers and hung by their arms from the ceiling of isolation cells."

How is it that the U.S. government and military set up Bagram as a "dark hole" in the first place? Here we have Americans, while claiming and bragging that the U.S. is the home of the brave and the land of the free, who then impose draconian and cruel conditions of imprisonment on other people, not giving a care about their individual rights or injustices meted out to them.

Reports Schmitt:

"“Throughout Afghanistan, Afghans are arbitrarily detained by police, prosecutors, judges and detention center officials with alarming regularity,” the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a report in January.

"To help address these problems, Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone of the Marines, credited with successfully revamping American detention practices in Iraq, was assigned to review all detention issues in Afghanistan."

The prison situation in Afghanistan shows that even American soldiers and officers when left unchecked will set up systems that are inhumane and barbaric.

Schmitt reports:

"The problems at the existing American-run prison, the Bagram Theater Internment Facility, have been well documented.

"The prison is a converted aircraft hangar that still holds some of the decrepit aircraft-repair machinery left by the Soviet troops who occupied the country in the 1980s.

"Military personnel who know Bagram and the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, describe the Afghan site as tougher and more spartan.

"The prisoners have fewer privileges and virtually no access to lawyers or the judicial process. Many are still held communally in big cages.

"In the past two weeks, prisoners have refused to leave their cells to protest their indefinite imprisonment."

No comments:

Post a Comment