Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Prison abuse recruits for the Taliban


Released Afghan prisoners. Photograph: Syed Jan Sabawoon/EPA

This is what happens when you throw away the rule book and decide to make up the game as you go along.

The Cheney regime didn't want no stinking Geneva Conventions or even the U.S. court system getting in the way during their sexy little wars on the terra-ists -- so now we have this:

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The tribal elders had traveled many hours to reach a windswept Afghan military base on the capital’s outskirts to sign their names to a piece of paper allowing them to bring their countrymen home from American detention.

As an Afghan general read the document aloud, Cmdr. Dawood Zazai, a towering Pashtun tribal leader from Paktia Province who fought the Soviets, thumped his crutch for attention. Along with other elders, he did not like a clause in the document that said the detainees had been reasonably held based on intelligence.

"I cannot sign this," Commander Zazai said, thumping his crutch again. "I don’t know what that intelligence said; we did not see that intelligence. It is right that we are illiterate, but we are not blind.

"Who proved that these men were guilty?"

Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, March 19, 2010

About time someone asked that question.

Actually General Stanley McChrystal figured out not long after he took over the U.S. war that the occupiers' custom of snatching up Afghan men without any legal procedure amounted to recruiting for the Taliban fighting his forces.

"There are more insurgents per square foot in corrections facilities than anywhere else in Afghanistan. Unchecked, Taliban/al-Qaida leaders patiently co-ordinate and plan, unconcerned with interference from prison personnel or the military," McChrystal said. He called for a taskforce to be established to take responsibility for US-held prisoners and to help improve Afghanistan's prison and judicial systems.

Arsala Rahmani, a one-time Taliban education minister, said prisoners were mistreated and rarely had access to lawyers. "It means the Taliban are getting stronger in the prisons as well as around the country where they are more popular than [Nato forces]," he said.

So McChrystal instituted a review process to try to get innocent detainees out of these hotbeds for radicalization. But according to Gareth Porter in writing in IPS, the officers from Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) now in charge of the release decisions are the same individuals who previously signed off on locking the detainees up without much basis. They have a lot of incentive to cover up their past mistakes while detainees still lack access to any effective legal process according to Human Rights Watch.

These things have a way of snowballing. It's a lot easier to start down the route of human rights abuse than to turn back.



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