Sunday, November 7, 2010

America, Land of Justice?

From a post on about the curious attitude of the US toward child soldiers:
... we were covering the case of Omar Khadr, a 15-year-old Canadian captured after a firefight with U.S. forces outside Kabul in July 2002, tortured and interrogated for a few months at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, then transported to Guantánamo. He just reached a plea agreement that will avoid a trial before a military commission at Gitmo for five “war crimes.” Four of them, freshly invented for the occasion, are not recognized as war crimes in any other court on the planet. (Khadr pled guilty to all charges and will get at least one year more at Gitmo -- in solitary -- then perhaps be transferred to Canada for a remaining seven years.)
And this:
Back in May, the Gitmo press corps gasped when Khadr’s “Interrogator Number One,” Joshua Claus, described the veiled threats of rape he wielded at Bagram Prison to try to break the young prisoner. If Khadr should fail to cooperate, Claus told him, he would meet the same fate as another young (and imaginary) Afghan detainee who was supposedly sent to a U.S. penitentiary and raped to death in a shower room by “neo-Nazis, and four big black guys.” Claus, a court-martialed detainee abuser, had been the leader of the final interrogation of a mistakenly imprisoned Afghan taxi driver who was beaten to death by American guards at Bagram in 2002. Before receiving a rather light sentence in the case, Claus pledged his full cooperation with the Khadr prosecution, and he kept his part of the bargain with visible enthusiasm.
But... if you go carefully read the whole post, it isn't about the evils of US abuse of foreign prisoners. The writer of this post, Chase Madar, makes the point that this treatment of foreigners is quite consisten with how the US treats its own citizens:
In fact the U.S. even has a few dozen [US citizens in domestic US prisons] inmates doing life without parole for acts committed when they were 13 or 14, and most of these sentences were mandatory rather than the prerogative of a particularly nasty judge. (Some small progress: last May in Graham v. Florida the Supreme Court decided that juveniles can get life without parole only if there’s homicide involved.) Overall, the U.S. has in recent years had precious little mercy for its children, or anyone else’s.
And this:
Okay, but what about torture? We bemoan with great feeling that America has “become” a state that uses torture. Alas, this, too, is not so new, nor has it ever been limited to foreign insurgents (be they Comanche, Filipino, or Vietnamese) or suspected terrorists. Take, for example, the former high-ranking Chicago police detective Jon Burge who, over a 20-year career, enhanced his interrogations with mock executions, suffocation, electroshocks, pistol-whipping, and yes, a form of waterboarding. All this was uncovered in 2002 in an epic special investigation which led to the reexamination of more than 100 cases, several overturned convictions, multiple Governor’s pardons and the usual massive lawsuits against the Chicago Police Department. Because the statute of limitations for Burge’s crimes had run out, the disgraced police officer was convicted this past June for perjury and obstruction of justice. He currently awaits sentencing.
What disgusts me is that ordinary Americans are like the Germans in Hitler's Germany. While there is a camp close by, nobody seems to smell the stench or wonder where all the Jews went. They all claim innocence after the war. They all point to the government, to others, as the guilty parties, never to themselves. But without their quiet complaisance no genocide would have happened. Similarly, without the quiet "accomodation" of Americans to the torture policies of the US government -- either Republican or Democrat -- there wouldn't be these heinous crimes. But the American public still pretends to "see no evil, hear no evil".

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