Tor­ture re­mains un-Amer­i­can and un­jus­ti­fi­able

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Leonard Pitts is syn­di­cated by Tri­bune Me­dia Ser­vices. Leonard Pitts Jr.

Mean­time, back at Guan­tanamo …

Chances are you haven’t thought of that Amer­i­can gu­lag — or, for that mat­ter, of “ex­tra­or­di­nary ren­di­tions,” CIA black sites and tor­ture — for a long time.

Not ev­ery­one has the lux­ury of for­get­ting. In the past few days, some com­pelling re­portage has re­minded us of that.

In the Mi­ami Her­ald, we met 48-year-old Mustafa al Haw­sawi, a Gitmo de­tainee who was sched­uled for rec­tal surgery to re­pair damage done when, his lawyer says, he was sodom­ized by his cap­tors 10 years ago. As re­porter Carol Rosen­berg ex­plains, this “sodomy” was, in fact, a “quasi medical” process of “rec­tal re­hy­dra­tion” and “rec­tal refeeding,” i.e., pro­vid­ing nour­ish­ment through a tube in the rec­tum.

The lawyer says this was a means of pun­ish­ment. It left Haw­sawi with what’s called a rec­tal pro­lapse. He has to man­u­ally push tis­sue back up into his anus ev­ery time he defe­cates. He has bled from the in­jury for 10 years.

Haw­sawi, you should know, faces the death penalty for his al­leged part in the Sept. 11 at­tacks that took nearly 3,000 lives. And maybe you will find that suf­fi­cient to in­su­late you from feel­ing, well, any­thing at his plight.

One won­ders what you would make, then, of two New York Times re­ports doc­u­ment­ing how tor­ture, both at Gitmo and at CIA black sites around the world, de­stroyed the men­tal health of nu­mer­ous de­tainees, many of whom turned out to be in­no­cent of ter­ror­ism. Re­porters James Risen, Matt Apuzzo and Sheri Fink in­tro­duce us to men who were slammed into walls and had for­eign ob­jects shoved into their rec­tums, who were beaten, kept awake, housed in nev­erend­ing dark­ness or light, forced into stress po­si­tions, sub­jected to non­stop mu­sic at ear-split­ting lev­els, in­jected with drugs, men­aced by dogs, locked in boxes the size of coffins and laid out shack­led and nude on tarps as gal­lons of ice cold wa­ter were poured down on them to sim­u­late drown­ing. One prisoner de­scribed be­ing used as a hu­man mop, dragged through his own urine.

Now, for­mer prisoner Suleiman Ab­dul­lah Salim strug­gles with de­pres­sion and PTSD. He was released five years af­ter he fell into U.S. cus­tody when it was dester­mined he posed no threat.

Ma­jid Mokhtar Sasy alMaghrebi will fly into a rage at the sound of mu­sic from a pass­ing car. It takes him back to the prison where mu­sic was used to tor­ture him.

Hus­sein al-Mar­fadi has a per­ma­nent headache. Lutfi bin Ali has a re­cur­rent night­mare of suf­fo­cat­ing at the bot­tom of a well. Younous Chekkouri hates to go out­side be­cause peo­ple in the crowd turn into guards from Gitmo.

For at least one prisoner, what made all this worse is that it was Amer­ica do­ing it to him. Amer­ica, the world cham­pion of hu­man

rights. Amer­ica, the nation of laws.

“It is very, very scary when you are tor­tured by some­one who doesn’t be­lieve in tor­ture,” said Ahmed Er­rachidi. “You lose faith in ev­ery­thing.” He was released with­out charges af­ter five years.

Civ­i­liza­tion is a word we use for the rules we im­pose upon our­selves to pro­tect against our most brutish in­stincts. And Amer­ica is fond of think­ing it­self the most civ­i­lized of na­tions, es­pe­cially as com­pared with those coun­tries that breathe ter­ror like air.

When the his­tory of this epoch is writ­ten, it will tell how our civ­i­liza­tion, our right­eous­ness, came un­der assault by an army of rag­tag bar­bar­ians one sparkling Septem­ber morn­ing. It will tell how we swore to de­fend all that made us what we were.

But these re­ports re­mind us how read­ily we gave it all away.

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