Even taking at face value Friday’s package of News Releases from U.S. Southern Command’s (Florida) Joint Task Force investigation into allegations of abuse of the Koran (or Qur’an, as Newsweek spells it) at the American-run Guantanamo Bay prisoner-of-war facility (Oops! Though this is a war, it’s a new kind of war, the President tells us; therefore, the detainees are not prisoners, strictly speaking, just suspected terrorists), what do we learn?
We learn that the Joint Task Force admits to five “confirmed” incidents of “intentional or unintentional mishandling of a Koran”—which is four incidents more than Newsweek‘s Michael Isikoff and John Barry reported in the “Periscope” item of May 9 (“Gitmo: SouthCom Showdown“).
All that Newsweek reported—formally retracted or not—was a single incident in which “interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur’an down a toilet….”
On the other hand. What the U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Task Force has confirmed are (“Koran Inquiry: Description of Incidents,” June 3):
* During an interrogation in FEB 02, a detainee complained that guards at Camp X-ray kicked the Koran of a detainee in a neighboring cell four to five days earlier. The interrogator reported the first detainee’s complaint in a memorandum dated 27 FEB 02. The interrogator confirmed that the guards were aware of the detainee’s complaint. There is no evidence of further investigation concerning this incident; however, we consider this a confirmed incident.
* On 15 AUG 03, two detainees complained to the swing shift guards (1400-2200 hrs) that the detainees’ Korans were wet because the night shift guards had thrown water balloons on the block. The swing shift guards recorded the complaints in the block blotter log in accordance with normal procedures. We have not determined if the detainees made further complaints or if the Korans were replaced. There is no evidence that this incident was investigated. There is no evidence that the incident, although clearly inappropriate, caused any type of disturbance on the Block. We consider this a confirmed incident.
* On 21 AUG 03, a detainee complained to a guard that a two-word obscenity had been written in English on the inside cover of his English version Koran and asked to complain to the commander. The complaint was recorded in the Detainee Management System (DMS) electronic blotter system. After the incident, the English language Koran was taken from the detainee who retained his Arabic language Koran. We have no record indicating whether the detainee formally complained to the commander. We have found no evidence to confirm who wrote in the detainee’s Koran. The detainee speaks English at a conversational level. It is possible that a guard committed this act; it is equally possible that the detainee wrote in his own Koran; however, we consider this a confirmed incident.
* On 25 MAR 05, a detainee complained to the guards that urine came through an air vent in Camp 4, and splashed on him and his Koran while he laid near the air vent. A guard reported to a Block NCOIC that he was at fault. The guard had left his observation area post and went outside to urinate. He urinated near an air vent and the wind blew his urine through the vent into the block. The Sergeant of the Guard (SOG) responded and immediately relieved the guard. The SOG ensured the detainee received a fresh uniform and a new Koran. The Joint Detention Operations Group (JDOG) commander reprimanded the guard and assigned him to gate guard duty where he had no contact with detainees for the remainder of his assignment at JTF-GTMO. This incident was recorded in a series of contemporaneous sworn statements made by Camp 4 guard force members. There is no record that this incident caused any type of disturbance in the block. We consider this a confirmed incident.
* On 25 JUL 03, a contract interrogator apologized to a detainee for stepping on the detainee’s Koran in an earlier interrogation. The memorandum of the 25 Jul 03, interrogation session shows that the detainee had reported to other detainees that his Koran had been stepped on. The detainee accepted the apology and agreed to inform other detainees of the apology and ask them to cease disruptive behaviors caused by the incident. The interrogator was later terminated for a pattern of unacceptable behavior, an inability to follow direct guidance and poor leadership. We consider this a confirmed incident.
If, in place of “confirmed,” one reads are willing to admit to…, one understands exactly the nature and scope of the Joint Task Force’s “inquiry into the validity of the information” contained in the disputed Newsweek report: Damage control. Plain and simple. Trying to make a horrific story go away by admitting to something benign in comparison.
Asked whether the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or any of their spokespeople in the Executive Branch, the Armed Services, the Fox News Network, the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere, were prepared to retract their former denials of mishandling or abuse of the Koran at Guantanamo, or even to go so far as to issue an apology to Newsweek for their previous denunciations of the magazine and its reporters, a spokesman for General John Craddock, the Commander of U.S. Southern Command, issued the statement: “I dunno.”
“Hood Completes Koran Inquiry” (News Release), Brigadier General Jay Hood, Joint Task Force Guantanamo, United States Southern Command, June 3, 2005
“Koran Inquiry: Description of Incidents” (News Release), Brigadier General Jay Hood, Joint Task Force Guantanamo, United States Southern Command, June 3, 2005
“Excerpts from Joint Task Force Guantanamo Headquarters, Detention Operations Group Standard Operating Procedures, 01 FEB 05” (News Release), United States Southern Command, June 3, 2005
“Gitmo: SouthCom Showdown,” Michael Isikoff and John Barry, Newsweek, May 9, 2005
Inside the Wire: A Military Intelligence Soldier’s Eyewitness Account of Life at Guantanamo, Erik Saar and Viveca Novak (The Penguin Press, 2005)
“Inside the Wire: A Military Intelligence Soldier’s Eyewitness Account of Life at Guantanamo,” Amy Goodman, Democracy NOW!, May 4, 2005
“Soldier lifts lid on Guantanamo ‘abuse’,” Matthew Davis, BBC News, May 9, 2005
Government Documents on Torture (Homepage), American Civil Liberties Union
U.S. Torture and Abuse of Detainees (Homepage), Human Rights Watch
The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib, Karen J. Greenberg and Joshua L. Dratel, Eds. (Cambridge University Press, 2005)
Ending Secret Detentions, Deborah Pearlstein et al., Human Right First, June, 2004
Composite Statement: Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed (a.k.a., “The Tipton Three,” U.K.), Center for Constitutional Rights, July, 2004
Behind the Wire: An Update to Ending Secret Detentions, Deborah Pearlstein and Priti Patel, Human Rights First, March, 2005
Getting Away with Torture? Command Responsibility for the U.S. Abuse of Detainees, Reed Brody et al., Human Rights Watch, April, 2005 (For the PDF version of the same report.)
Guantanamo and Beyond: The Continuing Pursuit of Unchecked Executive Power, Amnesty International, May, 2005 (For the PDF version of the same report.)
Break Them Down: Systematic Use of Psychological Torture by U.S. Forces, Gretchen Borchelt et al., Physicians for Human Rights, May, 2005
Report into the Systematic and Institutionalised U.S. Desecration of the Qur’an and other Islamic Rituals. Testimonies from Former Guantanamo Bay Detainees, Adnan Siddiqui, Cageprisoners.com, May, 2005 (Also see the accompanying May 16, 2005 Media Release.)
Guantanamo Bay Detainee Statements, Dorsey & Whitney LLP, May, 2005 (Also see the accompanying May 19, 2005 Media Release by Human Rights First.)
“United States of America,” Amnesty International Report 2005, May, 2005. (And the accompanying Forward to the 2005 Report by AI’s Secretary General, Irene Khan.)
Torture and the Americans, ZNet, June 18, 2004
An American Gulag, ZNet, July 13, 2004
Another American Gulag, ZNet, July 14, 2004
….interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Qur’an down a toilet…., ZNet, May 19, 2005