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“Punishment Intended to Drive Men to…Suicide”


Regarding the recent suicides at Guantanamo, here are three well-crafted letters to the editor in today’s New York Times:

1. To the Editor:

Re “Three Prisoners Commit Suicide at Guantanamo” (front page, June 11):

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations have all denounced the conditions of the United States military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and even Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Bush administration’s single major ally in the war on terror, has called for its closing.

Yet Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., the commander at Guantanamo, chose to interpret the suicides of three prisoners by saying: “They have no regard for life, neither our nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetircal warfare waged against us.”

Though I no longer thought it possible, such language makes me ashamed of my government.

Stephen Crowley
Cleveland Heights, OH
June 11, 2006

2. To the Editor:

The moral responsibility for the deaths of three prisoners lies squarely with President Bush.

First, he decided to imprison them indefinitely without trial. Then he defied the Supreme Court’s 2004 repudiation of his position and announced that he would insist on yet another ruling of the court before providing elementary fairness.

This obduracy has now had its long-predicted consequences, but the administration remains obdurate.

Having driven men to suicide men in its custody whom it blocked from counsel and whom it unilaterally asserted were terrorists, it complains that it has been victim of an act of war.

Actually, the Guantanamo Three were victims of the president’s war on the rule of law.

Eric M. Freedman
New York,
June 11, 2006
The writer serves as legal counsel for the Guantanaom detainees.

3. To the Editor:

As a federal court-appointed monitor of health care in prisons for more than 20 years, I have reviewed the medical records of prisoners who killed themselves in prisons and jails throughout the United States.

Prisoners kill themselves when they are hopeless, when they have no contact with their families, and when faced with a terrifying future.

Prisoners are Guantanamo are subjected to torture and to cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment intended to drive men to madness, which leads to suicide.

For the sake of humanity, for the sake of the prisoners are Guantanamo Bay and to divert our country from its course of infamy, the prison at Guantanamo must be closed immediately.

Robert L. Cohen, M.D.
New York, June 11, 2006

These are three good letters – especially the last. To the first one (Robert Crowley’s), I would add only two things: (a) I’d put “so-called” in front of “war on terror”: the U.S. is waging a war OF terror that is actually increasing terrorism; (b)Admiral Harris’s comment illustrates the Orwellian and proto-fascistic mindset of Bush and many atop the armed forces.

To the second (Eric Freedman’s), I would add the broad bipartisan complicity of Congress. All of Bush’s crimes have been richly enabled by people outside the White House and the Republican Party.

I have nothing to add to the third (Cohen’s)letter except the Joseph Conrad line: “The horror! The horror!!”

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