May 20, 2009
At a news conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., argued the 240 detainees being held at a U.S. military detention center in Guantanamo Bay are being treated well.
"Anyone, any detainee over 55 has an opportunity to have a colonoscopy," Inhofe told reporters, "Now none of them take 'em up on it because once they explain what it is none of them want to do it. but nonetheless its an opportunity that they have."
Inhofe has long argued detainees at Guantanamo Bay are treated well, filming this YouTube video while leading a congressional delegation to the detention facility in February.
"It just blows your mind when you stop and think about the way that they are, are treat people down here, much better than our national, our federal prison system," Inhofe said in the video.
Inhofe is far from the first lawmaker to argue the detainees -- held at the detention facility without trial -- are being treated well.
"I was actually very surprised at the level of really good treatment that all of those detainees are receiving," Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told ABC News'Rick Klein on "Top Line" Monday.
"There's 240 of them there. They get Al Jazeera television, they get USA Today, they have books, a library, teachers, books of Sudoku puzzles to work on. I was fascinated at the level even of medical care. I saw the hospital there. My background is in medicine. I'm an orthopedic surgeon. They have one health care worker for every two detainees, an incredible hospital with an operating room with a quality of care that is better than many people get in the United States," Barrasso said.
Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., recently painted an idyllic picture of the detention facility.
"It is a first-class, first-rate facility that meets any kind of international standard that you could think of," Ensign said of Guantanamo Bay, arguing prisoners exercise regularly, have access to Arabic and U.S. newspapers, are given medical treatment from the American Red Cross and can watch movies.
Ensign also said the food served at to detainees is better than what was served to him and fellow senators.
His comments were reminscent of Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who singled out the lemon-baked fish and orange-glazed chicken served to detainees on what he said was a typical Sunday night dinner during a news conference in 2005. After passing out menus to reporters, Hunter called the food "gourmet fare."
"We treat them very well," Hunter said. "They have never eaten better."
Sergeant Joe Hickman’s tour of duty, which ended in March 2007, was distinguished: he was selected as Guantánamo’s “NCO of the Quarter” and was given a commendation medal. When he returned to the United States, he was promoted to staff sergeant and worked in Maryland as an Army recruiter before settling eventually in Wisconsin. But he could not forget what he had seen at Guantánamo. When Barack Obama became president, Hickman decided to act. “I thought that with a new administration and new ideas I could actually come forward, ” he said. “It was haunting me.”
The Justice Department also faces questions about its larger role in creating the circumstances that lead to the use of so-called enhanced interrogation and restraint techniques at Guantánamo and elsewhere. In 2006, the use of a gagging restraint had already been connected to the death on January 9, 2004, of an Iraqi prisoner, Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Jameel, in the custody of the Army Special Forces. And the bodies of the three men who died at Guantánamo showed signs of torture, including hemorrhages, needle marks, and significant bruising. The removal of their throats made it difficult to determine whether they were already dead when their bodies were suspended by a noose. The Justice Department itself had been deeply involved in the process of approving and setting the conditions for the use of torture techniques, issuing a long series of memoranda that CIA agents and others could use to defend themselves against any subsequent criminal prosecution.
Teresa McHenry, the investigator charged with accounting for the deaths of the three men at Guantánamo, has firsthand knowledge of the Justice Department’s role in auditing such techniques, having served at the Justice Department under Bush and having participated in the preparation of at least one of those memos. As a former war-crimes prosecutor, McHenry knows full well that government officials who attempt to cover up crimes perpetrated against prisoners in wartime face prosecution under the doctrine of command responsibility. (McHenry declined to clarify the role she played in drafting the memos.)
As retired Rear Admiral John Hutson, the former judge advocate general of the Navy, told me, “Filing false reports and making false statements is bad enough, but if a homicide occurs and officials up the chain of command attempt to cover it up, they face serious criminal liability. They may even be viewed as accessories after the fact in the original crime.” With command authority comes command responsibility, he said. “If the heart of the military is obeying orders down the chain of command, then its soul is accountability up the chain. You can’t demand the former without the latter.”
The Justice Department thus faced a dilemma; it could do the politically convenient thing, which was to find no justification for a thorough investigation, leave the NCIS conclusions in place, and hope that the public and the news media would obey the Obama Administration’s dictum to “look forward, not backward”; or it could pursue a course of action that would implicate the Bush Justice Department in a cover-up of possible homicides.
On Monday, in response to the article, Army Col. Michael Bumgarner said in an email that "this blatant misrepresentation of the truth infuriates me."
Bumgarner said that Hickman "is only trying to be a spotlight ranger; he knows nothing about what transpired in Camp 1 or our medical facility. I do, I was there." Camp 1 is the facility where the three detainees were ordinarily held."
Bumgarner added that he would have to get clearance before he can talk to the news media, "but rest assured, I do want to talk to you very badly and set the record straight."
unSane: In my view, the point of the torture was (and always is) not to produce intelligence, but to produce the right kind of intelligence, namely that which allows you to construct the most politically useful bogeyman possible.
"The Department took this matter very seriously. A number of Department attorneys and agents extensively and thoroughly reviewed the allegations and found no evidence of wrongdoing."
The second statement [that Bumgarner doesn't know who Hickman is] is an attempt to frame the conflict in terms of a controversy between Sergeant Hickman and himself, which he leads into by saying he doesn’t even know who Hickman is. That statement is demonstrably false. As we confirmed with Defense Department records, Bumgarner recommended Hickman for a medal (shown below) based on his cool-headed approach to defusing a prison riot on May 18, 2006. Moreover, Hickman was selected as NCO of the Quarter at Guantánamo, a fact the camp commander would certainly have known at the time. In any case, the key points in which Bumgarner figures do not rest on Hickman’s accounts alone—they are corroborated by a series of additional witnesses, as well as by published accounts in which Bumgarner himself is extensively quoted.
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