You Keep Using That Word…

by matttbastard

The NY Times reports today that, after some delay while US officials tried to, as reported this past January in the NYT, ““transition out” of the Bagram detention center”, the US will be building a new all-but-permanent detention facility in Afghanistan:

The proposed detention center would replace the cavernous, makeshift American prison on the Bagram military base north of Kabul, which is now typically packed with about 630 prisoners, compared with the 270 held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

(Yes, that Bagram military base.)

Military officials have long been aware of serious problems [*cough*] with the existing detention center in Afghanistan, the Bagram Theater Internment Facility. After the prison was set up in early 2002, it became a primary site for screening prisoners captured in the fighting. Harsh interrogation methods and sleep deprivation were used widely, and two Afghan detainees died there in December 2002, after being repeatedly struck by American soldiers.

Yep, nothing says “corporate em ess em” quite like anodyne euphemisms and amoral utilization of the passive voice. “Harsh interrogation techniques and sleep deprevation.” Oh, and, out of the blue, those two detainees coincidently just happened to die.

After being “repeatedly struck”.

By American soldiers.

Correlation != causation, natch.

Conditions and treatment have improved markedly since then, but hundreds of Afghans and other men are still held in wire-mesh pens surrounded by coils of razor wire. There are only minimal areas for the prisoners to exercise, and kitchen, shower and bathroom space is also inadequate.

Hmm, the International Committee of the Red Cross wasn’t exactly brimming with praise this past January regarding the “marked improvement” in conditions and treatment at Bagram. Some folks are just never satisfied. But, hey, at least the US took the constructive criticism to heart.

Faced with that, American officials said they wanted to replace the Bagram prison, a converted aircraft hangar that still holds some of the decrepit aircraft-repair machinery left by the Soviet troops who occupied the country in the 1980s. In its place the United States will build what officials described as a more modern and humane detention center that would usually accommodate about 600 detainees — or as many as 1,100 in a surge — and cost more than $60 million.

“Our existing theater internment facility is deteriorating,” said Sandra L. Hodgkinson, the senior Pentagon official for detention policy, in a telephone interview. “It was renovated to do a temporary mission. There is a sense that this is the right time to build a new facility.”

American officials also acknowledged that there are serious health risks to detainees and American military personnel who work at the Bagram prison, because of their exposure to heavy metals from the aircraft-repair machinery and asbestos.

“It’s just not suitable,” another Pentagon official said. “At some point, you have to say, ‘That’s it. This place was not made to keep people there indefinitely.’ ”

Yes, so, the answer then is, obviously, to build a *ahem* more “humane” facility designed to, um, keep people there indefinitely:

The Pentagon is planning to use $60 million in emergency construction funds this fiscal year to build a complex of 6 to 10 semi-permanent structures resembling Quonset huts, each the size of a football field, a Defense Department official said. The structures will have more natural light, and each will have its own recreation area. There will be a half-dozen other buildings for administration, medical care and other purposes, the official said.

A luxury resort! It appears that the Pentagon is finally going to import the “beautiful, sunny Guantanamo Bay” experience to Central Asia. With a few bargain discounts, that is:

Military personnel who know both Bagram and Guantánamo describe the Afghan site, 40 miles north of Kabul, as far more spartan. Bagram prisoners have fewer privileges, less ability to contest their detention and no access to lawyers.

Some detainees have been held without charge for more than five years, officials said. As of April, about 10 juveniles were being held at Bagram, according to a recent American report to a United Nations committee.

Apparently designating a detention facility as “humane” doesn’t preclude the acknowledgment of basic human rights. A 2007 report published by The New Republic provides more details on the legal limbo detainees in Bagram find themselves in:

Prisoners don’t even have the limited access to lawyers available to prisoners in Guantánamo. Nor do they have the right to Combatant Status Review Tribunals, which Guantánamo detainees won in the 2004 Supreme Court ruling in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. Instead, if a combat commander chooses, he can convene an Enemy Combatant Review Board (ECRB), at which the detainee has no right to a personal advocate, no chance to speak in his own defense, and no opportunity to review the evidence against him. The detainee isn’t even allowed to attend. And, thanks to such limited access to justice, many former detainees say they have no idea why they were either detained or released.

DJ rewind:

“It’s just not suitable,” another Pentagon official said. “At some point, you have to say, ‘That’s it. This place was not made to keep people there indefinitely.’ ”

Well, at least they’ve seen fit to–ahem–humanely remedy that particular problem.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

6 thoughts on “You Keep Using That Word…

  1. Jaysus fucking hell! Bagram base should be RAZED from the face of the earth. Or preserved like Auschwitz, as a memorial to things that should happen NEVER AGAIN.

    Brilliant post, mattt — as you say, isn’t it convenient to be putting things in the passive voice? People just happened to die AFTER THEIR LEGS HAD BEEN TURNED TO JELLY from repeated beatings from any Merkin soldier who needed to take out a few of the day’s frustrations with a steel bar?

    And what do these idiots mean by “indefinitely”? They started committing war crimes at Bagram in 2001. It is now 2008, and counting. Somebody has to pay for this; somebody has to.

    Sorry. I have a hard time remaining rational on the subject of what is being done to the Afghans. Again, great post, mattt, and thanks for all the links.


  2. You’ve got to be kidding me !!! I have just returned from working in the Bagram facility and it is not the “detainees” who are being abused ! The brave young men and women that are over there are putting up daily with having feces and “bodily fluids” thrown on them by the detainees. Not to mention the abusive language directed at them. War crimes ? At last count I don’t believe we have beheaded anyone or walked into a crowd on innocent civilians and blown ourselves up. We are not the ones who hide out among the civilian population and use them as human shields. Before you and others begin comparing Bagram to Auschwitz you need to REALLY find out what is going on. You have no clue !!


  3. Well said Rip torn… I know of others there currently dealing with the same things you discribe. Thank you for putting it out there.


  4. are you realy so nieve that you would compair bagram to Auschwitz? last time i checked there where no atrocities being commited there. Yes some things may have happened there over 7 years ago, and that seems to be the only comback for all these people who feel sorry for the terrorists that are housed there. as someone who has worked there i believe more people would be more angry about how well the detainees are treated and how poorly the guards are treated than the little bs that is put out by the media.


  5. and one more thing. as someone who has never been there, where do you come off thinking that you have any shred of an idea of what goes on in the bagram facility?


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