Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Torture in the Sunlight

Reading about Binyam Mohamed and his recent interview with the British Mail newspaper, I've been struck by a certain blase quality in some torture reporting. Yesterday the NYTimes hosted a headline about Binyam's torture account that went something like "Detainee Claims Torture by Eminem." The article by Robert Mackey is here.

I was most struck at first by the disrespect and flippancy of the headline. Binyam Mohamed was unjustly abused by the United States of America, a fact which seems not to have sunk in with most American media (though Britain has been rather rocked by it). In Mackey's article, Mohamed's story is pointedly and consistently undermined:

"In an interview with the British newspaper The Mail on Sunday, Binyam Mohamed, who was recently released from the United States detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, discussed his treatment while in American custody and renewed his claim that he was tortured.

In the interview, Mr. Mohamed described in detail some of the treatment
he says he endured while being held and interrogated in Pakistan, Morocco and
Afghanistan before being sent to Guantánamo Bay." [emphasis supplied]

Uh, yes, Mohamed does claim that - do you wonder why? On one hand, I guess you can't blame Mackey - it may very well be part of journalistic ethics to emphasize that this is Binyam Mohamed's side of the story. But Binyam Mohamed wasn't abducted by UFOs - he was abducted by the government of the United States. He was abducted by Jeppesen. Yet our government - under Bush and Obama - systematically blocks his ability to have official documentation of this torture aired in court. British high court judges suppressed the documentation (by US request, or by UK requested US request...that's another story) which they said amounted to evidence of torture - documentation based on the admissions of American officials! We do, in fact, know he was tortured.

My gripe may seem a little incoherent, but Mackey's total lack of effort to demonstrate that Binyam Mohamed isn't just a crazy man with a grudge - he is demonstrably a victim of torture and abuse by the US government - pisses me off. What the ex-detainees of our secret prisons and Guantanamo have been saying isn't just gibberish designed to undermine the US government - it is an account of the way our government actually worked. And our government should have the guts to expose to the broader public the documents that bear proof of the abuse. While our media should likewise have the guts to continue prying, peeking, and investigating, with a committment to the sunlight and shedding always more.

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