Torture on Obama’s Watch
Posted on May 15, 2009
Gang-beatings, breaking bones, gouging eyes, squeezing testicles and dousing detainees with chemicals. Those Bush-era actions are still going on under Obama’s regime at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, as the narrowing of the “torture debate” has occluded attention from such grotesque practices.
While much of the “torture debate” has emphasized the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” defined by the twisted legal framework of the Office of Legal Council memos, [Immediate Reaction Force] teams in effect operate at Guantánamo as an extrajudicial terror squad that has regularly brutalized prisoners outside of the interrogation room, gang beating them, forcing their heads into toilets, breaking bones, gouging their eyes, squeezing their testicles, urinating on a prisoner’s head, banging their heads on concrete floors and hog-tying them—sometimes leaving prisoners tied in excruciating positions for hours on end.
The IRF teams “were fully approved at the highest levels [of the Bush administration], including the Secretary of Defense and with outside consultation of the Justice Department,” says Scott Horton, one of the leading experts on U.S. Military and Constitutional law.
While the dominant media coverage of the U.S. torture apparatus has portrayed these tactics as part of a “Bush era” system that Obama has now ended, when it comes to the IRF teams, that is simply not true. “[D]etainees live in constant fear of physical violence. Frequent attacks by IRF teams heighten this anxiety and reinforce that violence can be inflicted by the guards at any moment for any perceived infraction, or sometimes without provocation or explanation …”
An ongoing Spanish investigation is adding harrowing details to what’s known of the treatment of U.S. prisoners at Guantanamo.