Guantánamo”: Torture, Blowback, and Innocence by James J Murtagh, M.D.

Warning: movie spoiler alert. If you have not seen Guantánamo, consider seeing the film before reading further. However, most people know this is a docu-drama about mistreatment of prisoners, this spoiler alert may not be necessary.                    

 "They said we will make you wish to die and it will not happen." - Ameen Saeed Al-Sheik, detainee No. 151362

Does Innocence Matter? Does truth matter? Can American democracy spread through torture camps?

The searing docu-mentary “Road to Guantánamo” shows Americans the vivid depictions of beatings, torture, interrogation and death in the American gulag just 90 miles from our shore. This is the story of the “Tipton Three,” British citizens in the wrong place at the wrong time, captured and sent to American camps “X-ray” and “Delta” with absolutely no due process, and absolutely no evidence of any wrongdoing.

Worse, the film reveals none of the roughly 600 detainees in Cuba have been found guilty of crime, and not one piece of usable intelligence was obtained. This reflects what courageous European journalists like David Rose have written in acclaimed books. Unfortunately, despite the books in evidence, the US press has been slow to alert the public to the true problem.

Ameen Saeed Al-Sheik said the prisoners at Abu Ghraib and at Guantánamo were told they would wish for death, but not be allowed to die. Can there be a better description of true torture? More than sixty Guantánamo prisoners at least attempted suicide testifies to the Ameen’s accuracy.

Identical torture methods have been exposed at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. It is clear  torture was systematic, planned, and sanctioned by the highest Dept. of Defense officials. Torture was not from a few “bad apple” low ranking solders. As David Rose exposed, Guantánamo was actually the prototype for American torture camps elsewhere, including Abu Ghraib.

High-ranking U.S. officials decided in 2001 that torture would be used as an instrument of American policy.

Administration apologists try to redefine the meaning of torture, or to redefine the Geneva convention. But these same apologist officials lost all credibility with their claims of “Weapons of mass destruction.” Fool me once, shame on you. A series of supposed “slam-dunk” evidence proved absolutely false.

Americans can now see what happens at Guantánamo, and hear the words of the Tipton trio. Americans know torture when they see it, and no amount of artful dodging from Rumsfeld can change the stark, brutal fact of unjustified American gulags.

The victims of torture at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib suffer, but so do our own soldiers who are forced to inflict the torment.

“Blowback,” the unintended consequences of secret military operations on US society at home, was examined in the recent film, “Why we fight.” Torture incites the worst of all possible blowback, and we will all suffer the consequences. Torture not only inflames our enemies, it inflames our friends, and it inflames our own citizens to despair on our own pledge to support “justice for all.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated “An institution like Guantánamo in its present form cannot and must not exist in the long term.”

Guantánamo proves due process is essential to any real anti-terrorist program. Instead of torturing the Tipton trio for years, these resources could have been used to find the real terrorists.

Americans have been hardened by abuses at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib to the point that some give up the hope of due process even here at home. The films “The Exonerated,” and “After Innocence” showed that absolutely innocent Americans can and do end up on death row.

There is a kinship in the horrors of some of these films.

That leads me to the final outrage I felt as I watched Guantánamo: why is the mainstream press relatively silent? Where are the investigative journalists who can expose torture camps and abuse of civilians? Why did network news anchors not debate blowback as the tanks were rolling in to Baghdad?

My friends in the media tell me that network news is intensely competitive, and that they must emphasize entertainment values, and they must keep their corporate masters happy with the bottom line. News is a business, after all.

Now it seem the most important news is now coming to Americans through documentary films, and not through the networks. Is this a consequence of media consolidation, and that large conservative corporations now own our networks?

This never would have happened during the Vietnam war.

When I was growing up, I went to networks for the news, and I went to the movies for entertainment. Now, the roles appear reversed. In recent months I went to films to learn everything from global warming, to fraud in elections, to electric cars, to death in Africa.

Thank God movie makers now make news a priority. Shame on the networks if they do not reverse course. Shame on Americans if we do not return to our core values, and do not end torture camps immediately.

Innocence does matter, both in our domestic justice system, and the justice we impose on others. I fear for my country if we do not remember the founding principles that made us who we are.