Editorial: Damage to U.S./White House, look in the mirror
May 21, 2005
It is said by the White House that Newsweek magazine damaged U.S. standing abroad with its since-retracted, short report on Qur'an abuse at Guantánamo. Because reports of such abuse have abounded for years, and have been reconfirmed by the Red Cross, we doubt that very much. But there is something else to be said on this issue: If Newsweek's story caused damage, it is but a speck compared with the damage caused by this administration and its well-documented habit of abusing prisoners in Guantánamo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The latest, infuriating evidence comes from a confidential file of the Army's criminal investigation into abuse at the Bagram Collection Point in Afghanistan, a copy of which was obtained by the New York Times and reported on Friday:
"Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.
"The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.
"Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.
" 'Come on, drink!' the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. 'Drink!'
"At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.
" 'Leave him up,' one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.
"Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen."
The writer of that dramatic piece is Tim Golden. Will White House spokesman Scott McClellan now accuse him and his editors of also damaging American standing abroad?
This atrocity was committed in our name, each of us, our children and grandchildren. So was the abuse at Abu Ghraib. So was the abuse at Guantánamo. So was the fictional account of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction used to justify an unnecessary war. So were the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths that war has caused. And White House officials have the gall to accuse Newsweek of damaging the name of this beloved nation?