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'NO TORTURE AT BAGRAM': A LETTER

'NO TORTURE AT BAGRAM': A LETTER

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TO ON THE FLY: Someone passed [Ed] Weathers' latest assertion of his first amendment rights to me and I felt so sickened that I had to respond. I was not sickened by his descriptions of torture so much as his preaching to the audience without doing his homework. Apparently he read a story in the [New York] Times (not very closely) and felt compelled to comment. We do NOT torture people at the Bagram Holding Facility (temporary home for up to 100 people picked up in Afghanistan as part of the war on terrorism). The only time the detainees are naked is when they are searched at admission and when they shower. There is a very good reason we don't give out many details as to treatment...not to disguise torture, but to keep our methods out of the enemy's hands. Doctors visit the facility twice a day to treat any who need it. The International Committee of the Red Cross sends an inspector every ten days. And by the way, the two detainees who died, did so in December...not last week. They also constitute the only two detainees who have ever required treatment for injuries sustained in the facility (whether they were injured there is part of the investigation...the injuries may have pre-existed their stay at Bagram). Mr. Weathers seems to take on faith the words of former detainees about their treatment, but refuses to grant the same faith to the words of Lt. Gen. McNeill, the coalition commander here.... Regards, Roger King Colonel, US Army Bagram, Afghanistan ED WEATHERS RESPONDS: ...[The mentioned detainee did die] in December. It was the description of his death that came out last week. As for the rest of it, I stand by my original position. To the best of my knowledge, no neutral observers are visiting Khalid Shaikh Mohammed or other high-level Al Qaeda operatives--nor do neutral observers even know where they are. There is an inherent contradiction in the colonel's description of the state of things even at Bagram, of course: He says we are letting the Red Cross visit "every 10 days," but he also says we're not letting out the details of the prisoners' interrogation. So the Red Cross really isn't seeing how they're being interrogated--if they were, then the details of their interrogation might be "getting out." I wish I did trust Lt. Gen. McNeill's word as much as that of former detainees, but they have less to gain by misinformation than he does. Perhaps it comes down to the Colonel's definition of torture. I consider that torture includes the following: sleep and light deprivation, the withholding of food and water, the withholding of pain-killers from those who are wounded, being subjected to extremes of cold and heat, being hooded for hours, being forced to kneel for hours, being forced to stand for hours, being left naked for hours, and prolonged isolation. According to press reports in both liberal and conservative papers, "senior U.S. officials" have acknowledged such treatment of prisoners. For the record, The United Nations Convention Against Torture also includes, in its title, "Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment," and it states uncategorically that such treatment is never justified. The U.S. signed this convention. I wonder if Colonel King can officially deny that any prisoners at Bagram have been or are being treated in any of the ways described above. If so, I am very pleased. I wish I believed that that were the case for all prisoners taken by the United States.

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