Three detainees at Guantanamo Bay committed suicide yesterday. I had cited a tongue-in-cheek post a few weeks ago from Jeremiah Bullfrog about "suicide torturees". Little did I know at the time that the jailers at Guantanamo Bay had also read Jeremiah’s post. However, they apparently missed the satire completely.
Responding to the suicides Rear Admiral Harry Harris of the Joint Task Force – Guantanamo said:
They are smart. They are creative. They are committed. They have no regard for human life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but rather an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.
Have we lost our minds? Let me be very clear: Suicide is not an act of war. There is a big difference between "suicide" and "suicide bomber"; the latter involves killing other people. I can only hope this is some very clever psy-ops tactic to get al Qaeda to commit spontaneous suicide. Otherwise, we are in a world of trouble in the War on Terror. If the enemy is able to attack us by committing suicide, I am afraid we have no countermeasures.
The three detainees who committed suicide were being held without charges by the United States. They were not given Prisoner of War status and thereby denied the protections of the Geneva Conventions. They were very likely tortured. They were kept outside the jurisdiction of the US courts. There is absolutely no reason to believe that these men were guilty of anything. The only "evidence" we have is the word of the Bush Administration. I am afraid "trust us" no longer is an adequate explanation for gross violations of Human Rights.
One of the reasons the Geneva Conventions exist is for the protection of the party that is holding the prisoners. In addition to protecting the prisoners from abuse, the Geneva Conventions offer the necessary transparency so that the jailers cannot be accused of torture or other human rights violations. I am afraid by denying these prisoners the Geneva protections the United States cannot escape the charge that it tortures. If it did not torture, there was no reason not to accord these prisoners Geneva protections.
It should be no surprise that already these suicides are being called into question by the Saudis and others. The Bush Administration has no defense to these charges. The War on Terror is largely about hearts and minds. Guess who is losing that battle? Admiral Harris has more to worry about than whether suicides constitute acts of war. His statements are the latest indication that the United States violates laws of war and human rights at Guantanamo. The United States apparently does not even understand what constitutes "war" or it has broadened the definition of "war". If the US definition of "war" has been broadened, in conjunction with the narrowing of the definition of "torture", it points quite definitively to the Bush Administration’s lack of respect for human rights and international norms.
It used to be that the United States enjoyed the moral authority to point out bad behavior by other countries. Those days are over. The United States now is on the receiving end of such charges. Any claim that the United States now makes about defending the human rights of people in Iraq or other places will be considered a joke. This is a tragedy for us as Americans and for the rest of the world. We are moving from the age of reason to one where might is right. Shame on the Bush Administration and shame on us for allowing it to happen.