Juveniles abused at Guantanamo Bay
By Matt Bivens
“Military authorities at the US Naval Base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have discovered that ‘fewer than a half dozen’ detainees are juveniles. ... The juveniles, described as between the ages of 13 and 15, were declared ‘enemy combatants’ when they were arrested fighting against US troops in Central Asia. ... After a detailed medical examination, they were determined to be youngsters.” — Los Angeles Times, April 23
“Teenagers younger than 16 being held at Guantanamo Bay are ‘not children’ and pose a lethal danger that justifies detention, US military chiefs insisted yesterday.” — The Guardian, April 26
New York Times ran a wire story on a briefing that buried the discussion of children at Camp X-ray. The Washington Post ignored it. It never happened. Children are adults. Ignorance is strength. War is peace
The most startling thing about the US government’s admission it is holding children among the “enemy combatants” at its prison camp in Cuba is what a non-story it is here.
There have long been rumors of children among the mysterious 664 Guantanamo Bay detainees. But the first admission of that was offered, near as I can tell, in a report by Australia’s ABC television. On Tuesday, April 22, ABC quoted the camp commander saying “more than one” of his detainees were under age 16 — and that those child-prisoners had undergone interrogations..
What kind of interrogations? That’s secret. But sleep deprivation and beatings are two common “torture lite” methods used at the camp. Eighteen of the detainees, abruptly released last month and dropped back into Kabul, also told The Boston Globe that bad prisoners (those who “argue with guards”) are “persecuted and sometimes beaten,” while those who “obey” get “good food, clothes, hygiene and even video games.”
We also know there have been 25 attempted suicides at the camp, and that about 30 of the prisoners are on anti-depressants. No wonder they’re depressed: The Bush administration insists they’re dangerous men, and says it can hold them forever, without offering them any sort of hearing.
Anyway, back to the unfolding non-story: The Guardian newspaper picked up the Australian report and started asking questions. So did the Canadian press. The Los Angeles Times stood out among American papers with an early story (you’ve got to love the wide-eyed innocence of their report, in which teenagers are captured in Afghanistan, shipped to a US prison camp in Cuba, and only there, after a “detailed medical examination,” they are “discovered” to be teenagers.) On Friday, a non-American reporter at a Pentagon press briefing — she sounded Australian — put a question to Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about the children in Guantanamo Bay. Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers testily conceded they had juveniles in the camp, but called them “very, very dangerous” and, therefore, “not children.” An American voice at the briefing finally peeped up to ask if it was fair to say they were killers when “there hasn’t been a trial, there hasn’t been a tribunal, there hasn’t been a hearing.” Rumsfeld gave one of those “I’m going to talk a lot instead of answering” answers, one that concluded, “There are plenty of people who have been killed by people who were still in their teens.”So it was finally out there, discussed by Rumsfeld at a press briefing. And still it’s not news: The New York Times ran a wire story on the briefing, one that buried the discussion of children in our Cuban purgatory. The Washington Post ignored it. It never happened. Children are adults. Ignorance is strength. War is peace. —The Moscow Times
Matt Bivens is a former editor of The Moscow Times