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April 17, 2009

A Rather Troubling Newswire Image On The Day Obama Releases Bush Interrogation Memos

Camp X-Ray Plywood Wall.jpg
click for full size

Yesterday’s release of those Bush Administration interrogation memos has caused an unusual offering of file photos to be distributed to the newswire.
I’m surprised I never saw this one before. Shades of FEMA ‘05, what the image depicts is an “improvised” accounting of detainees recorded on a plywood wall who had been treated at the now-abandoned hospital facility at Gitmo’s Camp X-Ray.

Excuse my fury (and my nomination of the image as symbolic), but was the excuse here — as exemplified by the defense offered by the director of national intelligence at the end of the NYT memos story — that crude measures were necessary to prevent another 9/11 style attack?

In this case, things certainly must have been so dire there was no time even for even pen and paper.

(image: Paul J. Richards – AFP/Getty Images. April 25, 2007. US Naval Station in Guantanamo, Cuba)

  • Reece

    Makes me feel ignorant for asking but I feel compelled to do so:
    Am I right in thinking that the reason why these numbers vary so widely is because they were:
    A) Not keeping good track?
    B) “Interrogating” so many people that a lot of prisoners needed “treatment?”
    C) Weren’t following the rules outlined?
    D) All of the above?
    I can believe it, but i can’t at the same time.

  • sophronia

    What I’m thinking is that no paper or online records were being kept? So, to keep a rough total they used a wall and a Sharpie? I’m guessing that whoever was in charge wanted no paper or electronic trail.

  • timolo

    I wouldn’t say their was an attempt to prevent record keeping. We have to remember the prison essentially sprang out of the ground. As the #s increased I am sure a proper form and yes possibly paper were not available.
    Unfortunately, all successful programs like this are known for their record keeping. Its a business process. I am sure at some point a laptop and spreadsheets were introduced after the cages were finished.

  • jtfromBC

    In checking the Guantanamo Bay Timeline
    ‘January 11, 2002 – First group of 20 detainees arrives at Guantanamo Bay’s Camp X-Ray, where they are housed in open-air cages with concrete floors. The International Committee of the Red Cross makes its first visit six days later’ -
    From this info I assume these numbers represent the chronological arrival of prisoners, why they were recorded in this way certainly interests me. Cruelty and this crude recording system compliment the Gitmo scene.
    Fury is an appropriate emotion, in an ideal world I’d like to question John Yoo after he had experienced 11 days of sleep deprivation.

  • mcc

    What I’d be most curious about is, what the heck happened on January 21, 2002?

  • Nell

    Things were indeed pretty dire and improvised in some ways during the early days. I recommend to everyone interested in an understanding of Guantanamo’s role and history Karen Greenberg’s book, The Least Worst Place, which focuses on the first year of the prison camp’s operation.
    The officers at Guantanamo were given something like eleven days notice to construct the prison, and finished four or five hours before the arrival of the first prisoners. They were, of course, lied to in the same way as everyone else about who the prisoners were, how they had been captured, and what had been determined about their involvement and possible intelligence value by any kind of screening.
    Unlike the rest of us, the officers overseeing Guantanamo in the earliest days realized quickly that what they’d been told was garbage, that the bulk of the men and boys arriving almost daily were low-level nobodies and in some cases completely unconnected with the fighting in Afghanistan, much less terror attacks against the United States. When they protested and questioned, they were told to stop asking questions.

  • Enoch Root

    Who really knows what these hash marks represent? Some are marked with what look like fractions. Are those the underage prisoners we heard about?

  • jtfromBC

    thanks, I look forward to reading The Least Worst Place
    Army prosecutor quits Gitmo war court
    Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, a reservist from the Pittsburgh area, becomes the fourth known prosecutor to quit the Pentagon’s controversial military commissions, which the Bush administration set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
    the bad news
    Omar Khadr’s Lawyer William Kuebler Fired
    This US Lt.Commander represented the only ‘child soldier’ ever tried by the US. An excellent documentary concerning this Canadian youth, goes into great detail over the falsifying of documents, torture, etc. Kuebler, courageously represented Khadr while our Dubya loving Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated Gitmo has an adequate legal structure. With Obama’s position on Gitmo it will be interesting to watch Harper wiggle his way around the new realities.
    The U.S. vs Omar Khadr documentary is unfortunately available online only in Canada via the CBC site ‘Doc Zone’

  • agua fruta

    1. There’s definitely a sense here of both primitiveness and half-assedness – hash marks instead of numbers, board & sharpie instead of pen and paper. It seems regressive for the US’s “advanced” civilization (which it was supposedly exporting to the Middle East) – a slippage. It also seems very improvised, thrown together when, shockingly, the US didn’t have an overnight victory greeted with flowers and gratitude as the war’s proponents had predicted.
    2. The image confuses jailer and jailed. I’m surprised no one mentions this. Hash marks have one classic association – no other even comes close – an inmate scrawling the days on the cell wall.
    I don’t read this photo at all as saying crude crimes necesitate crude measures. On the contrary I read it as saying there’s a slippage, a confusion here – who are the criminals here? who the terrorists? who the barbaric primitives? the jailer or the jailed?
    Especially since most of the inmates were never actually charged with any crime – just incarcerated indefinitely. And since the “interrogations” were conducted under torture, which is of course quite literally an international crime.
    Beyond that, one could also think about the effects of torture on the torturer, and how that again confuses these same categories – criminal/authority, terrorist/victim, savage/civilized. (one might even imagine another twist as the torturer is tormented by his own participation/memories of the torture). I recommend digby’s post here:

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