“I think that we have found something horrible. At least one of the detainees was alive hours later than reported. He was left to die. First in the detainee clinic, where he lay unattended on a gurney with ropes tied around his neck. He was later found in an ambulance with faint vital signs because the ropes were still around his neck. When they cut the ropes off, his vital signs improved. But when he arrived at the hospital, he lay there while Camp Delta kept calling, asking if he were dead yet. And finally he died. This is more horrible than I could possibly have imagined,” – a student at Seton Hall University, on a FOIAed document from an internal military review of the conduct of guards one night in Gitmo, where three prisoners are said to have committed suicide simultaneously on June 9, 2006.
Dish readers may recall Scott Horton’s dissection of the military’s and DOJ’s assurances that somehow, three prisoners managed to elude guards and cameras and hang themselves in tandem in their cells on that night. (The story won the National Magazine Award for reporting in 2009.) The Alpha Block where their bodies were allegedly discovered was closely monitored, with guard checks of every cell required every 10 minutes. There were five guards for 28 prisoners. And yet the NCIS report found that the bodies were not discovered for two hours. How one of those prisoners was still alive thereafter – as shown in the new document in an eye-witness account from one of the medics – is yet another head-scratcher. So too is the absence of any disciplining of the negligent guards.
The story is not uncontroversial. Many investigative reporters looked into the story and didn’t find anything to contradict the Pentagon’s story and the conclusion of subsequent investigations. For skeptical takes, see Shafer and Koppelman. For a back-and-forth on the issue, see here.
But that an internal military investigation found testimony that clearly contradicts that version of events – a prisoner still breathing two hours after hanging himself and with the rope around his neck not fully cut – is clearly something worth examining. That this document was also filled out of order, and not included in the formal NCIS report is also suspect.
For me, the thing I cannot quite get my head around is why the prisoners were all found with a rag stuffed in their throats. The official line is that this was contrived by the prisoners who wrapped cloth around their faces to muffle any involuntary cries in the hanging. Somehow, they sucked those rags into their mouths during their deaths, further asphyxiating them. Seems more than a little strange to me. What else could explain it? Some have posited an experimental torture technique known as “dry-boarding”, in which rags are stuffed down throats until near-asphyxiation and then removed. If that torture technique went wrong, you can see how a hastily contrived “suicide” cover-story would have been an option. I really don’t know.
This is a complicated story – but when a key piece of evidence contradicting the Pentagon line gets mis-filed, and is discovered only in a mass review of FOIAed documents, I’m not inclined to take the Pentagon’s word for it. And on Gitmo and torture in general, I’ve come to see that the Pentagon just isn’t to be trusted. And neither, alas, is the Obama administration.