And this is not torture?

Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality Views: 4595

The Senate confirmed Alberto Gonzales as the attorney general on Thursday, February 3, 2005. The vote was 60-36. Thirty-five Democrats and Independent Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont voted against Gonzales.

Before the confirmation the Senate debated the nomination and at the center of the debate over Gonzales was his apparent endorsement for redefining the definitions of torture, and his apparent claim that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to prisoners of the so-called "War on Terror." Many groups, such as the ACLU, have expressed serious concern about Gonzales. Other groups also took strong issue with Judge Gonzales stemming from his tenure in Texas. The Center for American Progress calls Mr. Gonzales' record one of "Injustice." 

I also expressed my deep concern at his nomination and recent news reports seemed to have bolstered my reasons for this anxiety. On January 27, 2005, CBS News reported that a former U.S. Army linguist, Erik R. Saar told the Associated Press that he began witnessing "disturbing" practices about three months after he arrived at Guantanamo Bay. The alleged practices are detailed in a manuscript of his forthcoming book, Inside the Wire, to be published by Penguin Press later this year, obtained by the Associated Press. One incident is particularly "disgusting," as Maureen Dowd said.

A female military interrogator questioned an uncooperative 21-year-old Saudi detainee about his alleged flying lessons in Arizona before the September 11 attacks. Saar wrote, "His female interrogator decided that she needed to turn up the heat." So, she removed her uniform top to expose a tight-fitting T-shirt and began taunting the detainee, touching her breasts, rubbing them against the prisoner's back and commenting on his apparent erection. He looked up and spat in her face, according to the manuscript. She then asked a "Muslim linguist" how she could break the prisoner's reliance on God, and the linguist told her to tell the detainee that she was menstruating.

Thus, "She then started to place her hands in her pants as she walked behind the detainee. As she circled around him he could see that she was taking her hand out of her pants. When it became visible the detainee saw what appeared to be red blood on her hand, She said, 'Who sent you to Arizona?' He then glared at her with a piercing look of hatred. She then wiped the red ink on her face. He shouted at the top of his lungs, spat at her and lunged forward" The detainee began to cry "like a baby," and the interrogator said, "Have a fun night in your cell without any water to clean yourself." According to the manuscript, "The concept [of this technique] was to make the detainee feel that after talking to her he was unclean and was unable to go before his God in prayer and gain strength."

In November 2004, in response to a request by the Associated Press, the military reported that in early 2003 a female interrogator "wiped dye from red magic marker on detainees' shirt after detainee spit (cq) on her," telling the detainee it was blood. She was verbally reprimanded, according to the military.

Another account by a recently-released Australian detainee, Mamdouh Habib, seemed to corroborate such practices. Mr. Habib's lawyer said that a "prostitute" had stood over Mr. Habib "naked while he was strapped to the floor and menstruated on him." His lawyer continued, "The Americans in their wisdom have taken the heads off the pictures [of his wife and their four children], enlarged them and superimposed them with the heads of animals and then strung them up all over the walls of the interrogation room. As they sat there talking to [Mr. Habib] asking him about his terrorist activities, they held up a picture of [his wife] and said, 'It's a shame we had to kill your family, it's a shame you will never see these people again.'"

And this is not torture? How could this not be torture? How could any American stand for this to be done in our name? How could Lt. Col. James Marshall, spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command, keep a straight face and say, "U.S. forces treat all detainees and conduct all interrogations, wherever they may occur, humanely and consistent with U.S. legal obligations, and in particular with legal obligations prohibiting torture."

According to Mr. Saar, "Interrogators were given a lot of latitude under Miller." That's Major General Geoffrey Miller who, after his stint at Guantanamo Bay, went to Iraq to head the...Abu Ghraib prison. We all know what happened there.

Again, I must ask the question: how could this treatment not be torture? Is it because it is not mental pain that requires "suffering not just at the moment of infliction" but also requires "lasting psychological harm, such as seen in mental disorders like posttraumatic stress disorder"? This is the definition of mental torture that was given by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in an August 2002 memorandum.

There have been reports of attempted mass suicides at Guantanamo Bay. Could it be that they are being subjected to the kind of treatment I talked about above? Isn't attempted suicide an indication of having to endure suffering that causes "lasting psychological harm," in the words of the Office of Legal Counsel? Menstruating on strapped down Muslim men; sexually taunting them, knowing it would cause enormous psychological stress; lying about killing one's family; this is not torture? Then what in God's name is?

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and writer. He is author of "Why I Love the Ten Commandments," published in the book Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith (Rodale Press), winner of the prestigious Wilbur Award for 2003 Best Religion Book of the Year by the Religion Communicators Council.

His blog can be visited at

  Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality
Views: 4595
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Older Comments:
The linguist obviously has ba very limited knowlege of Islam if he believes that a menstruating woman could break a prisoner's reliance on God.The"interogator's" actions will understandably only result in more hatred and
disgust of the Americans. Also, it should be noted that in order for the prisoner to have the need to clean himself of blood(ANY blood)it would have to have been wiped on HIM not on the "interrogator". There must be a mistake in the article.

Tamim, it is said that always what happens to you is closer to your heart than what happens to somebody else. This is so true. Since Abu Ghraib didn't affect you as much as the Jewish holocaust this tells me what you really are, a Jew. Problem is not that you are a Jew, that's perfectly OK, what's really a problem is the fact that you mask yourself as a Muslim and speak in the name of the Muslims. There is no Muslim in this whole round world, including the enemies of the Sunis, that were not shocked and pained by the atrocities happening in Abu Ghraib and GITMO.
Now a little lesson for you, Tamim, the Jews were murdered by Nazis and not by a nation operating in the name of the universal good and unbiased democracy. If you declared that the US government was a Nazi government then I would give you that: Nazi America did not do to the Semites(Arabs are Semites) half of what the Nzi Germans did to the Semites(Jews are not the single Semites). But you didn't declare US as a Nazi state, as long as you don't, you have no right to compare the two situations. It would be like comparing the Gladiators' arena with the Olympics. Your trick doesn't work here, so either come out from the closet and declare your true identity, e.g., Zionist Israeli living in USA or nick off. All I can tell you is what Jesus Christ,pbuh, said to the Pharasees,"Get behind me Satan". I bid you, shalom, shalom, where there's no peace at all..

History has numerous examples of those who became the victims of what they initiated. To put it another way, don't assume you won't be wearing the dog collar simply because it was your idea in the first place. Say cheese!

Wayy to go!!! Naturally, we needed a doctor to diagnose this problem, and without fail, the surgery went successfully, Alhamdulillah. Great article Dr. Hassaballa. And your Blog is AWESOME! Everyone go and read the report that is posted on his website, the link to his blog is at the bottome of this article.
Allah bless you doctor.

An excellent article. Few there are, I think, who realize the extent of the torture that is going on. It goes far deeper than many of the reports that I have read regarding this issue; and involve the use of methods derived from post-Geneva era technology (hence, no regulations). This is a very serious issue, and the Constitution is actually clear on the matter: there shall be no "cruel and unusual punishments" levied upone people, and yes, the ones who wrote this meant torture, for they were all too familiar with the practices of the Old World polities.
To sum it up: torture is wrong, period. No amount of rationalizing makes it permissible. If that's inconvenient for some, then that's just too bad.
Now then, we must do something about this. I would suggest the formation of a focus group around this very issue just for starters.

U.S. General says it is 'fun to shoot some people'
click on it in the news section of this website. I cant wait for pro-american trolls to justify this statement. With psychopaths like these, is it any wonder than Americans are universally dispised ?

Its wrong to behead people on TV, its a-ok to drop 500 lb bunker busters on civilian populations. Likewise it is wrong for a person to resist the foreign invasion and occupation of his/her nation, yet its ok to invade based on WMD lies and propaganda.
And finally, as long as Americans do it, its fine, but if someone else does it, its a definite no-no. Welcome to Pax Americana. Hope you survive.

Allah sometimes brings out the truth from what some people posses inside their heart. Everyday they are showing their hearted for the Muslims in so many different ways. But yet, look at the Muslims what they are doing. This will continue as long as Muslims run after this world.

As-salaamu 'alaykum. I have almost never agreed with this author before on other subject that he has written about, but I am in full agreement with him and the content of this article. It is no surprise that this administration uses tactics similar to those used by the former Apartheid government of South Africa. The nomination and posting of a member of a given minority group to head a department is a crass tactic that seeks to blunt criticism of policies while serving to wrap themselves, the Bushites, in the mantle of enligtened progressive politics. Those of us who have been around long enough have seen this tactic used time and time again all over the world. Inshaa Allah, Muslims and others will wake up and see the truth of this situation.

We should stop crying about these small issues and deal first with the major issues we have in the Muslim community. Abu Ghraib is not as bad as Jews being tortured and killed by Nazis, Muslims tortured and killed in Kosovo, and we can go on and on for days about others. That was merely torture - those people at Abu Ghraib are still living and are well. Let's move on. Let's make Abu Ghraib the past and look into our future...