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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

 
Sophisticated

Not wanting to risk remaining in Russia, Vakhitov went to stay with relatives in Tajikistan. Then events became even more fantastic. Vakhitov and his friends were taken hostage by militants from the Islamist “Uzbekistan” movement, and took them to Afghanistan. In Kabul, the hostages were accused of collaborating with the FSB. The tortures and interrogations began anew.

That was in the fall of 2001. Afghanistan was attacked by the Americans. The regime in the country was overturned, while the prison where Vakhitov was being held had its flag changed.

Vakhitov and his friends were waiting to be rescued from day to day. But the U.S. military instead acted exactly like their Russian counterparts. After September 11, they needed culprits. And all Muslims became suspects.

Especially valuable were Arabs. According to Vakhitov, they were bought in Afghanistan for $5,000 each and taken to Guantanamo.
"They sold everyone. Beggars off the street, the deaf, dumb, and blind. I had a 104-year-old man along with me. And once again, no court investigation," Vakhitov says. And that was how he ended up in Cuba at the Delta camp.

"In Russia the torture is primitive. They mostly just beat me. They would hang me up, and burn me with cigarettes. At Guantanamo, the torture was more sophisticated than in Russian prisons. Our special forces are way behind in that sense. There was more psychological pressure: you couldn’t be left alone for a minute. We fought to have the toilet covered with a blanket. We went on hunger strikes to protest against officers trampling on the Koran and throwing it in the toilet."

Gradually, Russians are beginning to use the experience of their Western colleagues. Vakhitov says that after the Americans handed him over to Russian prosecutors, he was blindfolded and kicked, then forced to kneel and told to "pray to Jesus Christ like a Christian." Vakhitov said that the Americans honestly admitted that because they have a democracy, they could not use all the possible methods to draw out confessions, but that their Russian colleagues would be able to get to work on him.


I know this will come as a shock, but it turns out that the Russians eventually concluded that he wasn't a terrorist after all:

After several months in a detention center, Vakhitov was found not guilty -- once again without any trial -- and released.


When I first started reading these stories from released Guantanamo prisoners I was skeptical. They sounded too strange, too bizarre, too freakishly sexual and sadistic. Then came Abu Ghraib and the pictures of forced masturbation. And it was revealed that female interrogators were smearing fake menstrual blood on prisoners and that interrogators were using fierce dogs to threaten naked men. And we know that prisoners were held in "stress positions" for many hours on end in sharply hot and cold temperatures.

It has been known for years now that many of the prisoners were sold to the US by Afghan warlords for $5,000 a piece. It is clear that three years after they were captured that none of the prisoners in Guantanamo have any intelligence to offer. And it is a proven fact that we imprisoned and roughly "interrogated" many people for years who were completely innocent.

It's interesting that this ex-prisoner says that the Americans are much more sophisticated in their methods. Perhaps this is true in comparison to the Russians, although that's quite a statement, if true. I wrote a post some months back in which I discussed these sophisticated techniques in some detail. Here are reports from prisoners who underwent them:

Many men were handcuffed or tied to a stool as a means of slow torture. The [detainee] sat in one position, day and night. Each time he would fall over, the guards would sit him upright. He was not allowed to sleep or rest. Exhaustion and pain take their toll. When the [detainee] agreed to cooperate with his captors and acquiesced to their demands, he would be removed. Here, I have pictured a guard named "Mouse," who liked to throw buckets of cold water on a man on cold winter nights.

You're always sitting either on the floor or on a stool or concrete block or something low. The interrogator is always behind a table that's covered with cloth of some kind, white or blue or something. And he sits above you and he's always looking down at you asking you questions and they want to know what the targets are for tomorrow, next week, next month. You don't know. You really don't know. But he doesn't -- he's going to have to have an answer of some kind. Now the back of the room comes the -- the torture. And he's a -- he's a big guy that knows what he's doing. And he starts locking your elbows up with ropes and tying your wrists together and bending you.

[...]

Some men were tied to their beds, sometimes for weeks at a time. Here, I have drawn a picture showing the handcuffs being worn in front, but the usual position was with the wrists handcuffed behind the back. A man would live this way day and night, without sleep or rest.

The guards come around the middle of the night just rattling the lock on your door. That's a terrifying thing because they may be taking you out for a torture session. You don't know.

"... obviously this is an emotional thing to me, was listening to the screams of other ... prisoners while they were being tortured. And being locked in a cell myself sometimes uh, in handcuffs or tied up and not able to do anything about it. And that's the way I've got to spend the night."

[...]

The ten months that I spent in the blacked out cell I went into panic. The only thing I could do was exercise. As long as I could move, I felt like I was going to -- well, it was so bad I would put a rag in my mouth and hold another one over it so I could scream. That seemed to help. It's not that I was scared, more scared than another other time or anything. It was happening to my nerves and my mind. And uh, I had to move or die. I'd wake up at two o'clock in the morning or midnight or three or whatever and I would jump up immediately and start running in place. Side straddle hops. Maybe four hours of sit ups. But I had to exercise. And of course I prayed a lot.


My original post has much more detail.

Of course, these are all quotes from American POW's who were held in North Vietnam.



"When word of torture and mistreatment began to slip out to the American press in the summer of 1969, our public-relations-minded captors began to treat us better. I'm certain we would have been a lot worse off if there had not been the Geneva Conventions around." John McCain



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