We Don't Need No Human Rights Round Here

by digby

It appears that the Guantanamo case the Supremes are hearing today has the usual suspects showing themselves to be predictably phony and obtuse about a case they can't really defend on the merits, either as justices or as human beings:

A lawyer for the detainees at Guantanamo Bay underwent a barrage of questions Wednesday from Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia, with the attorney portraying the case as a fundamental test of the U.S. system of justice.

The court plunged into the controversy over the military prison facility, where 305 prisoners are detained indefinitely in the Bush administration's war on terror.

Many of the prisoners "have been held ... for six years," attorney Seth Waxman told the justices.

Under the current system, "they have no prospect" of being able to challenge their detention in any meaningful way, said Waxman, arguing on the detainees' behalf.

Roberts and Scalia questioned whether the detainees are entitled to hearings in civilian courts.

"Show me one case" down through the centuries where circumstances similar to those at Guantanamo Bay entitled an alien to challenge his detention in civilian courts, said Scalia.

Roberts challenged Waxman's argument that the duration of detention is important.

Right. If the US government is clever enough to abrogate treaties and deny fundamental human rights offshore, then certain members of the Supreme Court have no problem with it. (Actually they probably have no problem with it if they do it right in the nation's capitol.) And why should John Roberts care that potentially innocent people are being held in a prison camp with no ability to protest the charges for more than six years? How can the length of time possibly be relevant to anything that matters?

Well, except for the human beings who are reduced to this:

Guantánamo Prisoner Cuts His Throat With Fingernail

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba, Dec. 4 — A prisoner at the detention camp here cut his throat with his own fingernail last month, causing a substantial loss of blood, but was never at risk of death, military officials said Tuesday.

“He did in fact use a sharpened fingernail,” Cmdr. Andrew Haynes, the deputy commander of the guard force here, told reporters on a tour of the camp.

Commander Haynes said there had been four to six occurrences in the last two months in which detainees harmed themselves, a rate that he said was consistent with recent experience. Those instances show that a potentially deadly struggle between detainees and their jailers continues, largely out of public view. One detainee committed suicide in May, after three other suicides the previous June, and there have also been numerous suicide attempts.

Advocates for detainees describe such acts as signs of desperation born of indefinite detention and hopelessness. But camp administrators call them a tactic to draw publicity and provoke criticism of the government.

That's not a new rationalization, but it makes me feel sick to my stomach every time I read this official explanation as to why these people repeatedly try to kill themselves in Guantanamo. Apparently there really are people in this world who accept such drivel over the obvious explanation.

At least they aren't torturing them, right?

In interviews with reporters Tuesday, officials said nine detainees remained on hunger strikes and were being force-fed daily. The detainee engaged in the longest of the hunger strikes, the officials said, has been force-fed for 816 days.

In case anyone doesn't know what that means:

New details have emerged of how the growing number of prisoners on hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay are being tied down and force-fed through tubes pushed down their nasal passages into their stomachs to keep them alive.

They routinely experience bleeding and nausea, according to a sworn statement by the camp's chief doctor, seen by The Observer.

'Experience teaches us' that such symptoms must be expected 'whenever nasogastric tubes are used,' says the affidavit of Captain John S Edmondson, commander of Guantánamo's hospital. The procedure - now standard practice at Guantánamo - 'requires that a foreign body be inserted into the body and, ideally, remain in it.' But staff always use a lubricant, and 'a nasogastric tube is never inserted and moved up and down. It is inserted down into the stomach slowly and directly, and it would be impossible to insert the wrong end of the tube.' Medical personnel do not insert nasogastric tubes in a manner 'intentionally designed to inflict pain.'

It is painful, Edmonson admits. Although 'non-narcotic pain relievers such as ibuprofen are usually sufficient, sometimes stronger drugs,' including opiates such as morphine, have had to be administered.

Thick, 4.8mm diameter tubes tried previously to allow quicker feeding, so permitting guards to keep prisoners in their cells for more hours each day, have been abandoned, the affidavit says. The new 3mm tubes are 'soft and flexible'.

True, these people could give up their hunger strikes for the much more effective protest of committing suicide with their own sharpened fingernail to make the US Government look bad, but apparently they choose not to. It's not John Roberts and Antonin Scalia's fault that these people won't submit to their indefinite imprisonment with high spirits and elan.

I think Kafka thought he was writing a parable when he wrote The Trial.

H/T to BB