'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Too Nice at Gitmo 

Chalmers Johnson, in his Sorrows of Empire, mentions a fun fact that I hadn't heard before ... The original Commander of Guantánamo Bay in 2002, Brigadier General Rick Baccus, was fired for being "too nice" to detainees. His successor, Major General Geoffrey Miller, was the guy who was later moved to Iraq to reform the Iraqi prison-based intelligence gathering operation. From the Guardian's recent account of the Baccus story:

Gen Baccus insists that he did his job honourably. "In no way did I ever interfere in interrogations, but also at that time the interrogations never forced anyone to be treated inhumanely, certainly not when I was there."

Although the detainees at Guantánamo were not given the protections of the Geneva Convention, Gen Baccus says he took steps to ensure they were not subjected to abuse.

"We had instances of individuals that used verbal abuse, and any time that that was reported we took action immediately and removed the individual from contact with detainees." Gen Baccus said there were fewer than 10 instances of abuse during his seven months in command.

After his departure, the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, gave military intelligence control over all aspects of Guantánamo, including the MPs, and Gen Miller was appointed commander.

It would be informative to read a news report that examines in detail who made the decision to fire Baccus and how the firing came about; afterall, assuming Baccus is being honest when he says prisoners were treated humanely under his watch, the story of Baccus's unceremonious departure is the story of how the institutionalized abuse of Guantánamo detainees began.

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