The New York Times and Washington’s new prison in Afghanistan

Dandelion Salad

By Alex Lantier
20 May 2008

On May 17 the New York Times reported on plans for a new, US-run prison complex at Bagram air base north of the Afghan capital, Kabul. The prison complex would occupy 40 acres on the base, house up to 1,100 prisoners, and cost more than $60 million to build. The complex will replace an existing prison, the Bagram Theater Internment Facility.

Military officials told the press they were concerned about the health effects on US troops stationed at the current Bagram facility, which is heavily contaminated with toxic heavy metals. They are unwilling to turn “dangerous” detainees over to the Afghan puppet government, however, and are planning on building a new prison, under direct US control.

The Times described the existing Bagram prison as overcrowded, with inadequate restroom and exercise facilities, and acknowledged that American guards had beaten several detainees to death there. Comparing conditions there to those at Guantánamo Bay, the US-run concentration camp in Cuba which has become notorious for its torture and arbitrary punishment of detainees, it reported: “Military personnel who know both Bagram and Guantánamo describe the Afghan site […] as far more Spartan. Bagram prisoners have fewer privileges, less ability to contest their detention and no access to lawyers.”

Starting with these horrible facts, the Times then took on a grotesquely Orwellian task: presenting the construction of the new prison as an exercise in humanitarianism.

Citing US military officials who told the Times the new prison would be would be “more modern and humane,” it continued: “Classrooms will be built for vocational training and religious discussion, and there will be more space for recreation and family visits, officials said. […] The structures will have more natural light, and each will have its own recreation area.”

It quoted a senior Pentagon official for detention policy, Sandra L. Hodgkinson: “The driving factor behind this is to ensure that in all instances we are giving the highest standards of treatment and care.”

One rubs one’s eyes in disbelief. US treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan has been distinguished, in fact, by its murderous brutality, from the very beginning of the US-led occupation.


h/t: The Man Common

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