Monday, June 02, 2008

'Guantanamo' Love Boats and the Bagram Hilton

You'd think Guantanamo Bay and Extraordinary Rendition would serve their purpose with sufficient efficacy not to warrant the creation of yet another legal black hole. But you'd be wrong. Have a look at this story in the Guardian.

Reprieve has accused the United States of operating "Floating Prisons", in the Indian Ocean wherein 'Enemy Combatants' are once again being secretly detained without charge or due process for the purposes of interrogation.

So what exactly are the numbers when you add up all the 'black sites' and offshore water boarding resorts? Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve's legal director, had this to say:
"By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been 'through the system' since 2001."

Assuming that the demand for detainee accommodation at any given point is currently understated and increasing (both of which I submit are fair assumptions), that would imply a required detention centre capacity the size of Lichfield, England (population approximately 31,000 as of early 2008).

Lichfield is pictured below for your convenience.

View Larger Map

Now I imagine the current US Administration is loathe to construct an urban settlement the size of Lichfield for a bunch of Farmboy Hick Taliban and pre-deemed foreign 'no-gooders'. That leaves them with a substantial accommodation problem.

Which is of course why the Pentagon is discussing the upgrade of Bagram Airbase. I say upgrade, what I should say is the fresh construction of a brand new $60 million, 40 Acre Prison Facility.

But the new detention facility will be nothing like Bagram, or so were told. No incessant beatings of innocent taxi drivers resulting in "blunt-force injuries to lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease" and consequent death. It will in fact be a place of learning, pluralism and hospitality.
"The new detention center at Bagram will incorporate some of the lessons learned by the United States in Iraq. Classrooms will be built for vocational training and religious discussion, and there will be more space for recreation and family visits, officials said. After years of entreaties by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United States recently began to allow relatives to speak with prisoners at Bagram through video hookups."

"The driving factor behind this is to ensure that in all instances we are giving the highest standards of treatment and care,” said Ms. Hodgkinson, who has briefed Senate and House officials on the construction plans. "
Yes. Learning. Treatment. Care. Those must certainly be the driving factors because clearly, they have been priorities in the past.

The fact that the Pentagon is housing the equivalent of a medium sized English town is of course not a driving factor. What is equally not a factor is the fact that 80,000 people (equivalent to the population of Phuket) appear to have thus far passed through 'the system', sans representation.



Anonymous said...

"Now I imagine the current US Administration is loathe to construct an urban settlement the size of Lichfield for a bunch of Farmboy Hick Taliban and pre-deemed foreign 'no-gooders'. That leaves them with a substantial accommodation problem".

well... there's always australia.

NB said...

Nice one.

Anonymous said...

well not a surprise if you look at the antics U S is upto. Have a look-see at what type of people the army has been hiring !

naqiya said...

hmmm....this reminds me of a conversation i had with an idealist lawyer type who had much faith in the rule of law in the west. its not all that different from pakistan is it? and i take it you saw "taxi to the dark side"? the dude who made it was our graduation speaker (his dad had been a professor at Pomona for many years) and had much to say about the bullshittery we call a legal system in america.

Ali said...

thank you people! and that's what my dissertation is gonna touch upon via the umbrella discourse of 'human rights'.

NB said...


haha i think you misunderstood what the idealist lawyer was saying. It is admitted that this stuff happens in the west and that it happens frequently. But despite that frequency, when it does happen, it is still generally exceptional and not the the standard norm itself. An American in America would not, *as a matter of course*, be given the treatment Dilawar was given. If he was an American in America his story would likley have run differently. And thats an understatement.

Point being, the existence of similar instances of miscarriages of justice in both Pakistan and the US (even those which match in degree), does not mean that both systems are anywhere near each other in terms of overall efficacy wrt the provision of justice.

I.e. operating at their worst they may be similiar, but how *often* is one at its worst, compared to the other? I dont think the US and Pakistan are even comprable in that respect.

NB said...


I forgot to mention, thanks for the link. Relevant and really interesting!

AKS said...

@ anon

Great link, just got a chance to check out. I feel that more than anything this story highlights how emotionally jarring an experience war is, and why 20 years should not be sent on to the battle field.

I definitely have much more respect for the movie Jarhead now.