Mohammed Jawad

January 21, 2009

Mohammed Jawad’s case is another horrific example I’ve come across of the treatment prisoners have received at places like Bagram and Guantanamo. Again, if you have not bothered to read up on these cases, or if your sources of information are largely TV news and radio, you should put aside an hour or two to familiarize yourself with what has been done at these places in the name of all Americans.

To briefly summarize the case, Jawad was picked up by Afghan police in late 2002 for allegedly throwing a grenade that injured two American soldiers. There is no evidence against him other than the word of the Afghan police and a confession that he signed with a thumbprint (he is illiterate). The confession is in Farsi. Jawad only speaks Pashto. There are also serious biographical errors contained in the alleged confession, there is strong evidence that the confession was coerced, and the description of the grenade incident in the confession conflicts with the account of the two American soldiers. There were no other eyewitnesses. Lastly, and perhaps most strangely, two other men confessed to throwing the grenade, while Jawad continues to deny participation. Yet Jawad was the only one taken into US custody.

When Jawad came into US custody he was 15 years old. He has been held by the United States, first at Forward Operating Base 195, then at Bagram, and finally at Guantanamo, for the past six years.

Jawad has no ties with either al-Qaeda or the Taliban, nor does the US government claim that he has such ties. In fact, his cousin was a victim of the Taliban. He was born and raised in an Afghan refugee camp across the Pakistani border.

The prosecutor who was assigned to Jawad’s case, US Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, did not want to go forward with prosecution. He first suggested that Jawad be released, in fact. This was denied by the Bush administration, which insisted on prosecution. He then attempted to resign his post. In the end, he submitted an affadavit on behalf of the defense for the military tribunal (which was just beginning until President Obama ordered all military prosecutors, today, to seek a 120-day suspension of all tribunal cases), which the defense submitted as Exhibit B. I urge to read it in its entirety, which I’ve linked to here.

Vandeveld, like so many others that have come forward to criticize the Bush administration, is no tree-hugging, Michael-Moore-loving, Chomskyite Defeatocrat. After the 9/11 attacks, he served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Africa. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, and two Joint Meritorious Unit Awards. As a civilian prosecutor, he tried over 100 cases in court.
 
Here’s what this (obviously Socialist) lt. colonel has to say about the Jawad case:

“It is my opinion, based on my extensive knowledge of  the case, that there is no credible evidence or legal basis to justify Mr. Jawad’s detention in US custody or his prosecution by military commission.  There is, however, reliable  evidence that he was badly mistreated by U.S. authorities both in Afghanistan and at  Guantanamo, and he has suffered, and continues to suffer, great psychological harm.   Holding Mr. Jawad for over six years, with no resolution of his case and with no terminus in sight, is something beyond travesty.”

He also claims that Mr Jawad:

“possessed no significant intelligence value, and seemed to be of little interest to any US intelligence agency.”

This, however, in no way prevented the US military from torturing and interrogating him for years. Among other things, Jawad was forced to undergo sleep deprevation, at one point not being allowed to sleep for 14 days straight. He was put into the Guantanamo “frequent flyer” program, in which prisoners are moved to a different cell every few hours, for days and days, to keep them from sleeping. For months at a time, Jawad was kept in total isolation, with no contact except with his interrogators. He was chained naked in uncomfortable (even agonizing) positions for hours on end. Bound and hooded, he was forced to hold a water bottle he was told was a bomb that could explode at any moment. Over and over, he was told that his life and the life of his family depended on his confession. He was starved repeatedly – in fact, it is standard procedure for the military to starve prisoners for three days before their transport from Bagram to Guantanamo so they do not soil themselves during the 17-hour flight. Jawad was repeatedly promised that he would be reunited with his mother if he provided information to interrogators. Other times he was promised that he would be allowed to send a message to his mother. In fact, he was not allowed contact with the outside world. He attempted suicide, after which his torture continued. The torture inflicted on him both psychological and physical illness. At one point, after passing out during a typical hours-long interrogation (again – this is someone who obviously possessed nothing of intelligence value whatsoever), he was administered fluids via IV, propped in a chair, and forced to continue the interrogation.

I could go on and on, but the picture is pretty clear. Most importantly, this is not in any way unusual. The fact that Jawad was a teenager is not unusual – there have been many at Guantanamo. His likely innocence is not unusual (obviously there are plenty of real terrorists at Guantanamo – al-Qahtani was the 20th hijacker, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind behind 9/11 – but there are also plenty of garden-variety criminals and outright innocent people). His treatment is certainly not unusual – in fact, it is all standard operating procedure (which is likely why it was done – despite any clear purpose to it, it all likely happened just because that’s what’s one with prisoners in general). The repeated torture and interrogation despite no clear intelligence value or goals is not unusual.

You can also read the habeas brief submitted by the ACLU (Communists, Blame-America-Firsters) to the military tribunal for this case. Or you can read about other cases, such as the completely innocent 22-year-old cab driver who was beaten to death in US custody (ok, this is an article from the NY Times, which is full of anti-American lies). Or read Glenn Greenwald’s many thoughtful articles (Communist feverish rants, that is) on the Guantanamo cases, including one today on the Jawad case. And best of all, there’s Jane Mayer’s book, which I strongly recommend reading.

By the way, as Greenwald, points out, Jawad was never waterboarded.

I also think that it is important to truly read through these cases rather than simply ponder whether a single technique on its own constitutes torture. For example, is sleep deprivation torture? Depends how you picture it. If you picture a hardcore terrorist a la “24” being interrogated for hours and hours until he reveals where the ticking time bomb is, that’s one thing. A 15-year-old being, over the course of SIX YEARS, put through random courses of sleep deprivation, up to TWO WEEKS at a time, and at the same time being subjected to beatings, isolation, mind games, chained naked in stress positions, subjected to blinding light and loud music (apparently the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a favorite for this at Guantanamo), doused with freezing-cold water, day after day after day, with no exposure to the outside world, never knowing what day or time it is, is this not something else entirely? This certainly meets any legal definition of torture used outside the offices of Dick Cheney (no background in law whatsoever), John Yoo, and David Addington.

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