Remember back in the Eighties when the Sandinista fans on National Public Radio and elsewhere promulgated a politically correct pronunciation for the country of Nicaragua: “Nee-ka-rrrawa”? Yes, it approximated the Spanish pronunciation of the name of that land, but it sounded about as silly in English as pronouncing the name of the city of San Francisco as “Sahn Frrrahn-seesko.”
Now, the same poobahs have come up with a politically correct orthography for the Naval base at Guantanamo: “Guant’namo.” Again, that acute accent over the antepenult is the correct spelling in Spanish, but again, it’s like spelling the name of the city of Los Angeles as “Los ?ngeles”–and pronouncing it “Lohss An-hay-lays.” Guantanamo may be in Cuba, but it’s U.S. territory, for heaven’s sake!
At any rate, Guantanamo–or “Guant’namo”–is the subject of a breathless piece of on-site reporting in this week’s New Yorker, “In Gitmo,” in which staff writer Jane Mayer is shocked, shocked to discover that the suspected terrorists detained there can’t cross-examine witnesses or hire Mark Geragos as their lawyer. She’s also horrified that there are doctors and psychologists on staff at Gitmo (or “Heat-moh”?) whose job it is to apply maximum pressure to the detainees so that they’ll tell us, for example, when they next plan to vaporize a double-decker bus crowded with civilians in London.
Mayer?s complete article isn’t online, but the New Yorker’s online edition does feature a Q&A with Mayer that indicates she doesn’t really have a lot. Here’s a sample description of a prisoner she saw:
“The detainee, a Saudi, wore handcuffs, ankle cuffs, and a belly chain, and was shackled to a bolt in the floor. He spoke very little English, and became increasingly frustrated and angry. At one point, instead of relying on his translator, he started yelling at the three presiding military officers, ‘Shut up! Shut UP!'”
Gee, I wonder why they had him in chains. I can’t see what’s so bad about that. If they’d chained up suspected quadruple-murderer Brian Nichols in that Atlanta courtroom back in March, four more people might be alive now, and Ashley Smith wouldn’t have had to stay up all night reading to him from “The Purpose-Driven Life.”
Here’s more on the chained Saudi:
“And although the detainee had a military representative, he had no one to truly be an advocate for his interests. The refusal of the Review Board to share the evidence it had with the accused seemed radically out of synch with U.S. standards of justice.”
Well, it was probably in synch with Saudi standards of justice.
Mayer is particularly incensed because the Navy and other branches of the U.S. military actually train their interrogators in the various forms of psychological pressure that the soldiers and sailors themselves might have to endure were they captured by the enemy:
“The Navy’s course actually has included a form of physical torture, waterboarding, while most of the courses mostly use less brutal psychological methods, such as sleep deprivation, hunger, hooding, exposure to temperature extremes, noxious noise, and gambits involving religion, flags, and sex.”
Of course, as Mayer herself admits, waterboarding–holding someone’s head under water while threatening to drown him–is specifically forbidden as an interrogation technique by Defense Department policy. As for the rest of it–Mayer cites a leaked International Red Cross report saying that the detainees were subjected to ploys “tantamount to torture.”
There, I might agree. The “noxious noise” of Cristina Aguilar shrieking at full blast is “tantamount to torture” in my book. But let?s get serious for a moment. Either there’s torture or there’s not torture at Gitmo. Jane Mayer clearly couldn’t find evidence of any, and all that moral outrage over the doctors and psychologists doesn’t add much to her Cuban cigar smoke-blower of a story.