Archive for April, 2010

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Abuse and Torture at Guantánamo Bay: What Little We Know

April 23, 2010

As a nation we have found it rather difficult to deny that our country has committed serious human rights violations at Guantanamo Bay.  But most of us have little idea what has really happened there, and most of us would be astounded to know the things the government is trying so hard to hide from us.

On April 15th, Amnesty International’s MSU chapter hosted a dinner at the Hannah Community Center focused around the human rights issues of Guantanamo Bay.  The main speaker, Joshua Denbeaux, is a lawyer who has been working on behalf of two detainees, and, along with his father, he leads the legal world in defending the rights of the detainees.  In 2006, they wrote five studies regarding the treatment of Guantanamo detainees based on extensive research.

The dinner opened with an introduction from Reuben Metreger, the State Legislative Coordinator for Amnesty International in Michigan.  While condemning the violations at Guantanamo and discussing Amnesty International’s unwavering support for human rights, he offered comic relief, cracking jokes about a quote from Dick Cheney that urged the U.S. to go over to the dark side.  A 30-minute video on torture at Guanatanamo, Torture on Trial, was subsequently screened to lead into Mr. Denbeaux.

Mr. Denbeaux, with his years of research, offered some of the most interesting information about Guantanamo I had ever heard.  He noted, for example, that the vast majority of detainees are innocent and many are known by the government to be innocent.  He also pointed out that the majority of detainees were “ given” to the U.S. for a bounty – if you were Afghani, you could sell any person you don’t like for $5000.

But some things were incredibly shocking.  Outside of Camp America, the military base in Guantánamo Bay, is a building dubbed “Camp No” (see map).  The purposes of this building are kept so secret that the government does not even acknowledge its existence.  But former Sergeant Joseph Hickman has reported wrenching screams coming from the building.  Mr. Denbeaux quoted somebody as saying “This is our Auschwitz” – a harsh accusation that nonetheless  captures the implications of this building, if it is truly used in the way it appears that it is being used.  And remember those three suicides at Guantánamo      in 2006?  The government’s story does not add up, and there is mounting evidence that “Camp No” had a part in their death.  (Mr. Denbeaux referred us to this article for more information: ”The Guantánamo ‘Suicides’: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle”).


(Satellite map courtesy of Harper’s Magazine).

Mr. Denbeaux also has personal experience of the government trying to keep information quiet.  When he, his father, and Sergeant Hickman took this story to CBS’ 60 Minutes, and subsequently ABC, the story was embraced with open arms by the respective producers.  Even after filming hours of interviews, the story was rejected by both networks.  Somebody, it seems, has prevented it from running.  Meanwhile, Mr. Denbeaux told us, Sergeant Hickman’s life has been destroyed.

Joshua Denbeaux was a powerful speaker, and I can guarantee that all of us who attended this dinner learned so much more than we already knew.  I highly recommend you look for the Denbeaux studies and learn what the Denbeaux’s research has found.  You will find scores of damning accusations and evidence against the practices at Guantánamo Bay – and all of it is only what we know.  More than likely, there is so much more that we don’t.

-Adam Zeidan, MPT intern

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A Review of “Food Inc.”

April 9, 2010

Did you know that those tomatoes you buy at Meijer were picked while they were still green?  The companies that produce them ripened them artificially.  Or did you know that the chicken you had for dinner last night may have lived its life without seeing the sun?  Or at least, it did until it was taken to be slaughtered.

The 2009 documentary Food, Inc. informs its audience not only of the facts about the food you put into your mouth, but the impact of that food’s production.

Though its focus is on food, its overarching theme is that the corporations behind everything are able to get away with their actions because they are too big and powerful.  According to the film, for example, only 4 companies control about 80% of beef production.  The companies have concentrated so much power that they are capable of effectively infringing on our ever-valued freedom of speech – it has become increasingly difficult to “speak out” against their products.

The film demonstrates the corporations’ power particularly by demonstrating the dependencies they have created.  The maltreatment of the animals and products are relatively secret because of the large number of undocumented immigrants doing the “ dirty work.”  The companies’  mass production and innovations, however unhealthy or inhumane, allow them to cut costs and produce cheaply, creating a reliance on their products by both producers who must remain competitive and consumers trying to cut costs. For example, farmers must purchase patented seeds to compete in the market, sell the resulting produce back to the companies, and face prosecution for patent infringement if they save any seeds.  Both producers and consumers are unable to pay the legal bills to fight these corporations.

But like with every film, there are a few flaws.

First, the film does little to explain why the government allows all this.  It notes all the people who have become a part of the government, who have in the past had certain relationships with the corporations in question.  But never does it explain how or why these individuals became a part of the government, nor does it explain what connections these individuals may still have with these corporations.  As far as I know from this documentary, these government officials have no personal motivations to defend the corporations they were formerly involved with.

The documentary also says very little on the effects of these products on poor populations.  It touches on this subject a little bit, but not enough.  There is no discussion of the environmental effects on poor areas that ultimately make the areas even poorer, and says very little on how these people are unable to compete, but become a very part of the dependent producing and consuming population.

Finally, it does not really encourage people to get involved individually.  Though it offers various suggestions (such as visiting http://takepart.com/foodinc ), the film says nothing about how one person, or even a small group of people, can have a positive impact.  It instead frames the problem as a collective one, but offers a solution based on individual action.

Nonetheless, the movie contains a lot of valuable information, especially for the critical viewer, and I would recommend it to anybody interested in the subject.

-Adam Zeidan, MPT intern

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