Here’s an important message to CounterPunch readers from
Here at CounterPunch we love Barbara Ehrenreich for many reasons: her courage, her intelligence and her untarnished optimism. Ehrenreich knows what’s important in life; she knows how hard most Americans have to work just to get by, and she knows what it’s going to take to forge radical change in this country. We’re proud to fight along side her in this long struggle. We hope you agree with Barbara that CounterPunch plays a unique role on the Left. Our future is in your hands. Please donate.
Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.
Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.
CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.
The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.
Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)
To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683
Thank you for your support,
Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel
CounterPunch PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558
Guantánamo’s Lingering Stain
“We must be clear about this: the United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold,” declared recently Friday Navi Pillay, the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights. She said that in reference to Guantánamo and, in one of the strongest criticisms of United States policy towards the inmates there also called on the US government to close that facility.
Ms. Pillay’s statement came shortly before guards at the Guantánamo Bay facility had fired “four non-lethal rounds” at prisoners, to force them into isolated one-man cells in an attempt to end their hunger strike. Lawyers for the inmates at Guantánamo have said that most of the 166 prisoners presently held at Guantánamo are staging a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention and other human rights violations.
One of the main arguments for denying constitutional protection to the Guantánamo prisoners rests on the allegation that Guantánamo is in Cuba, off American soil. Yet, respect for basic human dignity fostered by the Bill of Rights is not limited by nationality and territory. And if the US Constitution were not enough, international human rights law (customary and treaty-based), extends such protection.
While legal condemnation awaits the final word of a Supreme Court or supranational tribunal with enforcing capabilities, the inhumane treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo has been repeatedly condemned by international human rights organizations. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights pronouncement confirms once more that prisoners were subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment.
Many of the responses to allegations of torture at Guantánamo from commanding officers of the US army have been ethically suspect. Equally troubling from the medical and ethical perspective has been the collaboration of US Army doctors and other health personnel in the torture and mistreatment of prisoners.
Already in 2004, Dr Robert Jay Lifton had warned that there has been “increasing evidence that doctors, nurses and medics have been compliant in torture and other illegal procedures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay.” The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) charged that US interrogators engaged the participation of medical personnel in what the committee called “a flagrant violation of medical ethics.”
In an article published in April 2011, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) experts stated that medical doctors and mental health professionals at the Guantánamo facility neglected or concealed evidence of torture and ill treatment of prisoners including bone fractures, lacerations and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Doctors and medical personnel aiding or abetting torturers challenge the medical profession with one of its most crucial ethical dilemmas. The Declaration of Tokyo -agreed in 1975 by the World Medical Association- has a firm ethical prescription: “The doctor shall not countenance, condone or participate in the practice of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading procedures, whatever the offence of which the victim of such procedures is suspected, accused or guilty, and whatever the victim’s beliefs or motives, and in all situations, including armed conflict and civil strife.”
The moral and legal challenge confronting the United States is to continue its war on terrorism while adhering to international human rights standards, which are not in conflict with the protections offered by the US Constitution. As Ms. Navi Pillay stated, “We must be clear about this: the United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments, but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold. When other countries breach these standards, the U.S. –quite rightly- strongly criticizes them for it.”
The United States’ government should seriously investigate and prosecute all allegations of torture and cruel and inhuman treatment of Guantánamo inmates – not because of the international outcry it has provoked, but because it is the right thing to do.
Addressing the moral issues that Guantánamo presents, offers the United States an opportunity to live up to the ideals of respecting and ensuring human dignity as they are framed in the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution.
Dr. César Chelala is an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.