Yesterday, I went to a press conference held in Baghdad by
US Army Major General Douglas M. Stone. No refreshments were served.
General Stone gave such a rosy description of life in US
detention centers here in Iraq that it made me wanna run out and become an
insurgent just so I could get arrested and sent to one, too. He made
Camp Buca and Abu Ghraib sound like they were almost even better than the
Hilton -- and certainly a lot better than the jails we have in California. San
Quentin, take note.
I was writing so quickly at the press conference that I
might have gotten some of the general's words wrong but here's what my
notes say he said: "Our major goal here is to try to integrate detainees
back into Iraqi society. We are also committed to broad transparency and public
accountability. We work in cooperation with international laws and human rights
regulations and we encourage visits and inspections to our facilities by the
Red Cross and the press." Then Gen. Stone said the same thing in Arabic
for the benefit of the Iraqi reporters present. Heck, I can hardly
say "Salaam Aleikum" in Arabic. I was in awe.
"We provide what the inmates need," continued the
general, "including clothing, food, water for drinking and washing,
medical care and education such as literacy programs and vocational
training." Good on him. We could even use these types of programs in
American jails. Would this man consider working at Sing Sing when he gets
done with Iraq?
"The medical care for the prisoners is as good as the
medical care that I receive myself," the general continued, "and the
food is culturally appropriate. All meals meet or exceed international standards.
And 7,000 of the detainees here have completed studies up to the fifth
grade." Apparently there are approximately 25,000 detainees under US care.
Many of them used to be illiterate but now they can read. Good job!
"Approximately 83% of the detainees are Sunni. Sixteen
percent are Shi'a. We only have 280 third-country nationals in detention."
Each detainee's situation is considered individually and he is released
back into the community when he appears to no longer be a threat. "Before
they are released, each detainee signs a pledge that they will no longer
participate in violent insurgent activities and, so far, released detainees
have honored their pledges 100%." Plus once they get out of jail, the
detainees have developed new skills and stuff to allow them to support
themselves economically as well.
"Our goal is to release all of the detainees under
our care as soon as they become ready." Also, the general
made the point again and again that the US is only in charge
of the detention facilities here with the consent of the Iraqi government
and if the Iraqis ever want to take over this little hotel-keeping operation
themselves, then the US will immediately turn the detainees over to them.
Then the general called for a question and answer period
from the press and I raised my hand. "General, this sounds like a
very excellent program," I gushed, "and do you think,
because it has been so successful here, that in the future our military is
planning to apply these same standards of transparency and public accountability
received by human rights groups and the press here to the Afghan detainees
at Guantanamo Bay? And if the Afghan government requests to take over
the detention program there as well, will detainees be allowed to return to Afghanistan?"
And be released into their communities if they too take The Pledge? "Since
this program is working so well in Iraq, let's try it in Guantanamo."
PS: I keep trying to add an attachment of a
photograph of me in my "hotel room" at the airbase in Kuwait,
but the computer keeps refusing to do it. Why does this computer
keep hatin' on my photograph? What, it's holding out for a photo of
me at the Abu Ghraib Ritz?See Jane Stillwater's Web Log for moreof her outside-the-box essays and observations Her new
book is Bring
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