Last month, former Attorney General John Ashcroft spoke before the Hudson Union Society in New York. During his speech, Ashcroft asked the question, “What do we do with people apprehended in the war,” and proceeded to defend and support the Bush administration’s detention policies since 9/11.
Ashcroft said he is “stunned” that so many Americans (and the Supreme Court it turns out) think that terror suspect detainees should have their day in court. He then meandered through the alternatives to detention, such as “kill[ing] everybody on the battlefield” or releasing prisoners, which he said he “is not in favor of.” But astonishingly, Ashcroft then concluded that the detention of suspected terrorists “has been a humanitarian act.”
ASHCROFT: You know I’ve got a son who’s a naval officer and he spent two tours of duty in the Gulf so our family is not in favor of releasing people once they have been captured so they can take another shot at our family but there are people who say to do that.
So I think detaining people, removing them from the stream of battle by the collective wisdom of mankind, has been a humanitarian act in terms of war circumstances.
Watch it (beginning at 1:36)
But the torturing of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and the use of many other non-humanitarian interrogation techniques has been well documented. In 2004, the Red Cross found “cruel, inhumane and degrading” treatment of detainees while inspecting the facility. And according to a Justice Department report released last May, many FBI agents complained about abusive interrogation at Guantanamo.
Just last week, former Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, once a U.S. prosecutor at Guantanamo, told CBC radio that after a suicide attempt, one Gitmo detainee, Mohamad Jawad, was subjected to nearly two weeks of sleep deprivation. Guards implementing the so-called “frequent flyer program” moved Jawad from cell to cell 112 times in less than a two week period.
Indeed, yesterday a Senate panel released a report which found that the Bush administration, not guards or interrogators, is responsible for the abuse of detainees at Gitmo. Thus, by calling detention at Guantanamo Bay a “humanitarian act,” perhaps Ashcroft is laying the groundwork for an insanity plea.