The Guantanamo "suicides" expose
He joined the Marines as a 19-year-old, in 1983, inspired by the leadership of Ronald Reagan. He excelled as a soldier and served in the Presidential Guard detail. After the September 11 attacks he reenlisted, this time in the National Guard. He was assigned to Camp Delta at Guantanamo, and for his service there he received the Army Commendation Medal. In short, Sgt. Joseph Hickman is the kind of American who ought to be considered a hero by those who regard the military with reverent gratitude and prioritize the defense of the United States above all else. But now that Sgt. Hickman is making headlines, the right hasn't rallied to his side -- and the commanding officer who recommended him for the medal is claiming not to know who he is.That's because Hickman is one of the witnesses Scott Horton interviewed for his devastating Harper's article "The Guantanamo 'Suicides': A Camp Delta Sergeant Blows the Whistle." Here's the setup:
Late in the evening on June 9 , three prisoners at Guantnamo died suddenly and violently. Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, from Yemen, was thirty-seven. Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, from Saudi Arabia, was thirty. Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, also from Saudi Arabia, was twenty-two, and had been imprisoned at Guantnamo since he was captured at the age of seventeen. None of the men had been charged with a crime, though all three had been engaged in hunger strikes to protest the conditions of their imprisonment. They were being held in a cell block, known as Alpha Block, reserved for particularly troublesome or high-value prisoners.As news of the deaths emerged the following day, the camp quickly went into lockdown. The authorities ordered nearly all the reporters at Guantnamo to leave and those en route to turn back. The commander at Guantnamo, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, then declared the deaths suicides. ...Now four members of the Military Intelligence unit assigned to guard Camp Delta, including a decorated non-commissioned Army officer who was on duty as sergeant of the guard the night of June 910, have furnished an account dramatically at odds with the NCIS reporta report for which they were neither interviewed nor approached.All four soldiers say they were ordered by their commanding officer not to speak out, and all four soldiers provide evidence that authorities initiated a cover-up within hours of the prisoners deaths. Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Hickman and men under his supervision have disclosed evidence in interviews with Harpers Magazine that strongly suggests that the three prisoners who died on June 9 had been transported to another location prior to their deaths. The guards accounts also reveal the existence of a previously unreported black site at Guantnamo where the deaths, or at least the events that led directly to the deaths, most likely occurred.
You've heard lots about this already if you read certain blogs: Andrew Sullivan's commentary is by now half again as long (here, here, and here) as the article itself, and Glenn Greenwald is on the case too. But you should read the story for yourself -- it's clearly written and as gripping as it is horrifying. Then read Horton's follow-up post about the response so far -- which includes the transparently false "I don't know who Sgt. Hickman is" claim. (And watch his blog for more.)Will the discussion of torture and Guantanamo finally get past the lies about "the worst of the worst" and the fantasy that the only serious issue is whether terrorists have "rights"? After this article, it should; there are no excuses left for looking away. But on the other hand, a new season of 24 just started...
About the Author
Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.